More coronavirus deaths were recorded at Salisbury District Hospital in the past week than at any other point during the pandemic.
The grim milestone is a reflection of the rise of Covid cases across the city and across the country since more infectious new variants were discovered.
The seriousness of the crisis facing the NHS is now clearly worse than the strain experienced during the first peak last April.
It is also a reminder of the need for us all to follow lockdown rules – a message reiterated today (January 19) by Wiltshire Council’s public health director.
Although infections in Wiltshire are no longer rising, numbers remain “very high” and hospital staff are likely to experience intense pressure for weeks to come.
25 new deaths recorded this week
In the past seven days, 25 patients have passed away after testing positive for coronavirus at Salisbury District Hospital.
Eight deaths were reported on one day alone, Sunday January 17, when Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust confirmed the deaths of six men and two women who were in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
Although the majority of patients who died from Covid at the hospital had underlying health conditions, the virus can affect anyone regardless of age, including people who would otherwise be fit and healthy.
As of Tuesday, January 19, the hospital’s death toll stands at 124 following the deaths of two more patients.
As treatments improve, more and more people who are hospitalised because of Covid-19 later recover. However those figures are not available.
Mortuary now used
The rise in deaths over the past month has resulted in a temporary mortuary, set up on the hospital site back in March, becoming operational.
The facility is managed by Wiltshire Council, which is also in charge of a similar mortuary at Swindon’s Great Western Hospital.
The council has confirmed today (January 19) that the facility, which can store up to 260 bodies, is now being used, though it is not near capacity.
It was used for the first time in December.
The number of patients being admitted into hospital in Salisbury with Covid-19 has also been rising, with the latest confirmed figure being 162 – almost four times the number of patients cared for during the first peak.
Some operations and planned procedures at the hospital have had to be postponed to redeploy NHS staff.
Deaths in the community
Deaths in the community have also risen in the past two months, data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has shown.
These figures are only available at local authority level so they refer to the whole of the Wiltshire Council area.
They show that in the two months to January 9, Covid deaths outside hospital increased by 29, climbing to a total of 263.
Health think tank the Nuffield Trust said the rising number of positive cases and deaths in care homes “paints a worrying picture”.
But unlike the previous lockdowns, there is growing hope of a way out this time.
Vaccinations at Salisbury hospital and in the community are now well underway.
Salisbury Cathedral was transformed into a vaccination hub on Saturday January 16 to kick off the rollout of the jab in the city.
The iconic venue will host two more vaccination sessions this week.
Those in priority groups who are yet to be called are being reassured by the local CCG who says “no person will be missed”.
Despite the positive news of the vaccine, it will be sometime before efforts to deliver the jab to the vulnerable ease the strain on hospitals and NHS staff.
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