A petition with more than 52,000 signatures has called for all maternity hospitals to allow partners to attend appointments and scans, as well as for the full duration of labour.

The petition was handed into Cork University Maternity Hospital this morning and will be delivered to all maternity hospitals in the coming weeks.

It also calls for partners to be allowed to visit the hospital for the duration of the stay at the hospital.

Speaking as the petition was handed in, the director of the community campaign group Uplift said being pregnant is a momentous occasion in anyone's life.

Siobhan O'Donoghue said while it can be full of joy, it can also be full of stress trauma and sadness.

She said they believe that couples should be classified as a pod as they live together and sleep together. 

Ms O'Donoghue said that they believe that with good careful planning and consultation that women should not be left in this situation in this day and age.

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In a statement, the South/South West Hospital Group said it fully understands how challenging visiting restrictions at its four maternity hospitals have been.

But it said as Covid-19 is still very much in the community, there is a need to minimise footfall to the maternity units to limit the risk of the virus spreading.

The safety of women, their babies and maternity staff is central to the provision of our maternity services.

It said an outbreak of Covid-19 among staff or patients would have a severely negative impact and reduce their ability to provide essential services to patients.

Visiting restrictions are reviewed weekly and it said the approach is based on consensus from all the hospitals and units.