A critical incident at Watford General Hospital has been stood down after a "technical issue with its oxygen equipment" was resolved.

It means the hospital is operating as normal again following a near-full closure for much of today.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust announced late this morning that its A&E department in Watford was closed to new patients.

Patients and visitors were told to go they would need to find alternative emergency care at another hospital.

The trust tweeted and put on Facebook: "Please DO NOT attend Watford General’s emergency department until further notice, even in an emergency.

"Go to your next nearest hospital with an emergency department. Anyone with non-urgent issues should seek advice via https://111.nhs.uk"

Then, all patients, except for pregnant women, were told to stay away.

Further information on the shutdown and declaration of a critical incident was released by the trust this afternoon.

An official statement, released at 4.40pm, says: “As a result of a technical issue with our individual hospital’s oxygen equipment, which does not pose any risk to our patients, West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust declared a critical incident on Saturday April 4 and has asked that people do not attend Watford General Hospital.

“A small number of patients are being transferred to other hospitals in the area, with each patient being fully assessed in line with existing safety guidelines before they are moved.”

The critical incident remained live until 10.30pm.

In a statement released at 11.15pm on Saturday, the NHS Trust said: "West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust stood down its critical incident tonight (Saturday) at 22.30.

"This means that patients can attend Watford General as usual and that ambulances can bring patients to Watford General instead of to neighbouring hospitals.

"The issues experienced today have been resolved and a safe level of oxygen was maintained throughout the duration of the incident.

"The trust is grateful to neighbouring hospitals and to the ambulance service and the police for their support today."

Deputy chief executive Helen Brown added: “We know that our NHS colleagues and the police are exceptionally busy at the moment, but this didn’t stop them stepping in to help.

"They were quick to respond and together – as one team – we kept our site and our patients safe.”

The trust says it is not expecting to provide any further comment tomorrow and has not revealed any further details about the technical issue.

The trust has made clear however it never ran out of any oxygen at the hospital. 

With A&E shut for several hours, patients in West Hertfordshire had to seek alternative emergency care at another hospital.

Watford General Hospital's resources are currently under strain as staff fight the coronavirus pandemic.

As of today, there have been 31 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths at West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust.

There are several wards at Watford General Hospitals dedicated to coronavirus patients.

But in order to keep all patients as safe as possible, extreme measures including banning visitors to the hospital were introduced in late March.

Only parents of paediatric patients or someone giving birth are allowed a visitor, unless it is in exceptional circumstances.

The no visitor rule is also in place at St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.

All non-urgent appointments have also been postponed by the West Herts NHS trust too due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the minor injuries unit at St Albans City Hospital, which is also run by West Herts Trust, is temporarily closed.

The Department of Health announced this afternoon (Saturday) that 4,313 hospitals patients in the UK who had tested positive for Covid-19 have died.

This is an increase of 708 from yesterday's announcement.