Face masks, social distancing and visitor restrictions to remain in Leeds General Infirmary and St James' Hospital after 'Freedom Day'
Patients and staff in hospitals in Leeds will be asked to continue wearing a mask and socially distancing, even after coronavirus restrictions are lifted.
It will no longer be a legal requirement to wear a face mask or socially distance by two metres from Monday, July 19.
The so-called 'Freedom Day' also means that there will be no limit on the number of households mixing indoors, meaning venues such as nightclubs can reopen.
However, the use of domestic vaccine passports and face masks will be encouraged, but not required, in response to soaring coronavirus cases.
Experts fear there could be 200 deaths a day as cases surge, despite the protection offered by the vaccination campaign.
Patients staff and anyone working at Leeds Teaching Hospitals are being asked to continue wearing a mask on site and socially distance in order to control infection.
This is due to the delta variant being 60 per cent more infectious than the previously dominant alpha variant.
This includes staff and patients at Leeds General Infirmary, St James’ University Hospital, Chapel Allerton, Seacroft and Wharfedale hospitals.
Visitors will also continue to be restricted in hospital, with limits to the number of people accompanying others to appointments.
Dr Phil Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Leeds Teaching Hospitals explains: “We’re incredibly thankful for the support the public and our patients have given us over the past 15 months.
"We recognise that keeping our guidance in place must feel strange for people as we all return to a more ‘normal’ life, but with highly transmissible strains of the virus in circulation, in addition to our patients’ vulnerability, there will be no change to our current guidance.
"We are calling on the public to keep supporting us so that we can keep vulnerable patients safe."
Lisa Grant, Chief Nurse and Infection Prevention Control lead, says “Covid is still at a higher rate in the local community than we would like and until infection rates come down, every visitor increases the risk of infection either coming into our hospital or going out with a visitor.
“If you or your loved one had a compromised immune system or were recovering after a serious operation, you would want us to do everything we could to keep them safe.
"Patients with these conditions are being treated in our hospitals every day, so we need to keep rules in place for a bit longer.
"Please bear with us and please keep helping us so that we can help you and your loved ones.”
Leading medics across the country have called for masks to remain mandatory in healthcare settings.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, the British Medical Association, British Dental Association, Royal College of Nursing and the College of Optometrists called for mandatory use of face masks, social distancing and regular handwashing by the public to stay in place past July 19 in all healthcare settings.
“While you state that you would expect the public to continue wearing face coverings in healthcare settings, we ask that this is translated into action,” they told the Prime Minister.
“As the rules change, this must be backed by clear Government communications for the public, so that health and care staff are not caught in the middle and placed at increased risk of abuse.”
And the NHS Providers organisation, which represents NHS trusts, called for “clear communication” about infection control measures in the health service.