WITH the number of new Covid-19 cases rising and the number of coronavirus-related admission also on the increase, the chairman of Warrington and Halton Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has these words for Runcorn and Widnes World readers:

Here we are again.

Just as many people felt life drifting back to some normality, the virus returns with a vengeance.

The figures over the last few days have been worrying, and the additional restrictions now imposed – with more likely to come – add weight to that gloomy outlook.

Locally, we are seeing a doubling of people admitted to the hospital every seven or eight days, mirroring the national picture, and community infections are following a similar path.

So there is no doubt whatsoever, it is serious again.

From the hospital perspective, the good news is that we know the disease so much better than we did earlier in the year.

We have completely changed many ways of working to make them Covid-safe, including making much better use of both our sites to maintain Covid-free areas.

We have excellent relationships with the council and other key partners, and we have some treatments that, although not cures, do make a big different to mortality rates.

Consequently, people should not be afraid.

I don’t mean to downplay the unpleasantness of the next few months, and particularly not the economic damage that is also being caused, but this time round it needn’t be anything like as bad as it was in the spring.

Even if the number of infections is as bad, the next spike is happening in the shadow of the last one, so it’s not new or uncharted.

It is now possible to manage it together, and if we do there is a very good chance that it can be much less of a horror and more of an unfortunate interruption to our normal lives.

As a hospital trust, we are desperate to get back to normal in terms of treating non-Covid patients and we are making good progress.

And to be clear, it remains our intention to continue with – even accelerate – this programme even though we are facing increasing pressure from the second surge.

Hence the reconfiguration of the two hospitals.

But if we – though more to the point all of you – can’t keep the Covid rates to manageable levels and we get overwhelmed, then the programme will grind to a halt.

And this does not just affect the elderly, it affects every family and every generation and reaches into every part of the community.

So, my advice is simple really – this is not a time to panic and rush out to once more bulk buy toilet paper.

Rather, it’s a time for calm heads and clear thinking.

It’s also a time to avoid feeling angry and frustrated and stick to the simple but absolutely vital rules around social distancing, hand washing and face covering and only getting a test when you need one.

If we all follow these then not only will we get through the next few months of Covid as safe as possible but our family and friends will still be able to have the lifesaving treatments they need, but were not able to access during the first wave.