East London health workers feel they are living in a “parallel universe” due to the lack of mask and hand gel use among residents.

Redbridge Council’s health and wellbeing board heard yesterday that staff at North East London NHS Foundation Trust (NELFT) found the disparity “really quite distressing”.

NELFT’s integrated care director, Bob Edwards, added that the trust is struggling to make visitors understand the “real risks” Covid still poses.

He said: “There is certain a communications issue, it’s tough. It does feel like a parallel universe where you’re in the thick of it and then you walk over the road to get coffee and there are no masks – it’s hard for the staff. 

“We’re really struck by the difference between hospitals, which are still relying on hand gel and masks, and then people who are surprised to be talking about Covid still being a problem for us.

“The disparity between hospitals and social care and the public is really quite distressing.”

The hospital boss said the “vast majority” of the 91 Covid-positive patients in his ward are unvaccinated. 

He added: “There’s a clear message that two vaccines is the difference between an unpleasant stay on a ward with oxygen and ending up on ventilation in critical care.

“We’ve also had a number of pregnant women, and trying to treat pregnant women who are unwell is very complicated, so we’re trying to get that message out about the vaccine.”

NELFT public health director Gladys Xavier said the pandemic is here to stay with us until spring at least and warned that the vaccine does not stop people catching Covid.

She told the meeting Redbridge’s Covid-19 rate is now 233 per 100,000 people, below the London average of 251.

She added: “Even though mortality rates are low, we still have to be really really careful. 

“Areas of concern are pressure in critical care, the ambulance service, and the hospital system itself.”

The local vaccination uptake is 70 per cent for the first jab and 62 per cent for the second.