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Health

Mark Drakeford in Milford Haven as pub tills ring for first weekend since December

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As part of the easing of lockdown restrictions, hospitality business owners let out a sigh of relief this week after a long winter as it was announced by Mark Drakeford that the sector could open – partially.

On Monday, many of us went for a pint as pubs, cafes, and restaurants can now serve customers outdoors.

First Minister Mark Drakeford visited Milford Haven on Sunday (May 2) in last minute campaigning before the election on Thursday.

It was the first weekend of trade since pubs were forced to shut before Christmas.

Indoor hospitality is still set to return on May 17 he confirmed.

Announcing the changes officially for the first time last week, First Minister said: “The public health context in Wales remains favourable, with cases falling and our vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength.

“Because meeting outdoors continues to be lower risk than meeting indoors, we are able to bring forward changes to allow any six people to meet outdoors.

“This will provide more opportunities for people, especially young people, to meet outdoors with their friends.

“This will undoubtedly have a significant positive impact on people’s wellbeing. I’m also pleased to confirm outdoor hospitality will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26 April.

“These changes will help the hospitality sector recover after a difficult twelve months. It is thanks to the continuing efforts of people across Wales we are able to introduce this change. Together, we will continue to keep Wales safe.”

Reaction to the changes

Welcoming the announcement Jane Dodds, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said it was “great news”.

She said: “As a nation we must all work together to ensure the vaccination programme continues and that the lockdowns and closures we’ve been through never need to return.”

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies, said: “Labour had ample opportunity to bring forward a roadmap out of lockdown, but refused to do so.

“Thanks to the UK’s great vaccination story much more detail could have been announced prior to the election period… but Labour chose to play politics instead of adopting the Welsh Conservative roadmap.”

Mark Reckless, from the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party, said: “This is getting to the point of testing election rules to breaking point.

“The Labour leader is using his platform as first minister to make political announcements during an election campaign.”

So what do businesses have to do by law?

Welsh Government guidance states: “As an employer or business operator, you have a legal responsibility to protect employees and visitors; and anyone else on the premises, from risks to their health and safety. You also need to assess the risks from COVID-19 and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to the virus.

“Risk assessments are used to identify and address these risks or minimise them. When undertaking your specific COVID-19 risk assessment you must comply with the Coronavirus Regulations and have regard to the statutory guidance and use this document to inform your decisions and control measures, recognising you cannot eliminate all risks.

“Risk assessments must be reviewed and updated regularly, whenever circumstances change including whenever the coronavirus alert levels change in Wales.

“A risk assessment is not about creating huge amounts of paperwork, but rather about identifying sensible measures to control risks. Your risk assessment will help you decide whether you have done everything you reasonably need to. There are interactive tools available to support you from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) at Managing risks and risk assessments at work.

“These risk assessments will be the starting point for implementing the reasonable measures that are required to be taken to minimise exposure to the coronavirus on premises open to the public and in workplaces.

“This involves considering issues such as: whether ventilation is adequate; hygiene factors including hand washing and access to hand washing facilities; ensuring physical distancing is taking place and if 2m is achievable; the extent to which the use of screens, PPE and face coverings can mitigate risks, especially where the 2m distance is not achievable.”

Made possible by the vaccine?

As of April 29th, Public Health Wales said a total of 1,816,451 first doses of the Covid-19 vaccine have now been given in Wales.

The agency said 732,643 second doses have also been administered.

Wales is currently in phase two of its vaccination programme, meaning the NHS is now inviting everyone aged 40 to 49 to be vaccinated, after successfully offering the vaccine to everyone in the JCVI priority groups 1-9.

It comes as an estimated six in 10 adults (61 per cent) in private households would have tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies in the week to April 11th, the ONS said on April 28th.

This is up from around one in two adults, or 48.2 per cent, two weeks earlier.

On April 7th, Wales became the first country in Britain to administer the Moderna vaccine.

It was also announced on April 14th that all over 16s who live with an adult with a weakened immune system are to be prioritised for Covid-19 jabs, following advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

Adults who are immunosuppressed have a weaker immune system to fight infections naturally and are more likely to have poorer outcomes after contracting coronavirus.

This includes those with blood cancer, HIV or those who are having immunosuppressive treatment.

What about hospitality that can’t operate outdoors?

The First Minister has announced that an extra £200m is available to help businesses which are not yet able to open.

This will help top up the non-domestic rates grants. Mr Drakeford said it means hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail businesses, which must remain closed will be eligible for a third payment of between £4,000 and £5,000 to help them meet ongoing operating costs while they cannot trade.

“This is in top of the announcement earlier this week extending the business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses for the whole of the next financial year,” Mr Drakeford added.

“We have made well in excess of £2bn available to businesses over the course of the last year to help them through the pandemic, which is over and above the support available from the UK Government’s schemes.

“This is the most generous business support scheme available in the UK. I’m very pleased we’ve been able to safeguard more than 160,000 jobs in these most difficult of times.”

Controlling the crowds

Hospitality catering to households who have effectively been locked down all spring will be a welcome sight to many after large crowds recently descended upon Cardiff Bay.

Police had been given special powers after crowds gathered in Cardiff Bay on April 2nd, despite coronavirus restrictions still being in place.

Cardiff council said a significant amount of rubbish had been left by “large groups of people intent on breaking Covid-19 restrictions”.

South Wales Police has put a dispersal order in place, giving officers the power to exclude people from the area.

Covid rules at that time stated six people from two different households could meet outdoors. It followed similar scenes outside the Senedd earlier that week, when three police officers were injured.

Supt Marc Attwell said: “As restrictions have eased, the need for personal responsibility is critical and it is extremely disappointing that a small minority are willing to put themselves, and others, in harm’s way.

