When I got the call saying that Weston Hospital was shutting its doors to new patients, my heart sank. It was the last thing any of us wanted and, as I hope everyone would expect, I immediately contacted local health chiefs to discuss how to handle the problem.
It soon became clear that everyone’s worst fears of the hospital being overwhelmed by a sudden flood of cases weren’t true. Our local infection rate was inching upwards from a low level, rather than soaring out of control, and there were still plenty of spare beds in Weston hospital.
Instead, the problem was staff who had the virus without showing any symptoms, who could have turned the hospital into a centre of infection without realising. So they’ve isolated the infected staff and patients, and started deep cleaning the wards, to nip the problem in the bud before it has a chance to spread. I’m sure we’d all wish the infected staff and patients a speedy recovery, whether they’re showing symptoms or not.
That didn’t stop some of the national press, of course, who had all kinds of theories about what might have caused it. Some said it was all the fault of tourists on Weston seafront, others that it might be local care homes.
But we still need to be careful. There could be a second source of infection we don’t know about yet, so they are running tests to show if the hospital lockdown is enough, or whether we need to shut down anything else as well. That’s why the Council has sensibly decided to pause reopening local schools, until we know it’s safe to go ahead. The test results are due at any moment as I’m writing this. If they give the all-clear, it will be the best news in the world.