YORK Hospital is now treating 136 Covid patients on six designated wards as the number of seriously ill people rises in the wake of the city’s soaring infection rates.

The number of wards for patients with the coronavirus has doubled in a fortnight, as there were three on New Year’s Eve, when the hospital was looking after 63 patients who had tested positive for the virus.

Scores more patients are also being treated now at Scarborough Hospital, which is also run by the York Teaching Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The trust said yesterday that it had a total of 187 confirmed and suspected Covid-19 inpatients across the two sites, which compares with 166 earlier this week and 140 last Friday, and today it said that number had increased again to 190.

A spokeswoman said York Hospital currently had 21 inpatient wards in total. "Within the hospital, we can be flexible with our wards and change their purpose depending on the types of patients we are admitting at the time, or in anticipation of high demand,” she said.

“As part of Covid surge planning, and indeed routine operational planning, at times of particular pressure, neighbouring hospitals across the region can provide support - as we would do for them.

“This can be, depending on the support required and procedure needed, for either Covid or non Covid-patients.”

The trust revealed earlier this week that it had had to postpone some planned operations due to take place in coming weeks, following a rise in the number of such patients and further anticipated increases.

It said this was necessary so it could release additional beds and redeploy staff.

However, chief operating officer Wendy Scott said it would still carry out urgent operations, for example cancer surgery, and use local independent hospitals’ facilities.

“Our senior medical staff are reviewing all planned surgical admissions to prioritise the most urgent patients for the surgical beds we have available,” she said.

The rise in the number of cases in York and resulting pressure on the NHS has prompted Sharon Stoltz, the city’s Director of Public Health, to urge residents to stay at home unless it was essential. She said she knew the new strain of the virus was more easily passed from person to person. "This is why it’s even more important that people protect themselves and their loves ones at all time by washing your hands regularly and wearing face coverings in all public spaces where two metre distancing isn’t possible,” she said.

NHS England said yesterday that a further two Covid patients had died at the York trust’s hospitals, taking the total number of fatalities since the start of the pandemic to 412.