Coronavirus: Most visitors banned from Black Country hospital as UK death toll rises

Visitors have been banned from many hospitals across the Black Country and Staffordshire as the UK coronavirus death toll continues to rise.

Hospital visits are being restricted in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus
Hospital visits are being restricted in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus

The number of people to have died from coronavirus in the UK increased from 11 on Friday to 21 on Saturday, with patients in Wolverhampton and Birmingham among the latest confirmed deaths.

All were older than 60 and in the "at risk" category, NHS England said.

The new deaths were confirmed as multiple hospitals in the Black Country and Staffordshire suspended almost all face-to-face visits in a bid to reduce the sprad of the virus.

Nine new cases were confirmed in the Black Country on Friday, along with three in Birmingham, before the total UK cases rose from 798 to 1,140 on Saturday.

So far a total of nine people have been confirmed as having been diagnosed with coronavirus in Wolverhampton, along with four in Dudley, two in Walsall, four in Staffordshire and three in Birmingham. Sandwell's first case was confirmed on Saturday.

Meanwhile plans are being put in place to ban mass gatherings in the UK from next week after the Government faced criticism for not following the stricter steps taken by other European countries.

PA Graphics

World Health Organisation spokeswoman Margaret Harris questioned the UK's approach to developing "herd immunity" against Covid-19, saying not enough is known about the science of the coronavirus, and that while "theories" can be talked about, the current situation requires "action".

And in travel news, Jet2 planes from the UK to Spain were turned back in mid-air as the airline announced it was cancelling all flights to the country where new infections have risen sharply. It followed the news that the US has banned all flights from 26 countries in Europe.

Hospital visits banned

Hospitals across the Black Country, Staffordshire and Birmingham have introduced new rules to restrict visitor access to wards.

Most of the new regulations, which vary from hospital to hospital, were coming into force today.

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, which runs New Cross, Cannock Chase and West Park hospitals, has suspended visiting to all wards apart of children's services, maternity and neonates.

A spokesman for the trust said: "The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust is working hard to prevent the spread of Covid-19 and to protect staff, patients and visitors from becoming seriously ill.

PA Graphics

"With this in mind, we have made the decision to suspend all visiting to our wards.

"We can appreciate this may be frustrating for the family and friends of patients, but we can assure you that it is the safest precaution to take at this time. As per usual practice, the ward staff will contact you if the person becomes seriously ill."

"The only exceptions to this are Children’s Services, Maternity and Neonates."

The paediatric ward is allowing one parent or carer, the maternity department is allowing one birthing partner to attend and the neonatal unit is only allowing parents to visit.

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Similar hospital-wide rules have been introduced by the trust that runs Sandwell General Hospital in West Bromwich and City Hospital in Birmingham.

There only the immediate next of kin are only being allowed access to children, birthing partners, end-of-life patients and those who are unable to make decisions themselves from midday today.

And from Monday "a significant" number of outpatient appointments will be rearranged or take place via video or phone in order to reduce risk and free up staff.

Posters have been put up at Sandwell and City hospitals

A spokesman from Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust said: "We are sorry for this inconvenience as we aim to limit the spread of coronavirus.

"Please continue to follow the national guidelines on handwashing and what to do if you have symptoms".

Visiting is also being restricted at Russells Hall Hospital in Dudley.

Diane Wake, the chief executive of the Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust that runs the hospital, said: “We are restricting visiting in areas where this is necessary to help prevent the spread of infection and visitors will be advised as appropriate.”

COVID-19 update It has been confirmed that two positive cases of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) have been identified on one of...

Posted by Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust - Walsall Manor Hospital and Community Health on Friday, 13 March 2020

Visitors have been completely banned from the Acute Medical Unit and Ward 29 (acute short-stay unit) at Walsall Manor Hospital, which had its first two coronavirus cases confirmed on a ward on Friday.

A spokesman for Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust this morning urged people to speak to the nurse in charge of these wards with any concerns and confirmed outpatient appointments were going ahead as normal.

At Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham visitors are still allowed but only if they are aged 16 or over.

So far the University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust, which runs County Hospital in Stafford, has not changed its visiting restrictions.

Frustration at panic buying and hand gel thefts

Yesterday health bosses condemned thieves who had ripped hand sanitisers from walls at Walsall Manor Hospital.

Photos from a ward at the hospital showed the space where the sanitiser should have been, while healthcare trust chief executive Richard Beeken pleaded with people not to steal from the hospital.

Empty shelves at Tesco Extra in Burnt Tree, Dudley, on Friday. Photo: Helen Barnes

Several small shops across the Black Country have been criticised selling bottles of hand gel for inflated prices, with one in West Bromwich advertising 500ml bottles for £14.99.

And despite restrictions being introduced, many supermarket shelves have been left empty of toilet roll, soap and canned and dried food, and there have been long queues to reach tills at many shops in the Black country.

Meanwhile Dudley Council is advertising for a contractor who can provide the authority with 6,000 bottles of hand sanitiser, 125,000 face masks, 550 latex gloves and an unspecified amount of body bags.

Mass gatherings

Scores of major sporting and cultural events have already been suspended, including the Premier League and Football League, despite the Government resisting calls to ban mass events in its latest guidance earlier this week.

Scotland had already announced a ban on gatherings of more than 500 people.

Dudley Council is advertising for a contractor to provide hand sanitisers and face masks

Late on Friday a Whitehall source said: “Ministers are working with the chief scientific adviser and chief medical officer on our plan to stop various types of public event, including mass gatherings, beginning next week.

“We are also talking to businesses and other bodies about the timing of moving towards much more widespread working from home.

“There are many complex considerations to make all these measures as effective as possible.

“We will make the right decisions at the right time based on the best scientific evidence.

“We have drafted emergency legislation to give the Government the powers it needs to deal with coronavirus, including powers to stop mass gatherings and compensate organisations.

“We will publish this legislation next week.”

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