PATIENTS and visitors at Musgrove Park Hospital are being ordered to wear face masks from today (Monday).

NHS staff at the hospital will also be expected to wear surgical masks under new World Health Organisation guidelines aimed at preventing the spread of Covid-19.

A spokesman for Somerset NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Musgrove, said people with Covid-19 can have mild or no respiratory symptoms and can transmit the virus without being aware of it.

The new measures are aimed at keeping visitors, patients and staff safe.

The spokesman added: "Face coverings can be cloth and/or homemade, and advice on how to wear and make one can be found on the government website.

"Face coverings worn as part of religious beliefs or cultural practice are also acceptable, providing they are not loose and cover the mouth and nose.

"Please plan in advance and bring a face covering with you whenever possible.

"If you don’t have one available when you come to one of our sites, supplies will be available at the entrances to our buildings."

The spokesman said: "For some people, wearing a face covering may be difficult due to physical or mental health conditions. In these instances, other measures will be considered on a case by case basis, for example timed appointments and being seen immediately on arrival. Please contact your service if you need to discuss this with them.

"If you are a deaf or hearing impaired, our colleagues have a range of communication options to ensure that they can communicate effectively with you. This might include the use of clear masks where possible, as well as visual aids such as writing things down, speech to text apps and sign language. Again, please contact your service if you need to discuss this with them.

"Please also ensure that you continue to comply with existing social distancing and hand hygiene measures in addition to wearing a face covering when you visit any one of our sites."