51 die in a dark week at Blackpool Victoria Hospital - where medics fear a fresh surge of Covid admissions after Christmas

Fifty-one Covid-related deaths have been recorded at Blackpool Victoria Hospital in the past week, its medical director said.

Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 9:34 am
Updated Thursday, 3rd December 2020, 10:51 am

Dr Jim Gardner sent his condolences to "all the families" involved, with the Whinney Heys Road hospital's coronavirus death toll now standing at 442.

He said: "It's clearly a large and worrying number and sad for everybody involved," and said some died with Covid and some died because of it.

There were 122 Covid-positive patients in hospitals on the Fylde coast yesterday, down from 138 last week and 166 the week before, in what Dr Gardner called a "gentle but not dramatic decline" in numbers.

Dr Jim Gardner, medical director at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, gives his weekly coronavirus briefing on Wednesday, December 2, 2020 (Picture: Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust)

Some people 94 were on the Vic's general Covid wards, while 22 were at the Clifton Hospital in St Annes.

Six were on the intensive care unit, a number which remains unchanged from last Wednesday's total.

Although the infection rate within the community continues to fall, Dr Gardner said a "worryingly high level" of over-60s are still testing positive.

Age is the biggest risk factor, with over-60s more likely to die than those who are younger.

Dr Gardner also voiced his worry over plans to let families mix over Christmas.

He said during his weekly Covid briefing: "Now we're moving from a full lockdown into a tiered system, we are obviously thinking about the weeks ahead.

"Frankly, from a hospital perspective we are anxious about Christmas and the level of social gatherings and interactions that are going to take place, whilst understanding that people need the opportunity to enjoy the time."

Dr Gardner urged people to "think about their plan" and to keep their homes well ventilated - which studies have found reduces the risk of transmission in enclosed spaces.

It comes after the head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) said being with friends and family at Christmas is "not worth putting them or yourself at risk".

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the WHO director-general, added: "We all need to consider whose life we might be gambling with in the decisions we make.

“Covid-19 pandemic will change the way we celebrate but it doesn’t mean that we can’t celebrate. We still can celebrate.”

Dr Tedros said people could try to stay safe by celebrating within their households and avoid gatherings with many different households and families coming together.

A checklist of safety measures for the festive season may include outdoor meetings with people from a different household, maintaining physical distance, wearing a mask, avoiding crowded shopping centres, shopping at less crowded times or shopping online, he suggested.

Dr Tedros reminded people to social distance, wear a mask and carry hand sanitisers when are in airports and train stations or on planes and buses.

He said: “If we can’t celebrate as normal this year make a plan to celebrate with your family and friends once it is safe to do so. We know it will be safe. It is a matter of time.”

Many scientists and public health experts have also been dubious over the plans which will allow families to come together.

Up to three households can form an exclusive 'bubble' to meet at home from December 23 to 27.

Festive traditions such as Santa's grottos, carol singing, and nativity plans can also go ahead, albeit within regulations which vary from area to area.

School nativity performances will only allow audiences in tier one and two areas, subject to "appropriate safeguards".

For proud parents in tier three, which includes the whole of Lancashire currently, schools are advised to use live-streaming or record the plays.

Although national health bosses said the "default position" is that families should be able to visit their loved ones in care homes in the run up to Christmas, they've issued advice warning homes to only use artificial Christmas trees, wipeable decorations, and to have no festive ornaments in the event of an outbreak.

Dr Gardner said the believes medics will be first in line to get the Pfizer vaccine, which was approved yesterday, with fridges to store the jabs in already delivered.

He said there is "light at the end of the tunnel" and said bosses were preparing offer the vaccines to the wider community as and when they get the go ahead.