A TOP UK health boss has urged people to wear masks or stay home if they are suffering from a cold or flu.

The warning from Professor Susan Hopkins, the chief medical adviser at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), comes as extreme pressure is placed on NHS services by “high levels” of Covid-19, flu, and scarlet fever.

The health service across the UK is buckling under the strain, with more than a dozen NHS trusts and ambulance services declaring critical incidents over the festive period.

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has said that somewhere between 300 and 500 people are dying each week as a result of delays and problems with urgent and emergency care.

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As the pressures on NHS staff mount, Professor Hopkins has urged anyone who may have been hit with a cold or the flu to stay home, and wear a mask if they have to go outside.

She further stressed the importance of the flu vaccination for anyone eligible, and of keeping children safe.

The UKHSA chief said: “It’s important to minimise the spread of infection in schools and other education and childcare settings as much as possible. If your child is unwell and has a fever, they should stay home from school or nursery until they feel better and the fever has resolved.

“Helping children to learn about the importance of good hand hygiene is also key, so practice regular handwashing at home with soap and warm water. Catching coughs and sneezes in tissues then binning them is another simple way to help stop illness from spreading.

“Adults should also try to stay home when unwell and if you do have to go out, wear a face covering. When unwell don’t visit healthcare settings or visit vulnerable people unless urgent.”

The British Medical Association (BMA) said that government’s “political choices” were leading to patients “dying unnecessarily”.

Professor Phil Banfield, chairman of the BMA council, said: “The current situation in the NHS is intolerable and unsustainable, both for our patients and the hard-working staff desperately trying to keep up with incredibly high levels of demand,” he said.

“The BMA has repeatedly invited the Government to sit down and talk about the pressures on our health service, but their silence is deafening.

“It is disingenuous for the Prime Minister to talk about ‘backing the NHS’ in his New Year message, when his own Health Secretary is failing to discuss how this crisis can be fixed.”