Health chiefs are pleading with residents to follow the Covid-19 restrictions as the number of patients with the deadly virus in New Cross Hospital approaches 300.

The Covid-19 infection rate has rocketed in recent weeks, and tragically, 473 people have passed away at New Cross with the virus since March.

Dr Brian McKaig, Deputy Chief Medical Officer for The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust, said: "It is exceptionally busy at New Cross Hospital. We are very used to looking after critically ill patients, but we are now having to increase our intensive care capacity by up to 200% to cope with the volume of very, very sick people coming into hospital.

"The impact of that is not just on the staff in intensive care who are having to care for more patients, we also have to move staff from other areas to come to look after this significant cohort of patients. This is having a huge impact on other services so we are having to make really difficult decisions about cancelling operations which is affecting patients waiting for surgery.

"We are all in this together and we know the pressures people are under. But we have got our job to do here in the hospital and for caring for our patients in the community, and we need the general public to do their job too. Every time you meet somebody else there is a chance that you may contract or pass on the virus; if you can stop doing that, that would be exceptionally helpful."

Councillor Ian Brookfield, Leader of the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: "We are facing a very serious situation indeed. The infection rate has risen dramatically in Wolverhampton over the last month or so and over 2,400 people tested positive for Covid-19 last week.

“That’s a staggering number which is putting immense pressure on local health services and, tragically, claiming lives. 

“Our NHS colleagues are doing an incredible job, but they need our help – and that’s why it is even more important that we all redouble our efforts to stop the spread of Covid-19. That means following the lockdown restrictions and avoiding any unnecessary contact with others.

"The Government has made it clear – if you can work from home you must work from home, and we need employers in the city to make sure this is happening.

"Retailers need to ensure they are doing everything they can to keep their staff and customers safe – and customers should wear a face covering and follow social distancing measures – while school pupils should only be going to school in very limited circumstances, for instance, if they are vulnerable or the children of key workers.

"If you must go out, please don't try and look at ways in which you can bend the rules. And only go to the shops if you need to – now is the not the time for browsing for things you don't really need. 

"If you decide to go out for exercise, make sure you just go out for exercise – it shouldn't be an excuse to grab a coffee with a friend afterwards.

"And while you can still have a support bubble, it is much safer if you only meet them as and when you really need to – if you can keep in touch over the phone or video calling, please do so. And, remember, you can only have one support bubble, not lots with different people.

"Keep on following the hands, face, space guidance – wash your hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and keep 2m away from anyone who isn't in your household – and, if you develop symptoms of Covid-19, you must immediately self-isolate and book a test as soon as possible.”

John Denley, Wolverhampton's Director of Public Health, said: “Around one in 40 people in Wolverhampton currently have Covid-19 – so there's a very real chance that, if you meet someone unnecessarily, you could catch the virus or pass it on to them.

"So, we must all do our level best to minimise the amount of unnecessary contact with people who are not in our household. I can’t emphasise that enough.

“These are the rules and they are there for a reason. If the lockdown is going to be effective everyone needs to follow them."

Latest figures show there were 923.3 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people in Wolverhampton over the 7 days to 10 January. That means 2,428 people in the city tested positive for the virus in that 7 day period – though the true number of new cases will likely be considerably higher. 

The latest information and guidance around coronavirus is available at GOV.UK and on the council’s own coronavirus pages. Further details of the lockdown restrictions currently in place, and the answers to frequently asked questions, are available at Covid Alert