Testing ramped up at Weston hospital to reduce virus spread in community

Weston Hospital is closed to new patients following a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Mark

Weston Hospital is closed to new patients following a coronavirus outbreak. Picture: Mark Atherton - Credit: Archant

Council leaders have confirmed they will introduce stricter measures if there is evidence to show an increase in infections in the community following the coronavirus outbreak in Weston General Hospital.

The hospital closed to new patients on Monday after a number of asymptomatic staff and a high number of patients tested positive for Covid-19.

It is not yet clear whether the outbreak was caused by cases spreading inside the hospital, or new patients being admitted with the disease.

More: Coronavirus outbreak sees Weston General Hospital closed to new patients.

Concerns were also raised about patients who had been released from hospital into care homes before receiving their test results.

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust (UHBW), which runs the hospital, is testing all staff, patients and anyone who has visited the hospital to try to reduce the spread of infection.

Test results to confirm whether infection levels have increased in the community are expected by the end of the week.

In a joint statement, North Somerset Council’s leader, deputy leader, chief executive and director of public health said: “When we have the results and analysis of all the cases in the hospital, we can review whether there is a level of infection in our community above what is happening in neighbouring authorities.

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“We hope to receive some analysis by the end of this week but are dependent on the laboratory and data analysis process being completed by Public Health England. They are working with us and will make intelligence available as soon as possible.

“If there is any evidence of raised levels of community spread, then we will not hesitate to escalate control measures to help prevent further infection and use specialist advice from Public Health England to help inform our actions.”

More: Trust working to reopen Weston’s A&E after coronavirus outbreak.

North Somerset currently has a faster increase in cases compared to the national average – with 427 diagnosed as of yesterday (Wednesday) – and it is working to understand the rise.

With the planned reopening of schools early next month, and a large number of care homes in the area, the authority stressed it wants to be confident the cases identified at the hospital are contained and that measures are in place to mitigate any risk of spread to the wider community.

The leaders added: “Throughout the pandemic our priority has been and continues to be to protect the health of our community. We are working tirelessly with our health partners to ensure that all possible measures are in place to reduce infection rates.

“Our focus is to ensure that there is no increased risk of infection in the community.

“We are working with Public Health England, and University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust to seek assurance that all the principles of infection control have been put in place to reduce the spread of infection.”