Hospital bosses in Hackney have reduced the number of visitors in light of the rising number of Covid cases.

It comes as staff at the Homerton care for 45 patients suffering from the virus.

The hospital brought in tighter rules for visiting this week and warned that it will review them again on Boxing Day.

It has closed acute wards and general ward areas to visitors to help prevent the spread of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

A spokesman said: “We apologise for taking this action at this time but it has become necessary due to the current high transmission rate of Covid.

“This is to protect patients, staff and the general public. The restriction on visitors includes our intensive care unit and the Regional Neurological Rehabilitation Unit.”

The hospital is seeing an increase in the number of patients with the virus.

“For many weeks we were treating around half a dozen but we now have around 45 patients in the hospital who have Covid,” the spokesman added.

Two wards have been set aside to care for patients with the respiratory illness, but others are being put on standby if “there is an escalation in numbers”.

There were 29 Covid patients, including six on ventilators, being cared for at the hospital in the week to December 14.

Last month the hospital opened its escalation ward two months early. It usually expects to open the ward in January to cope with winter pressures – if at all.

Staff are also “extremely busy” with operations for patients across north-east London who have faced a long wait because of the pandemic.

There are some exceptions to the new visiting restrictions. This includes visits to patients who are dying. Only one family member will be able to visit the hospital at a time.

There will also be exceptions for carers for patients with complex needs and both parents can visit their baby in the neonatal intensive care unit.

One birth partner only will be allowed at the maternity delivery suite and only one person will be allowed at the maternity antenatal delivery suite, and for maternity scans – with no children allowed.

The hospital said: “Due to the current pandemic and national guidance the Trust has taken the decision to stop all visiting to general ward areas. This is to protect our staff, patients and the general public.

“We do, however, fully acknowledge that it is important for relatives to have time with their loved one as they enter their final stages of life.”

Staff explained: “To ensure we are able to provide this we would ask that a list is provided to the nursing team of people that will need to visit.

“We would ask that these are immediate family members only and not family members that are self-isolating or symptomatic.

“People requesting access who are not on the list will not be granted access to the hospital premises.

“We must also request that visitors attend the hospital one at a time and that they leave either before or on arrival of the next visitor.”

Covid cases in Hackney rose substantially last week, up 218 per cent, from 561 cases per 100,000 people in the week prior to 1,803 per 100,000 people.

Deaths from Covid remain low. The latest Hackney data, from the week ending December 13, reports 0.4 Covid deaths over a seven-day average.

Hackney's mayor Philip Glanville has urged residents to "stay home, stay safe, get vaccinated and take regular tests".

He said: "There are still over 100,000 people in the borough who are yet to come forward for their first dose of the vaccine and are at risk of getting seriously ill, admitted to hospital or losing their life if they catch the virus.

"So I urge you all to follow our four steps for Covid well-being to ensure we protect ourselves, those around us and stop the spread of the virus."

However, Hackney is currently among the UK boroughs with the lowest percentage of people who have received the Covid-19 booster.

This is despite prime minister Boris Johnson aim for all eligible adults to have received the third inoculation by the end of the year.

In Hackney and the City of London borough, 74,702 had been boosted - which is 34 per cent of the population. This means the borough has the fifth lowest uptake nationally.