A TOTAL of 11 patients are currently being treated in Dorset hospitals for coronavirus, as health services continue to open up their services.

A spokesperson for Dorset County Hospital in Dorchester confirmed that there are currently three Covid-19 positive inpatients as of 2pm yesterday. It is not known whether any of these are being cared for in intensive care

Across the hospitals in the newly formed University Hospitals Dorset NHS Foundation Trust (UHD), which oversees the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals and Poole Hospital, there were eight patients with the virus as of 3pm on Wednesday. None of these people were being cared for in intensive care.

Chief operating officer at Dorset County Hospital, Inese Robotham, has thanked the public for their support during the pandemic, as non-coronavirus appointments and health services are increased.

She said: “We have stringent infection control and social distancing measures in place at our hospital to keep the environment safe for our staff, patients and visitors.

“Our Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) stocks are good and our staff have timely access to Covid-19 tests should they start displaying Covid-19 symptoms.

“Wearing a face covering is mandatory at our hospital and anybody displaying symptoms or currently self-isolating should not be visiting the Trust.

“We have now restarted routine services that were paused during the first wave of the pandemic and continue to increase the number of non-Covid related appointments and operations.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank the public for their ongoing support and ask everybody to continue to practice good hand hygiene and adhere to social distancing measures to slow down the spread of the virus and keep our communities safe.”

Meanwhile, a UHD spokesperson has warned communities that coronavirus could be around for another year "at least."

They said: "“It is encouraging to see elements of hospital life start to return such as visiting restrictions starting to relax and some routine services and appointments taking place. However, we must remain vigilant. Coronavirus has not gone away and could be with us for at least the next 12 months.

“Our staff continue to work incredibly hard to care for all our patients in a safe environment and we need the public’s continued support to enable us to carry on doing this.”

It comes as the number of recorded coronavirus cases in Dorset jumped by 157 in 24 hours, official figures show.

There were 39 new cases reported in the Dorset Council area and 118 in the Bournemouth, Christchurch, Poole (BCP) Council area.

Public Health England figures show that 932 people had been confirmed as testing positive for Covid-19 by 9am on in Dorset, up from 893 the same time on Wednesday.

A total of 1,619 people have tested positive in the BCP area up from 1,501 The rate of infection in Dorset now stands at 246 cases per 100,000 people and 410 in the BCP area, far lower than the England average of 854.

Across the UK, the number of recorded cases increased by 17,540 over the period to 561,815.

Dorset's cases were among the 21,479 recorded across the South West, a figure which rose by 768 over the period.