Health authorities said the closures were intended to help “prepare for the busy winter period and a potential second surge of Covid-19 cases”.

But the petition says: “Seriously ill or injured children are being turned away from the hospital and having to travel miles to the Whittington Hospital in Archway, North Middlesex in Edmonton or Barnet Hospital for emergency treatment … up to 300 children a month have continued to turn up at the hospital seeking A&E treatment.

“With the Royal Free in Hampstead also announcing a ‘temporary’ closure of its paediatric A&E department, there are serious concerns about the long term provision of paediatric A&E in North London.”

It comes amid fears that patients are becoming infected with coronavirus after being admitted to hospital with other ailments, after figures on Friday showed as many as 18 per cent of patients picked up Covid-19 in wards.

Jon Ashworth, the shadow Health Secretary, on Saturday called on the Government to introduce weekly testing for all frontline NHS staff, saying: “We saw in the first wave that significant numbers of people were getting it [coronavirus] via hospitals.  There is evidence that if you test NHS healthcare staff, you can reduce infections.

“It is extraordinary that ministers don’t seem to be learning the lessons from the first wave.  Why now, as we head into the second wave, have we got hospitals warning that they may have to cancel elective operations again? Why didn’t ministers prepare the NHS for the second wave?

“Routine testing of all NHS staff on the front line on a weekly basis would obviously capture asymptomatic staff with the virus – this is what’s happening now in care homes. The Government should make it a priority for NHS staff as well.”

A Government spokesman said: “NHS staff with symptoms can access testing as a priority and staff in outbreak areas can access tests if they are asymptomatic.  We will continue to expand testing availability as our capacity continues to expand.”

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