In line with national trends, the Omicron variant of the coronavirus led to a sharp rise in positive tests over the Christmas and New Year period in the East Sussex NHS Healthcare region (Hastings, Rother, Wealden, Lewes and Eastbourne) but, up to the middle of last week at least, there has been no accompanying leap in hospital treatments. 

New cases within the region per seven-day period hovered around 3,500-4,000 during December but rose to 6,329 on 4 January and again to 6, 824 last Friday.  This is the highest level in the county of East Sussex at any time in the course of the pandemic hitherto, though comparatively lower than in most other regions – currently 140th out of 149 upper tier authorities.

 The number of hospitalised Covid-19 patients stood at 56 on 7 December, dropped to between 39 and 43 over the Christmas week and rose again to 52 as at 4 January. 

Despite these apparently stable figures the healthcare trust announced on 31 December a bar on normal hospital visiting arrangements. At each of its hospitals, including the Conquest, Eastbourne DGH and Rye  & Winchelsea Memorial, visitors are being turned away in most cases unless the patient has a terminal or critical illness. Children may have a single parent (or other appropriate adult) visitor at a time. Outpatients and maternity cases may be accompanied by single supporters. 

Patients with dementia or a learning disability or autism may also receive visitors where refusal “would cause the patient distress”.

‘Virtual’ visits can be arranged with the hospitals. The trust says that tablets are being provided to patients who don’t have their own devices for making and receiving calls; family members need to set up Zoom accounts for this purpose.

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