The latest rise in Covid has forced Homerton Hospital to cancel some operations as staff fall foul of the virus.

The hospital’s chief operating officer Dylan Jones said it has “taken down a number of theatre lists this week because of staff absence, so that is a concern”.

The latest figures show a 24 per cent increase in Covid cases in Hackney, with 1,568 cases reported in the week ending March 20.

The Homerton is currently caring for 20 patients with the virus and is keeping a red ward to care for them.

Two people on ventilators have Covid but were not admitted because of the virus, interim chief nurse Breeda McManus said.

While numbers of staff sickness are going up, she added: “Thankfully we haven’t seen the numbers we have seen in January and February.”

Patients are still tested three times a week for Covid and people are tested before any discharge to a care home to help clamp down on the spread.

The emergency department has had staff off work over the last two or three weeks because of the virus.

Ham & High: Free tests end for many people on April 1 and many test centres across London are closingFree tests end for many people on April 1 and many test centres across London are closing (Image: Julia Gregory LDR)

At the same time, the emergency teams have seen an increase in patients, with 400 people on some days.

Jones said: “We are struggling to handle that level of attendances with our current staffing model so we have some vacancies on the medical and nursing side.”

Work to encourage staff to get the vaccine is continuing after the government’s U-turn on mandatory jabs for healthcare workers.

At that time, 300 Homerton employees had not been vaccinated, but this has now reduced to 200, the hospital’s board meeting heard today.

The Homerton’s director of people Tom Nettel said about 70-90 people are off sick, with restrictions having been removed in the community.

These include a relaxation on rules around mask-wearing in many public places, although people still have to wear them in hospitals and other medical buildings.

People no longer have to quarantine by law if they test positive but are advised to keep away from others for at least five days.

Free tests end for many people on April 1 and many test centres across London are closing.

The hospital has gradually eased visiting rules – with two named visitors allowed in non-Covid wards and one for patients on Covid wards from day six.