CORONAVIRUS was the reason behind more than two in five NHS staff absences at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust as the new year began, figures show.

Troops are getting ready to support the NHS through the current wave of Covid-19, as staff absences due to the virus have risen by 59 per cent nationally in seven days.

NHS England data shows 495 staff at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust were off sick on January 2 – the latest date for which data is available.

Of them, 210 were off because they had Covid-19, or were self-isolating due to the virus.

Across England, the number of NHS staff off work due to Covid increased from 24,600 on December 26, to 39,100 on January 2.

Based on monthly workforce data for September – the most recent available – the figures suggest one in 25 NHS staff working in acute hospital trusts are off for Covid-related reasons.

NHS national medical director Professor Stephen Powis said rising Covid-19 cases were “piling even more pressure” on hospital trust workers.

He said: “Omicron means more patients to treat and fewer staff to treat them.

“While we don’t know the full scale of the potential impact this new strain will have, it’s clear it spreads more easily and, as a result, Covid cases in hospitals are the highest they’ve been since February last year – piling even more pressure on hard-working staff."