HOSPITALS across the North of Ireland have suspended most visiting in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.
The restrictions, effective across all five health trusts including the Western Trust, follow new advice from the Department of Health.
They came into effect at midnight on Thursday, January 18.
Health Minister Robin Swann said on Wednesday that tighter guidelines would be introduced to curb the spread of the virus in hospitals.
“I have ensured visiting will be permitted to hospices and care homes, but visits to general medical wards will no longer be permitted,” said Robin Swann.
Guidance for hospital visiting is broken down into five alert levels, Alert Level 5 came into effect on Friday.
In it, there is no face-to-face visiting, however there are some exceptions including end of life visits.
In hospice facilities, one friend, family member or carer can visit for an hour a day where the environment is assessed as “Covid secure”.
In paediatric units, one nominated parent can attend.
In maternity wards, a birth partner will be admitted during active labour and birth.
They will also be allowed to accompany a pregnant woman to a scan or early pregnancy clinic.
A spokesperson for the Western Trust said: “The four UK chief medical officers have advised that we now move into Alert level 5, which requires the strictest of social distancing given the threat that health and social care services could become overwhelmed.”
The trust recognised that restriction to visiting “is a very emotive and difficult issue, often causing distress for families, patients and residents”.
However, it said that limited access was essential to help bring the transmission of Covid-19 under control.
The number of Covid positive hospital in-patients has increased significantly since last week – up from 599 a week ago to 850 on Thursday.
The number of people in ICU has also risen from 44 to 58 in the past week and 16 further deaths were recorded on Thursday.Tags: