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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Dave Burke

Public urged to wear face masks and stay at home when ill as NHS battles deadly crisis

Brits have been urged to wear face masks and stay home if they feel ill as the overstretched NHS battles a deadly wave of winter illnesses.

Today the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) issued fresh advice as hospitals battle soaring rates of Covid, flu and Strep A.

It comes as health service chiefs warned that hundreds of patients were dying unnecessarily because of “Dickensian overcrowding” in A&E departments across the UK.

It's feared up to 500 lives were being lost each week because the NHS is unable to provide life-saving treatment, owing to delays and problems with emergency care.

Waiting times were likely to hit the highest level on record, with illnesses and limited resources fuelling a winter nightmare across the NHS.

Today Professor Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Adviser at UKHSA, said unwell people should avoid going out and visiting vulnerable people unless it's urgent.

Prof Susan Hopkins called on people to wear masks and stay home if they feel ill (PA)

She added that mask-wearing was advisable, and called on parents to do whatever possible to prevent flu, Covid, and Strep A sweeping through schools.

Prof Hopkins said in a statement: "It’s important to minimise the spread of infection in schools and other education and childcare settings as much as possible.

"If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved."

She continued: "Adults should also try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wear a face covering. When unwell don’t visit healthcare settings or visit vulnerable people unless urgent.

"Remember that flu vaccination is still available for all eligible groups and is the best protection against the virus.

The latest advice echoes guidance issued at the start of the Covid pandemic (AFP via Getty Images)

"We have seen good uptake in older age groups but vaccination among young children remains low. Flu can be very unpleasant and in some cases can lead to more serious illness."

Royal College of Emergency Medicine chief Dr Adrian Boyle said this winter was likely to be the worst on record for A&E wait times, as hospitals were hit with rocketing demand driven by flu, Covid, and Strep A.

He added: “We think between 300 to 500 people are dying as a consequence of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care each week. We need to get a grip of this.

The UKHSA urged Brits to wear masks and stay home if they feel ill (Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

"I’d be amazed if December waiting time figures [yet to be released] are not the worst we’ve seen.

"We need to increase our capacity, make sure there are alternative ways so people aren’t all just funneled into the ambulance service and emergency department.”

In the week to December 19, 7,158 patients were admitted with Covid-19 - a 36% rise in just seven days. Meanwhile 13 NHS, ambulance trusts and care boards have declared critical incidents in recent days saying they cannot provide adequate care for patients.

Covid admissions soared by 36% in a week before Christmas (file image) (Getty Images)

Dr Tim Cooksley, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, told Sky News: "I know that people watching this will say 'well every winter you have doctors on that say that this winter is terrible, that it's normal winter pressures'.

"But there is a complete acceptance from all colleagues now that this is different from all previous winters — and we need urgent action now."

He continued: "This situation is much worse than we experienced under the Covid pandemic at its peak."

One clinician at Great Western Hospital said: “We’re broken and nobody is listening.” The hospital’s chief medical officer, Jon Westbrook, told staff in a leaked email: “We are seeing case numbers and [sickness] that we have not seen previously in our clinical careers.”

An NHS worker from the South West told The Sunday Times: “There is not enough oxygen in cylinders to treat patients in corridors, ambulances and in our walk-in area in A&E.”

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