Public urged to wear face masks to combat flu outbreak

Covid-19: Dr Hilary calls for return of masks as cases rise

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People have been advised to wear face masks if they are feeling unwell in new guidance designed to stop the spread of flu. Health officials are becoming concerned that increasing levels of flu, Covid and Strep A could overwhelm hospitals, particularly due to the ongoing staff shortages and NHS industrial action.

There have already been warnings that some patients are having to wait four days in accident and emergency (A&E) departments.

Prof Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), said guidance issued for children returning to school this week that parents should keep their children at home if they feel unwell.

She said: “If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved.

“Adults should also try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wear a face covering.”

It comes as NHS leaders have warned that the health service is facing a “twindemic” with increasing flu admissions and Covid cases having an impact on staff absences.

According to recent data, the number of patients hospitalised because of the flu has increased sevenfold over the last month.

On Monday, a senior medic warned that the current situation in A&E is “unbearable” and “worse than it has ever been”.

Speaking to Sky News, Dr Tim Cooksley, the president of the Society for Acute Medicine, argued that the situation was worse than the strain that the NHS found itself under during the Covid pandemic.

He said: “This situation is much worse than we experienced under the Covid pandemic at its peak.”

Dr Cooksley added that “urgent action” was needed in order to manage the situation.

It comes as more than a dozen NHS trusts and ambulance services declared critical incidents over the festive period.

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, which covers counties in North Wales, declared a critical incident on Monday.

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The decision was taken after it was overwhelmed with people needing emergency care.

Meanwhile Dr Ian Higginson, the vice-president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine (RCEM) warned that patients are waiting four days in A&E – a situation he described as “appalling”.

He said: “We’re hearing of patients who are in our emergency departments waiting to be admitted now for up to four days. It used to be four hours.”

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