There are now more Covid patients being treated at Hampshire hospitals than there was at the peak of the coronavirus pandemic's first wave.

Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Basingstoke, Andover and Winchester hospitals, is currently caring for 163 patients who have tested positive for coronavirus.

This compares to 148 at the peak of the first wave in April.

It comes as the Trust's chief medical officer warned that their hospitals are "busy" and asked the community to help them by "using the right service and doing all you can to stay safe".

Of those 163 patients, 106 are being treated at Basingstoke and North Hampshire hospital, with another 57 at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester.

No Covid positive patients are currently being treated at Andover War Memorial Hospital.

The figures are correct as of 9am on Monday, January 4.

The numbers have increased sharply in the last five days - on Wednesday, December 30, 122 Covid patients were being treated at HHFT.

That is an increase of 41 patients.

Speaking about the pressures, Dr Lara Alloway, HHFT's chief medical officer, said: “Like other trusts across the country, we are beginning to see a rise in the number of patients who have tested positive for Coronavirus and need our care.

"Our hospitals are busy, but we have plans in place to cope with an increase in activity, including redeploying staff where necessary and making the difficult decision to postpone some planned operations in a phased way – with as much as possible being maintained.

“Emergency services are not being stood down or reduced, and urgent operations as well as some planned care are continuing to go ahead. Those with care scheduled who are impacted by this decision will be contacted individually; those not contacted should continue to attend as normal.

"Members of the public should continue to use 111 to determine the best place for your needs or call 999 in an emergency.

“Our staff have worked tirelessly this year to provide the best care to everyone who needs our help – both with and without COVID-19 – and they will continue to do so as we look towards a challenging couple of weeks.

“We are asking the community to help their local hospitals by using the right service and doing all you can to stay safe. Follow all of the guidance in place including staying home, regularly washing your hands and wearing a face mask when making essential journeys.

"What we all do now will have a big impact on our hospitals in the weeks to come - we all have a part to play in reducing the risk of transmission and protecting the NHS.”

The trust also said that it would not be confirming it's current alert status.

Hospital trusts use Operational Pressures Escalation Levels (OPEL) to help with "managing capacity and patient throughput at a time of excess demand and/or other operational pressures".

When a trust reaches OPEL 4, also known as 'black alert', it means that it is “unable to deliver comprehensive care” and patient safety is at risk, according to the National Health Executive.

A spokesperson for HHFT said: "Our OPEL levels are regularly reviewed throughout the day, so this information would likely be out of date when it is reported. With this in mind, we are not providing updates on our OPEL status."

The figures come as England enters its third national lockdown today.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night said it was "both frustrating and alarming" to see the speed at which the new variant of coronavirus is spreading.

It means that schools will switch to online learning, people classed as clinically extremely vulnerable will be asked to shield again and people will only be able to leave home for one of a few exceptions.