HOSPITALS across Hampshire have thrown their weight behind a new campaign to wipe out transmission of Covid-19 in hospitals and protect patients and staff.

Called COVID ZERO, the campaign was launched by University Hospital Southampton (UHS) this week as it strives to bring back services and healthcare support at full strength and clear the backlog of patients needing treatment and operations.

In Southampton, the 11,500 staff at UHS and the community are being asked to keep washing hands, follow government guidance on walking apart and wear a mask when they cannot keep distance.

Failure to do so could result in a second wave of coronavirus cases that could overwhelm the NHS in the region, warned Derek Sandeman, chief medical officer at UHS.

Now hospitals across the county as well as nursing leaders and clinical commissioning groups who run GP services and provide community health services, have signed up to the campaign.

They have added their names to an open letter - written to the people of Hampshire by Derek and published on Friday - urging people to be responsible and play their part in protecting their hospital and each other.

In it he warns: “The pandemic is still here, the virus is still in our community. It remains infectious and dangerous.

“It kills the young, the old, the healthy, the fit, those with ill-health and those in their prime. It takes decades of life from those who die, it can easily and rapidly return, threatening to overwhelm us.”

He added: “Let’s not lose our regained freedoms. People’s mental, financial and physical health will not cope with a return to lockdown. General practices and hospitals need urgently to get back to normal care.”

At the peak of the pandemic in Southampton, over 180 patients with coronavirus were being treated in the city’s hospital. Now there are less than 20 patients needing care.

Mr Sandeman added: “We are in a good position. We must not confuse this with a mistaken view that this is over. A huge risk remains.

“Protecting our hospitals, our patients and our staff it is the responsibility of all, not a few.”United we are stronger and by all working together with our communities we will be protecting our hospitals, enabling us to bring back services and healthcare support and ensuring patients can access treatment safely.”