A hospital in Devon says it has recorded its highest number of Covid patients since the pandemic began as authorities urge the public to exercise caution and only use emergency departments when absolutely necessary.
The Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital posted a plea on Twitter for people to call 111 before coming to A&E as it battled with a backlog of patients.
"Our emergency department and hospital wards are [very] busy," the hospital's account stated.
"We have more Covid patients than at any time during [the] pandemic.
"Please call 111 before coming to A&E.
"The rising numbers of Covid in Devon is also impacting our staffing levels."
Referring to the sharp rise in positive Covid cases in the county, the account also reminded followers that wearing masks in public can help stop the spread and alleviate pressure on health services.
"We're asking for everyone's help in our community to ensure we can continue to deliver our essential services.
"Please take precautions and wear a mask where you can."
The latest figures released by the NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group show case rates in Devon, Plymouth and Torbay are around 750 per 100,000 people - above the England average of around 465 cases per 100,000 people.
The figures show the number of people in Devon's hospitals is at its highest point for more than a year, with some trusts reporting a record number of Covid positive inpatients.
At the start of this week there were 297 Covid inpatients in hospitals across Devon. This is the highest number since January last year - and a number that has almost doubled in the last month alone.
Ian Currie, Medical Director, Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We currently have more patients with COVID-19 in our hospitals than almost any time during the pandemic.
"While it is encouraging that the majority of our patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are in hospital for other conditions and are asymptomatic or experiencing mild symptoms the impact that the presence of COVID-19 has in our hospitals is really significant.
“Under current infection prevention and control guidelines, one patient testing positive for COVID-19 can result in the closure of the whole ward, meaning that beds are unavailable for emergency admissions and for planned operations.
"This means people waiting longer for treatment in the community and operations being cancelled or postponed and long waits in Emergency Departments for people needing a hospital bed.”
NHS Devon Clinical Commissioning Group Medical Director, Dr Paul Johnson said, “These incredibly high numbers of patients with COVID-19 has a huge impact on the NHS ability to carry out planned care for patients who have already had long waits due to the pandemic.
“Our staff are working incredibly hard and doing everything they can to prevent COVID-19 from spreading within hospitals, but it is essential that people support us.
"Please do not come in to visit if you feel unwell or have Covid and you must still wear a face covering, unless you are exempt.”