THE Western Trust has announced the temporary suspension of visiting to its sites.
A spokesperson said: "Due to the very high levels of COVID-19 transmission across our community, the four UK Chief Medical Officers have advised that we now move into alert level 5, which requires the strictest of social distancing given the threat that health and social care services could become overwhelmed and therefore impacts on visiting to all care settings across Northern Ireland.
"Subsequently the Western Health and Social Care Trust have assessed all elements of risk and in order to protect patients, visitors and staff, the decision has been made to temporarily suspend visiting on all sites and facilities within the Western Trust.
"This suspension will now apply from midnight on Thursday, January 14.
"While we recognise that restriction to visiting is a very emotive and difficult issue, often causing distress for families, patients and residents, it is essential that these updated visiting restrictions are effectively applied to help bring the transmission of COVID-19 under control."
There will be certain exceptional circumstances which will continue to apply.
"If you are permitted to visit hospital or a care facility under any of the special circumstances above you MUST wear a face covering, thoroughly wash your hands or use sanitiser when entering and exiting that facility.
"PLEASE DO NOT visit if you are feeling unwell, especially if you have a high temperature or new persistent cough or have a sudden loss of taste or smell," the spokesperson continued.
"Children are not permitted to visit.
"The Trust acknowledges that this is a very difficult time for the public and we ask you to work with us and appeal to patients and visitors to respect our staff and the guidance they give you at all times. The Trust operates a ‘Zero Tolerance’ policy and we will not accept any form of abuse towards our staff.
"You can also continue to arrange a ‘virtual visit’ with your relative or friend on a smartphone or tablet.
"Our hospitals have access to free Wi-Fi and our staff can help set this up. Please be patient. Our staff will have to prioritise clinical work and patient care.
"We are very sorry to have to move to this position of suspending visiting to all our hospitals and facilities as we understand how important this is for people, but we must immediately apply this in the best interest of the health and safety for everyone until such time as the transmission of COVID-19 reduces."
The Trust said the guidance will be kept under constant review.
A breakdown of all exceptional circumstances included as part of the temporary suspension of visiting to Western Trust facilities is available to view on the Trust website.