A NEW specialist Covid-19 ward is “primed and ready” at Basildon Hospital in case of a spike of cases in south Essex.

The specialist ward will have capacity for 48 patients as Basildon becomes south Essex’s dedicated Covid hospital.

Earlier this month, The Mid and South Essex Hospitals Trust - which runs Basildon, Southend and Broomfield Hospitals - confirmed it will separate all Covid-19 and other patients in an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, should coronavirus rates rise again.

It comes as the number of cases across Essex hit 6,747, as well as 866 cases in Southend and 700 in Thurrock.

Kerry Smith, Independent leader of Basildon Council said: “This is the first stage and puts us in a good position.

“I still have some concerns, we need to ensure when a patient is admitted to the hospital their friends and family are tested too.

“We need to make sure their friends and family are being safe guarded.

“Also we need to be making sure we’re keeping on top on waiting lists for cancer and heart operations too.

“I think it’s always good to see a hospital in a good position to deal with diseases like this.”

Hospital bosses say staff are trained and have plenty of protective equipment.

A spokesman for Basildon Hospital said: “The Specialist Critical Care Centre in Basildon is primed and ready for use as a dedicated facility to support a second surge of COVID when it is required.

"The facility is set up and ready for 24 COVID beds for patients needing ventilators, with an additional 24 surge beds should the need arise.

“Staff have been fully trained in the Centre, which includes being trained on donning and doffing of Personal Protective Equipment, use of kit and equipment.

“It is still planned that the centre will be used to centralise Covid-19 critical care for people living in mid and south Essex, meaning there will still be critical care beds available for non-Covid care such as surgical, cancer and cardiovascular patients at all three hospital sites.

"This will allow the Trust to give the sickest COVID patients the best care as well as treating as many non-Covid -19 patients as possible.”