Coronavirus is wreaking 'havoc' in North West hospitals as patients double in month

Coronavirus is still causing 'havoc' in hospital across the region, as the number of patients filling up beds doubles in a matter of weeks.

Figures show hospitalisations of people with Covid in March 2022 in the North West rose from roughly 1,000 cases to 2,200.

Covid cases have continued to rise since all restrictions ended in England at the end of February - including the legal requirement to self-isolate with the virus.

Furthermore, free mass testing will also stop from Friday 1 April.

Professor Mohammed Munavvar has said there are currently more than 100 patients with Covid in the Royal Preston Hospital, with at least 25 more awaiting test results.

He says these figures have tripled in a matter of weeks and is causing a knock-on effect to other areas of the hospital.

Most of the patients who are seriously ill with coronavirus are unvaccinated or require a second dose or booster.

He said: "Covid is continuing to cause havoc in the hospital but in a different fashion, in the sense that patients are being admitted for some other reason but also have Covid.

"However we still have a lot of patients who come into hospital unwell due to Covid.

"Those who are at the far end of the spectrum are unfortunately still not vaccinated or incompletely vaccinated."

Patients who become seriously ill with Covid and require critical care is causing other procedures to be rescheduled, Professor Munavvar said.

This is adding to an ever-growing backlog of people waiting for surgeries - with some on the wait list for years because of delays caused by the pandemic.

Tracey Fawcett, a ward manager at Royal Preston Hospital, says the rise in Covid cases in hospital means they are constantly at full capacity.

She said: "We're always full. There's never an empty bed. It's definitely affecting us in regards to capacity and staffing issues.

"Fortunately people are not dying like they were at Christmas, but none-the-less it's still having a huge impact on the patients and the families because visiting is still restricted.

Mohammed Ashraff, a nursing assistant at the same hospital, is looking after his father-in-law who has been admitted with Covid despite receiving all his jabs.

"Covid is going to stay with us", he said. "My best advice is to get the vaccination and give the vulnerable people the reassurance.

"Those who are not taking the jabs are causing problems for older people and vulnerable.

Figures show cases of coronavirus are soaring once more across the region, with the likes of Lancashire and Cheshire recording up to 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.

Meanwhile, free lateral flow tests are being scrapped across the UK. They will end on 1 April, though the government said some at-risk groups will still be able to access them.

Relatives visiting people in care homes could now face paying over 1000 pounds per year to get tested and be allowed to visit loved ones.

At Overdene Care Home, in Winsford, resident Edith Clarke is not impressed with the government's decision on lateral flow tests.

She said: "I think it's terrible to be quite honest. There must be thousands of people that can't afford it, so I'm a bit like that to tell you the truth about it."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "As we learn to live with Covid, free testing should rightly be focused on at-risk groups. 

"After 1 April, limited testing will still be made available for a small number of at-risk groups - the government will shortly set out further details on which groups will be eligible.

“Vaccines remain our best wall of defence which is why we are now offering over-75s and the most vulnerable a spring booster dose to top up their protection against this virus."