Up to 20 per cent of patients who have contracted coronavirus caught the disease while seeking treatment in hospital for another illness, senior NHS figures have revealed.
During a national briefing in April, medical directors and nursers were told that between 10 and 20 per cent of those with the virus had contracted it while being treated for another health problem.
The figures, which come as the number of people who have died from the virus in the UK reaches 34,636 today, were confirmed to The Guardian by senior figures at several NHS trusts.
The telephone conference, which concerned infection control and Covid-19 in the UK, saw a senior official at NHS England alert members of staff to the number of people who had become infected with the virus during their visit to acute hospitals in England.
During a briefing last month, medical staff were told that up to 20 per cent of patients who had coronavirus caught the disease while seeking treatment for another illness. (Stock image)
Senior staff were told that some inpatients had caught the virus after being inadvertently exposed to the illness by members of staff who had not been tested for the virus.
In other cases, the virus has been passed on by healthcare workers who did not have effective personal protective equipment.
One anonymous surgeon told The Guardian: ‘Multiple patients my department treated who were inpatients pre lockdown got the bug and died. Obviously the timeline supports that they acquired it from staff and other patients.’
In March, grandmother Marita Edwards, 80, who went into hospital for gallbladder surgery was thought to be the first Briton to die by catching coronavirus on a ward.
The former cleaner, from Bulwark, Monmouthshire, was admitted to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, South Wales, for the routine operation on February 28, but died almost three weeks later after testing positive for Covid-19.
Following her death, her son Stuart Loud said: ‘Once they had suspicions there might be the corona, they isolated the ward. We then had to go through a protocol, with masks, gloves and aprons.
Some patients were inadvertently exposed to the illness by members of staff who had not been tested for the virus or who did not have effective personal protective equipment. (Stock image)
‘If she had not been in hospital she would still be alive. Clearly there was a coronavirus infection in the hospital which claimed my mum’s life.
‘We couldn’t kiss her… couldn’t hold hands. We took it in turn to hold a mask to her face. She died the most horrific death.’
Earlier this year, virology expert, Professor Giorgio Palu, warned how Covid-19 could spread through the UK and European health systems.
He warned: ‘One mistake made in Italy (where cases began in January) was clogging up hospitals with Covid and non-Covid patients.
‘To reduce transmissions, other European countries should keep virus-positive people in their homes as much as possible. Otherwise, hospitals will clog up and become a boiling point for the spread.’
Grandmother Marita Edwards, 80, from Bulwark, Monmouthshire, went in for the routine operation on February 28, but died almost three weeks later after testing positive for Covid-19
Ms Edwards was admitted to the Royal Gwent Hospital in Newport, South Wales, for the routine operation
The findings come as the Business Secretary Alok Sharma today announced a deal has been agreed between Oxford University and the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca to allow Britain to be given first access to a Covid-19 vaccine.
Mr Sharma, said the Oxford project was ‘progressing well’ and pledged an additional £84 million to accelerate the development of the vaccine – which is currently in clinical trials.
Mr Sharma said: ‘In order to definitively conquer this disease we need to find a safe, workable vaccine.
‘Last month I announced a new vaccine task force to co-ordinate the efforts of Government, academia and industry in the critical mission to find a vaccine.
‘I’m very proud of how quickly our scientists and researchers have come together in their efforts developing a vaccine that will combat coronavirus.’
MailOnline has contacted NHS England for comment.