An NHS hospital has been forced to close its accident and emergency department to new admissions today as a result of high numbers of patients with coronavirus.
Weston General Hospital, in Weston-Super-Mare, Somerset, stopped accepting A&E patients at 8am this morning.
The trust said patients who needed care would be treated elsewhere in the local area.
It has not said how many new patients with the virus have been admitted or whether the closure has followed a sudden surge in cases.
In a statement on the trust website it said: “Weston General Hospital will temporarily stop accepting new patients, including into its A&E department, as of 8am today.
“This is a precautionary measure in order to maintain the safety of staff and patients in response to the high number of patients with Coronavirus in the hospital.”
The University Hospitals Bristol and Weston Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said the decision had been clinically led and supported by its local NHS commissioners.
Dr William Oldfield, medical director said: “As with any hospital, the number of patients with Covid-19 will frequently change as people are admitted and discharged.
“We currently have a high number of patients with Covid-19 in Weston General Hospital. Whilst the vast majority will have come into the hospital with Covid-19, as an extra precaution we have taken the proactive step to temporarily stop accepting new patients to maintain patient and staff safety.
“This is a clinically-led decision and we are being supported by our system partners to ensure that new patients receive the care and treatment they need in the appropriate setting, and we are continuing to provide high quality care to existing patients who are being treated in the hospital.
“We have a robust coronavirus testing programme in place for patients and staff to identify cases quickly, with appropriate measures taken by clinical teams as required.
“We will keep the situation under constant review.”
Mark Canniford, Lib Dem mayor of Weston and member of North Somerset Council, last week criticised the “total disregard” for the town’s residents from day-trippers who packed onto the beach.
Speaking to The Independent today mayor Mark Canniford said he did not think there was a link between the crowds on the beach and the closure of the hospital today “because it was too soon” but he added: “I think its unlikely but you can’t rule it out. We have been behind the curve on the virus so we could just be catching up."
He added the area had seen an increase in travellers and people from out of town visiting.
“The people you see roaming about don’t tend to live here. The locals are pretty sensible and stay away. We do get people with mobile homes and the traveller community who don’t tend to follow social distancing.
“People should not be roaming around. It’s not fair to the communities they are roaming to. People seem to think they don’t have symptoms so they’re ok but it’s not.”