THE number of patients with Covid being treated at hospitals in Herefordshire has fallen to the lowest point in three months, latest figures show.

Visiting is still suspended at hospitals in the county, although rules will be partially lifted on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Day, and now the latest number of patients with the virus has been revealed.

NHS England data showed 15 patients were being cared for in hospital by the Wye Valley NHS Trust, which runs Hereford County Hospital, on Tuesday (December 21).

That was six fewer than the 21 there the same day the previous week (December 14), and almost half the 27 on December 7.

Fifteen is the lowest the number of Covid patients at the trust in almost three months since September 29, when there were 14.

The latest figures also showed that seven new Covid patients were admitted to hospital in Herefordshire in the week to Sunday, December 19.

The week before, that number was 15, and a fortnight before it was 27.

The figures, published on the Government website, showed there were two patients in mechanical ventilation beds on Tuesday, which are used for the most seriously ill.

That was down from three the week before.

It comes as new data suggests the Omicron Covid strain might be less likely to lead to serious illness than Delta.

That offers a “glimmer of Christmas hope”, a senior health official said.

But UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) chief executive Dr Jenny Harries warned that it is too early to downgrade the threat from the new strain, which is still spreading rapidly across the UK.

Dr Harries told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that more information is needed, particularly about the impact on elderly and more vulnerable patients.

She added: “There is a glimmer of Christmas hope in the findings that we published yesterday, but it definitely isn’t yet at the point where we could downgrade that serious threat.”

The UKHSA estimates that someone with Omicron is between 31 per cent and 45 per cent less likely to attend A&E and 50 per cent to 70 per cent less likely to be admitted to hospital than an individual with the Delta variant.

The rapid spread of Omicron has seen it become the “dominant strain now right across the UK”, and Dr Harries said cases are still doubling across “most regions” of the country.

She added: “What we have got now is a really fine balance between something that looks like a lower risk of hospitalisation – which is great news – but equally a highly transmissible variant and one that we know evades some of our immune defences, so it is a very balanced position.”

The UKHSA data has fuelled speculation in Westminster that further restrictions can be avoided in England after Christmas.