As cases of Covid-19 coronavirus surged across the UK, staff at St Helier Hospital were forced to contend with an outbreak of the virus on site Tuesday (October 6) after cases were confirmed in two departments.

Reports emerged early on Tuesday of a ‘lockdown’ at the hospital in response to the outbreak, something authorities at St Helier were quick to dismiss.

By later on Tuesday and into Wednesday (October 7), the hospital was encouraging patients to return to receive planned and emergency care and insisting that services were operating  "business as usual". 

Nevertheless Covid-19 cases were confirmed to have impacted both the Renal Department and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the hospital.

In a statement released Tuesday, Joint Medical Director Dr Ruth Charlton, said:

“A small number of people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Renal Department and Intensive Care Unit at St Helier Hospital.

“The safety and wellbeing of our patients and staff is our priority and those who tested positive have been isolated from other patients, with arrangements in place to maintain safe and high-quality care.

“We urge people to attend their planned appointments, and our A and E remains open.”

The news arrived as confirmed cases of the virus multiplied in South West London and across the UK.

A number of new cases were reported in Sutton by official Public Health England (PHE) data between September 26-October 2.

Four new cases were confirmed in Sutton East, while additional cases were confirmed in Sutton South and Shanklin (4), Carshalton Village (3), Stoneleigh and Auriol (10) and Carshalton Beeches and Banstead Road (3).

Later on Tuesday and into Wednesday, authorities at St Helier insisted that the hospital was “open for business” and encouraging patients to return for planned and emergency care.

A spokesperson for the hospital told the Sutton Guardian the hospital was operating “business as usual” and “is open to patients (both in planned care and A and E).”

They added: “ITU and renal are also open. Visiting is restricted in some areas, and like most hospitals across the country, is considered on a case by case basis.

“In fact, we saw more than 220 patients in the A and E department at St Helier yesterday alone.

“Ambulances have not been diverted today (October 6). Blue light ambulances - a small number of ambulances carrying the sickest of patients who paramedics think may need care in ITU - were diverted for a few hours yesterday. This divert is no longer in place.”

Meanwhile 22,961 new cases of the virus were confirmed in the UK as a whole by the World Health Organization on Monday (October 5) after the Conservative government admitted a failure to the computer system used by its ‘track-and trace’ program caused a backlog of cases to go unreported.

An additional 12,593 cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in the UK a day later (October 6).