The number of people with Covid-19 at Ipswich and Colchester hospitals has almost doubled in a week - with public health leaders "understandably concerned" at rising cases.

There were 182 patients with the virus in the East Suffolk and North Essex Foundation Trust (ESNEFT) hospitals in the week up to March 22, up from 92 in the previous seven days.

At West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, the figure rose from 48 to 64 in the same period - bringing the total number of patients with Covid in local hospitals to 246.

As of March 22, 13 patients were on medical ventilators to assist with their breathing in ESNEFT hospitals, up from eight in the previous week. At West Suffolk Hospital the equivalent figure was one, down from three.

It follows soaring numbers of Covid cases in communities across Suffolk and north Essex. Health bosses stress not everyone with the virus in hospital is there because of it.

Stuart Keeble, Suffolk County Council’s Public Health Director, said he is "understandably concerned" about rising transmission rates.

He said: “The recent increase in Covid cases is a reminder to us all that the pandemic is not over, and I am understandably concerned about rising transmission rates as a result of the highly infectious Omicron variant and our move to living with Covid.

“Although we are no longer required to legally self-isolate if we have Covid, we do still strongly recommend to, as this will prevent more people from becoming ill, especially those most susceptible.

“Getting vaccinated continues to be our best protection against getting severely ill with Covid."

ESNEFT this week announced the suspension of visitors to its wards at Ipswich and Colchester after a surge in the number of Covid cases in the local area.

Giles Thorpe, chief nurse, said: “We identify any cases in our hospitals as quickly as possible and swift action is taken to provide safe and effective care for all patients, with and without the virus.

East Anglian Daily Times: Giles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFTGiles Thorpe, chief nurse at ESNEFT (Image: ESNEFT)

“All our local guidance, including the Trust’s visiting policy, is under daily review, but for now we are not planning to bring in any additional restrictions.”

Nicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust said: “As with previous waves of Covid-19 throughout the pandemic, we are working hard to look after everyone who needs our services and have tried and tested plans in place.

East Anglian Daily Times: Nicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation TrustNicola Cottington, chief operating officer at West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (Image: West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust)

"Not all patients in the hospital who are Covid-positive are with us because of Covid-19, but may be admitted for other reasons - as the rates of infection are high in the local area, this is also reflected in our hospital and community services."