Members of the public are being asked not to visit three hospitals while all non-urgent appointments have been cancelled until further notice.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has had to take drastic measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus and keep patients safe.

At Watford General Hospital, four coronavirus patients have died, including three people who passed away at the weekend.

Read more: Two more coronavirus patients die at Watford General taking total to four

Now, the hospital trust has asked the public not to visit its hospitals in Watford, St Albans, or Hemel Hempstead - other than for two exceptions.

The public can attend if they are the nominated birthing partner, or if they are the parent or guardian for paediatric patients (children).

The trust says asking people to stay away will help prevent the spread of the virus and encourage people to stay at home.

The trust is still seeing urgent and two-week-wait outpatient appointments but all non-urgent activity like planned surgery, other outpatient appointments, and telephone consultations have ceased with immediate effect.

The trust also tweeted that visitors should only accompany patients to A&E, the minor injuries unit, or urgent treatment centre if "absolutely necessary".

The trust's chief medical officer Dr Michael van der Watt said: "We have not taken this step lightly. Our focus right now is to provide care to our sickest patients. To do this, we need to move our clinical staff from their planned work so that we have enough nurses and doctors to care for those with the greatest need.

"We’re keeping a careful record of all the procedures and appointments that were planned and we will ensure that patients who need to be seen, will be – in due course. All of our staff are part of our whole team effort to reduce the impact of COVID-19 and so we are asking that patients hold off from calling us at this busy time.

"As soon as we are able to, we will provide more information on our website or via an email or letter."

However, these unprecedented times have also seen incredible kindness.

Sofia Sheikh, the director of Raise, the hospital trust’s charity, said: "So many wonderful offers of help have come our way including some delicious treats for our hard-working staff. These have been much appreciated but due to the need to keep our hospitals free of visitors, we are now asking that all donations must be arranged in advance.

"We are also keen to build up a fund so that we can support the wellbeing of our frontline staff over the months ahead. By making a donation now, we can find ways to support staff later, when we will need to boost their resilience."

Anyone who wishes to help by giving a donation or volunteering their time can find out more on the hospital charity website –