Avoid elderly loved ones at Christmas if you’re unwell, health bosses warn as hospitals grapple with flu surge

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It comes during a time of immense pressure for the NHS as hospitals grapple with a surge in admissions as well as strike action by nurses and ambulance workers

People with colds and coughs should avoid seeing elderly loved ones over Christmas to protect them from winter viruses, health chiefs have said. It comes after new data revealed a surge of people admitted to hospital with flu during what is already a time of immense pressure for the NHS.

The advice was issued as the UK gears up for the least-restricted Christmas since Covid-19 restrictions that forced families apart in 2020 and 2021 were lifted. The message from experts is: if you feel unwell, stay at home.

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Health chiefs have also advised people to wear face masks in enclosed spaces, such as in supermarkets and when travelling on public transport.

Dr Jamie Lopez Bernal, consultant epidemiologist for immunisation and countermeasures at UKHSA, said: "If you are unwell this winter, please try to stay at home and avoid contact with other people, particularly elderly or vulnerable people - this will help stop infection from spreading."

NHS England figures show that the number of people in hospital increased by two-thirds in one week. An average of 1,939 with flu were in hospital each day last week - up 67% on the 1,162 people the previous week.

To put that into perspective, the daily average at the end of November was 482 people. Meanwhile, NHS 111 is facing “near record” demand, thought to be down to rising concerns from parents about Strep A.

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Hospitals have also been grappling with strike action by nurses and ambulance workers which took place on three separate days throughout December. More walk outs have been planned for January after the government failed to hold talks with union members over pay.

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