Coronavirus UK: Nearly 600 NHS staff are off work amid outbreak at hospitals in ...

Nearly 600 NHS hospital staff are self-isolating after six fell ill with coronavirus by not wearing face masks when sharing lifts to and from work.  

Yesterday 987 of the trust's 11,500 staff were off sick, of whom 583 either had Covid-19 or were isolating because someone in their household had symptoms.

Meanwhile, six staff were told not to come to work by the University Hospitals of North Midlands trust after flouting government guidance on face masks. 

Staff at the trust, which runs the Royal Stoke and Stafford County hospitals, were told about the incident by Dr John Oxtoby, the trust's medical director. 

In his email to staff on October 28, Dr Oxtoby said: 'It is essential that all staff who are car sharing wear a mask for the full journey to and from work.

'This week we had to send six members of staff home as they did not wear masks and have now developed Covid-19 symptoms.' 

He also reminded staff to always wear a visor in clinical areas where doing so is advised, even if a patient has tested negative. It is not known what roles the six perform at one of the NHS' biggest trusts. 

As England teeters on the brink of a second national lockdown:

Twenty furious Tory MPs are set to rebel against a Commons vote today on new shutdown restrictions, with Labour expected to support the Government;    The NHS will move back to its highest alert level from midnight tonight in anticipation of a wave of coronavirus hospital admissions in the coming weeks; John Lewis today announced that it is to cut 1,500 head office jobs in an effort to bolster the business in the devastating coronavirus pandemic; Ministers were blasted last night after it emerged they had decided to plunge England into lockdown without a full assessment of the economic impact; Nicola Sturgeon lashed out at Rishi Sunak over whether the furlough scheme for England's lockdown will also pay the same to Scottish workers.

The University Hospitals of North Midlands trust runs the Royal Stoke hospital (pictured)

The University Hospitals of North Midlands trust runs the Royal Stoke hospital (pictured)

On Tuesday, 987 staff were off sick, of whom 583 either had Covid-19 or were isolating because someone in their household had symptoms (pictured, Stafford County hospital)

On Tuesday, 987 staff were off sick, of whom 583 either had Covid-19 or were isolating because someone in their household had symptoms (pictured, Stafford County hospital)

Official figures saw a 12.5 per cent decrease in the number of cases from last Tuesday when figures reached 22,885 but were higher than yesterday's figures when cases reached 18,950

Official figures saw a 12.5 per cent decrease in the number of cases from last Tuesday when figures reached 22,885 but were higher than yesterday's figures when cases reached 18,950

When Dr Oxtoby sent his email last Wednesday, 421 staff were off due to Covid-19 - marking a 39 per cent rise in just six days. 

Government guidelines state people must wear face masks if they are travelling in a vehicle with anyone from another household.

In a statement to MailOnline, Dr Oxtoby said: 'Our staff at University Hospital of North Midlands, like those in the NHS across the country, have been working incredibly hard with no real respite between the first wave of the pandemic, the recovery of services and now the second surge of Covid-19.

'We all obviously have a responsibility to observe national guidance and our staff are regularly kept up to date with the latest advice as it becomes available.

We didn't mean to scare you: Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance defend their '4,000 deaths a day' lockdown dossier and admit three-tier system WAS working - but not quickly enough to stop NHS running out of space by November 20 

Sir Patrick Vallance today admitted he has 'regrets' over frightening people with a doomsday dossier that forecasted as many as 4,000 Covid-19 deaths a day over winter and was used to justify a second national lockdown. 

Number 10's top scientific adviser made the comments today alongside Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, after the pair were hauled before MPs to defend SAGE's modelling that also predicted hospitals would be overrun with virus patients by the end of this month.

During the grilling by members of the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, Labour MP Graham Stringer asked Sir Patrick if he believed he had frightened people with the bleak deaths data presented during Saturday night's press briefing.

The Chief Scientific Adviser said: 'I hope not and that's certainly not the aim... I think I positioned that as a scenario from a couple of weeks ago, based on an assumption to try and get a new reasonable worst-case scenario. And if that didn't come across then I regret that.

Defending the dossier, he added: 'Those figures were ones done by major academic groups based on those assumptions and, in the spirit of trying to make sure that things are shared and open, they are the things that we have seen [in the data so far], and it's important and I think people see that.'

Professor Whitty conceded that the 4,000 daily deaths prediction was unlikely to come true because the modelling was a worst-case scenario based on a situation where no extra measures were brought in. He told MPs: 'All of us would say that rates will probably be lower than that top peak [of 4,000]'. Professor Whitty added that a figure of around 1,000 deaths a day was 'entirely realistic', without tougher action.

But the experts defended the science behind the gloomy forecast and said it was realistic to expect levels seen in April would be surpassed at the peak of a second wave, unless there was a lockdown.

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'Wearing a face mask and eye protection alongside hand washing and social distancing are all important measures of reducing the spread of Covid-19 in our hospitals and to keep our patients and communities safe.

'The pandemic has asked a lot of us all and it is important to continue to remind our staff to look after themselves and each other.'

 Lindsay Meeks, the Royal College of Nursing's West Midlands regional director, said: 'While there's no suggestion this incident involves any of our members, we would urge all nursing staff to adhere to the Covid-19 restrictions in place in their area, and to any guidelines put in place by their employer. 

'This will not only help keep them safe, but will also help reduce the risk to their colleagues and their patients.'

It comes as new figures show how almost half of all coronavirus patients in some hospitals are likely to have caught it while being treated there.

The data shows that there has been a doubling in hospital patients getting infected with the virus after admission in the last month.

