'Big smiles under the masks' of Covid nurses in Manchester ICU as number of patients

010521 smiling nurses Granada

Masks may be covering their faces, but the emotion of this image is clear to see as two members of staff at Manchester Royal Infirmary pose for a selfie at the hospital's intensive care unit."Big smiles under the masks," said a post on social media from an MRI nurse.And hospital bosses say that although there are still a handful of patients remaining on the unit at the Oxford Road site, there's light at the end of the tunnel.After months of hard work for staff things are on the up: numbers at the ICU are significantly reduced.The image is a far cry from the packed ICU of late, and captures a moment of joy for two members of staff who, like colleagues across the region, have given everything in the fight against Covid-19.

Manchester Royal Infirmary Credit: MEN Media

Infection rates across Greater Manchester have steadily declined. And as numbers of Covid patients in intensive care drop, hospital bosses are able to think about restoring surgical services which have been hit hard.However, while there's hope - and signs of some degree of normality in the coming months - hospital leaders, like politicians and scientists, are urging people to stick to lockdown rules and guidelines.Scientists have warned that a third wave of the virus could see infection rates increase, as people are given back more of the freedoms they have lost for so long.Professor Jane Eddleston, joint group medical director at Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust, which runs MRI, said: "The number of patients with Covid in intensive care in Manchester hospitals has fallen in line with the rest of the country."This means that those facilities can now be used to support the restoration of surgical services across Manchester to the benefit of our patients awaiting surgery."

Around 25 coronavirus patients were being admitted at MRI every day in late January. Credit: MEN Media

Wards across Greater Manchester had been repurposed for Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, with hundreds of medics being deployed from other areas to staff them.In Manchester, while the infection rate is still slightly above the national average, cases are at less than 50 per 100,000 for the first time since September.Although infection rates and hospital admissions are continuing to fall, the region still remains a 'long way off' achieving herd immunity, leader of Manchester council Sir Richard Leese said.Sir Richard said vaccine take-up among 18 to 49-year-olds needs to ramp up for most of the population to have some protection against the virus.Currently, 30 per cent of the age group have had a first jab of a vaccine, compared to 85 per cent of people aged 50 to 69 and 94 percent of over-70s.Vaccinating younger people is part of the ‘next big push’ by public health officials in Greater Manchester trying to maintain the overall downward trajectory in Covid case numbers.

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