Manx Care has announced widespread changes to its visiting policy.

The changes are being made as a result of the current level of community spread of Covid-19 within the Isle of Man, increases in the number of patients with Covid-19 in hospital and subsequent limits on available staff due to Covid-19 absence.

The number of healthcare staff off work is 220, which is 30 more than last week.

In a statement, the healthcare provider said: ‘The significant increase in levels of Covid-19 in the community, and subsequent impact on our staffing levels across Manx Care, mean we have made the difficult decision to suspend visiting with immediate effect.

‘This change is in place at Noble’s Hospital, Ramsey and District Cottage Hospital, Manannan Court for an initial period of two weeks.

‘For the moment, we will maintain visiting in adult residential care settings; however, we will continue to monitor the situation and take appropriate steps in relation to visiting if and when necessary.

‘Please remember to undertake a lateral flow test 45 mins to an hour before visiting residential care settings.’

Where permitted, and in exceptional circumstances (e.g. when the patient is receiving end of life care), following assessment and agreement from the clinical team, essential visitors may be permitted.

More information on what constitutes an ‘essential visitor’, and precautions that must be taken if visiting, are available on the Manx Care website.

A spokesman added: ‘Whilst we recognise that friends and family members are a vital support to all of those receiving inpatient and residential services by Manx Care, the utmost care and consideration must be given to the safety of other patients and staff by maintaining infection prevention and control procedures at all times.

‘This is a decision that has not been taken easily; however, Manx Care must continue to take appropriate measures to protect its patients and service users, staff and the maintenance of services as we adapt to living with Covid.’

Along with the change to the visitor policy, due to the prevalence of Covid-19 cases across Noble’s Hospital, Ward 11 will also be opened as an additional Covid ward alongside Ward 12.

This adjustment allows for the reopening of Ward 4 (gynaecology/female surgical ward) later today, meaning that specialist nurses can once again provide care in a dedicated environment.

Manx Care’s chief executive officer, Teresa Cope, said: ‘We understand that changes to the visitor policy can be difficult for patients, friends and family members.

‘We will be regularly reviewing the situation to ensure we continue to work to protect our patients, colleagues and our community.’

The news comes less than 48 hours before most Covid restrictions are due to end. Click here to read more.