NHS figures show 18 per cent of hospital patients with coronavirus across the country are thought to have become infected after they were admitted to a ward.

This is up from nine per cent in just one month. The figures include people who have tested positive at least seven days after being admitted.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS trust in Surrey recorded 44.6 per cent of infections in patients after admission, while University Hospitals Dorset NHS foundation trust recorded 44.4 per cent.

In the North West, at Liverpool University Hospitals NHS foundation trust, 271 patients were diagnosed with the virus in the week ending October 25.

Of those, 27 per cent were likely to have been infected after they went to hospital.

Meanwhile, It emerged that the NHS will move back to its highest alert level from midnight tonight in anticipation of a wave of coronavirus hospital admissions in the coming weeks. 

Sir Simon Stevens - NHS England's chief executive - said the move to level four was in response to the 'serious situation ahead'.

He claimed the NHS is currently treating the equivalent of 22 hospitals' worth of Covid-19 patients and believes numbers will surpass levels seen in the first wave by the end of this month.

Sir Simon said: 'The facts are clear, we are once again facing a serious situation. This is not a situation that anybody wanted to find themselves in, the worst pandemic in a century, but the fact is that the NHS is here.'

The health service was originally put on a level four alert in January ahead of the first peak of the epidemic, but it was downgraded in August when England successfully flattened its curve through lockdown.

However, a mid-September surge in cases has resulted in thousands of coronavirus-infected patients pouring into hospitals across the country in recent weeks, particularly in hotspots in the north. 

There were fewer than 500 Covid-19 patients in England's hospitals at the start of September, compared to more than 10,000 now.

A move to level four means health bosses believe there is a real threat that the influx of Covid-19 patients could start to disrupt other vital services on a national scale.

Triggering the alert means all trusts have to report to NHS England centrally so it can track bed levels in every region and reallocate equipment, staff and capacity in the worst-affected areas.  

But Sir Simon urged people without Covid-19 not to stop using the NHS, despite the threat of a looming Covid-19 resurgence in hospitals. 

Report after report has shown hundreds more Brits than average are dying in their houses every week, which experts believe is because they are hesitant to use the NHS for fear of catching Covid-19 or burdening the health service.

Sir Simon said: 'The public can help us help you so our fantastic staff - our nurses, our doctors, our paramedics - can get on with looking after you and your family there when you need it.' 

The charts that prove Tier 3 IS working: Infections are dropping across Liverpool and other parts of the North West where millions are living under toughest curbs, data shows ahead of today's crunch vote on the month-long intervention

By Sam Blanchard, Senior Health Reporter for MailOnline

England's three-tier lockdown strategy is bringing down coronavirus cases in badly affected areas, according to official data that raises questions about whether the national intervention is really needed. 

On the eve of the country's second national shutdown, on which MPs will vote later today, government statistics show that tough measures already in place appear to be working and thwarting the spread of the disease, calling into question the need for the new rules.

Numbers of people testing positive in hotspot areas such as Liverpool, Merseyside, Manchester, Lancaster and Blackpool have levelled off or even started falling in the weeks since the areas entered local lockdowns.

Almost 10million people living in the North of England are now under Tier Three restrictions, which effectively ban socialising in person.

Professor Chris Whitty, England's chief medical officer, yesterday admitted to MPs that the reproduction rate (R) of Covid-19 in the North East could already be below one because of the effects of localised rules. 

During a grilling by MPs over the evidence used to justify the second lockdown, Professor Whitty admitted Tier Three has had an effect — but claimed it had not been enough to ward off an impending crisis.

And the ZOE COVID Symptom Study app yesterday claimed that the R rate for the entire UK has dropped to one. Meanwhile, the number of people testing positive has declined in recent days, with the 20,018 cases confirmed yesterday pulling the daily average down to 22,330.

Researchers have pointed out that 'flatlining' data suggests that local restrictions do work but needed more time to be effective and for that to show through in statistics. 

Today Professor Tim Spector, a King's College epidemiologist behind the Covid Symptom Study said the country had 'passed the peak of the second wave'. 

He wrote in a tweet: 'Further evidence today from our Zoe CSS survey that we have passed the peak in second wave new cases in the UK. There will be a four week lag before this is seen in a decline in deaths and 1-2 weeks in hospitalisation. R value close to one in most areas now.'

The average number of people getting diagnosed with coronavirus each day has clearly declined in Liverpool since the Tier Three restrictions began there on October 14. The same is true of numerous local authorities across the North of the country

The average number of people getting diagnosed with coronavirus each day has clearly declined in Liverpool since the Tier Three restrictions began there on October 14. The same is true of numerous local authorities across the North of the country

Knowsley entered Tier 3 on October 14

Knowsley entered Tier 3 on October 14

Manchester entered Tier 2 on October 14 then Tier 3 on October 23

Manchester entered Tier 2 on October 14 then Tier 3 on October 23

JOHNSON FACES TORY REVOLT IN LOCKDOWN VOTE 

Boris Johnson is facing a Tory revolt on his national coronavirus lockdown in a crunch Commons vote today - with fears he will have to rely on Labour to get the plan through.

The draconian measures, ordering people to stay at home and shutting non-essential retail, bars and restaurants for a month, are set to come into force from midnight.

But while Sir Keir Starmer's backing means the PM is assured they will be rubber-stamped by MPs this afternoon, he is scrambling to contain a rising tide of anger on his own benches.

Despite government whips hoping they had limited the scale of the mutiny to just a handful, a series politicians of broke cover this morning to say they will oppose the crackdown.

Former chief whip Mark Harper, ex-minister Steve Baker and backbencher

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