WITH rumours circulating about the numbers of Covid patients at the hospital and huge increases in the numbers of Islanders testing positive for Covid-19, what is the situation at St Mary's Hospital in Newport?

We took a look at the data and the statements from the Isle of Wight NHS Trust, plus the latest advice to Islanders.

What's happening at St Mary's?

More patients are now being admitted with Covid-19. A second isolation unit has opened at the hospital for Islanders being admitted after testing positive. More general and intensive care beds have been made available too. Some non-urgent surgery has been postponed, though emergency and cancer operations are continuing.

Why has this been done?

Trust chief executive Maggie Oldham said the measures were in place because the situation is becoming serious, and the hospital is now treating more Covid patients than ever before.

In an open letter to the community, she said: "The situation is very serious and without urgent action our health and social care services will be put under unbearable pressure.

"We are currently treating more people with Covid-19 in hospital than at any point during the pandemic and our services are already stretched by winter pressures."

How many beds at St Mary's are occupied with Covid patients?

On December 19 there were four, on December 20 to December 22 there were five. This went up to 13 on December 23. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day there were 12. On December 26 there were 16, on December 27 there were 19, and on December 28 there were 20. By December 29, the last day the data is available for, there were 23 patients. Please note there is a lag in the data so it is often backdated and updated.

How many Covid patients are on ventilation beds?

There is a time lag in the data available, but it currently shows there has been a rise in the amount of patients on mechanically ventilated (MV) beds. Whereas for most of the year there was usually none, one or two patients at any one time, the beds have been more occupied recently. On Christmas Day there were five patients on MV beds at St Mary's Hospital. There were at least four patients on the beds right through from December 23 to December 27. These figures may well be updated due to the time lag.

What about the rumour that Covid patients were being sent to the mainland?

This rumour started on Facebook and was widely shared, as an "anonymous tip-off" but was quickly shut down as "dangerous and not true". Trust director of communications and engagement, Kirk Millis-Ward, Tweeted yesterday: "Your anonymous source isn’t giving you accurate information. It’s also really upsetting for our teams who have spent the last few days making sure our patients receive safe, compassionate care. This is not true."

How many Covid deaths have there been at the hospital?

There have been 57 patients of St Mary's Hospital who have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19, or where Covid-19 was mentioned on a death certificate, since the pandemic began. Additionally, there have been 51 patients who have died in the community, including care homes.

What is the latest on Covid cases in the community?

Cases have been rising fast over the past couple of weeks, with the Island going from Tier One to Tier Four within days. This is because the rate per 100,000 has risen at a steep rate and is now 253.2 which is higher than Manchester (208.6) and Liverpool (241.9). It remains below the national average but is climbing. The concern is that in the last couple of days alone, the numbers tested positive have been more than 100 each day and the virus is spreading quickly. On New Year's Day alone, 175 cases were reported. The Island has now had 1,987 cases since the pandemic began, with nearly half of those recorded in December.

What is the advice for people in the community? We are now in Tier Four and people must stay at home unless they have to work but cannot to do from home, or they are getting daily exercise or shopping for essentials.

Ms Oldham stressed in her letter to the community: "The impact of the increased spread of Covid-19 on the NHS is real and it is impacting all of our services.

"We need your help now more than we ever have.

"This virus is dangerous and it is spreading more quickly than before.

"You can help us by doing everything you can to stay safe. Now that we are in Tier Four restrictions we need you to stay at home."

What should you do if you have symptoms?

If you have symptoms you must self-isolate and arrange for a test, either by calling 119 or through a home test booking via gov.uk/get-coronavirus-test