“Cardiff Bay in particular has attracted large crowds over the past few days.

“The behaviour seen over the past three days has placed additional pressure on not only the police but the local authority as well, and meant that officers have been diverted from other parts of the force.”

“We are asking people in groups of six or more who are thinking of attending or organising a gathering at the Senedd over this bank holiday weekend not to do so.”

Officers arrested a 20-year-old man for a public order offence, a 22-year-old woman was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and for possession of a Class A substance and a 35-year-old-man was also arrested for possession of a Class A substance.

The council said the trail of litter left a “huge task” for clean-up staff as “bins were left unused and the ground was littered with rubbish”.

“Despite the preventative measures put in place by the council, in partnership with South Wales Police, the Welsh government’s coronavirus regulations were again broken by a significant number of people illegally gathering in Cardiff Bay,” the authority said.

“The rules are clear, six people, from two households are allowed to meet outdoors, maintaining two metre social distancing.

“Breaking these rules significantly increases the chances of Covid-19 cases rising in the city.”

Now, with places for people to socialise in an organised manner, scenes like this should hopefully be avoided as people safely enjoy themselves.

Health

Tavernspite School the ‘healthiest of schools despite the pandemic’

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THE STAFF, governors, parents, and of course, the children of Tavernspite Community Primary School are delighted to gain the Welsh Network of Healthy School Schemes National Quality Award for an incredible 5th time after a recent and very rigorous assessment.

The school is already well known and highly regarded for its outstanding work in developing the health and wellbeing of all members of its school community. To achieve this prestigious recognition in the midst of a pandemic is all the more impressive. 

Health and Wellbeing at the school is led by teacher, Lauren Arthur, who has done an incredible job preparing for this re-assessment and raising the profile of the Healthy Schools scheme.

The assessor Mrs Lynne Perry, enjoyed a virtual tour and presentation by Year 3 pupils who took great pleasure in proudly showing Mrs Perry all the wonderful work the school has done to ensure its children are safe, happy with high levels of emotional and physical wellbeing.

In her report, Mrs Perry wrote, ‘Tavernspite School continues to be an outstanding health promoting school. The health promoting school ethos is evident across the whole school population and it runs seamlessly throughout everything that the school does. Tavernspite School continues to give high priority to promoting and enhancing the health and well-being of the whole school community.’

The school received fantastic support from Mrs Liz Western, Senior Public Health Officer and Lead for Healthy Schools and Pre-schools, Pembrokeshire, to whom they are very grateful.

Head teacher Kevin Phelps said, ‘We were delighted to receive this award for the fifth time, particularly considering the experiences we have all been through these past twelve months. Health and wellbeing has never been so important and we are proud to be leading the way like this.’

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Health

New Covid vaccine arrives first in West Wales

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THE FIRST person in the UK to receive the Moderna vaccine against Covid-19 got their jab at 8:30 in the morning of Wednesday, April 7, at West Wales General Hospital.
The recipient was Elle Taylor, aged 24. Ms Taylor is an unpaid carer from Ammanford.
Speaking after receiving the vaccine, the 24-year-old, who works at a further education college, said: “I’m very excited and very happy.
“I’m an unpaid carer for my grandmother, so it is very important to me that I get it, so I can care for her properly and safely.
“My grandmother has had her first dose and she is going for her second dose on Saturday.”
Miss Taylor said she only found out on Tuesday evening that she was to be the first in the UK to receive the jab by Moderna, an American company.

HEALTH BOARD ‘DELIGHTED’

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) authorised the Moderna vaccine as safe and effective in January 2021 following rigorous clinical trials.
Moderna is the third Covid-19 vaccine distributed in the UK.
Two other vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine and the Astra Zeneca vaccine, are already in use across the UK. 31 million people across the UK have received their first shot of one of those vaccines since the inoculation programme began in December last year.
Supplies arrived in Wales on Tuesday, April 6.
5,000 doses were delivered to vaccination centres in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area.
The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose vaccine given at an interval of between four and twelve weeks.
Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda University Health Board, added: “We’re delighted to be able to use the Moderna vaccine for deployment across west Wales.
“We will be using this new vaccine, alongside Oxford Astra-Zeneca, to continue the immunisation’s roll out to our communities in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.
“We are incredibly lucky to have a third vaccine in Wales, with a long shelf life and the ability to be easily transported, to help deliver the vaccination programme to small clinics across our rural communities.”

THE MODERNA VACCINE EXPLAINED

The Moderna vaccine does not contain the virus to produce immunity.
It cannot give you COVID-19.
The injection stimulates the body’s natural defences (immune system). It works by making the body produce its own protection (antibodies) against the virus that causes the COVID-19 infection.
The vaccine delivers the ‘instructions’ that cells in the body can use to make antibodies to fight the virus that causes COVID-19.
As with any vaccine, Moderna may not fully protect all those who receive it. Those who get it may not be fully protected until two weeks after the vaccine’s second dose.
In trials, the vaccine was 94.1% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection in patients with no prior history of the disease. It was 100% effective in preventing patients from developing the severe Covid-19 symptoms that lead to hospitalisation.
Although the Moderna vaccine is the priciest of the vaccines yet rolled out, it has an advantage over the Pfizer vaccine. It can be stored in a regular fridge for up to fourteen days after its delivery to a vaccination centre.
It contains no ingredient derived from animals.

A KEY MILESTONE

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “This is another key milestone in our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The third vaccine for use in Wales significantly adds to our defences in the face of coronavirus. It will help to protect our most vulnerable.
“Every vaccine given to someone in Wales is a small victory against the virus, and we would encourage everyone to go for their vaccine when invited.
“If people cannot attend their appointment, we ask them to let the health board know via the contact details provided in their invitation as this vaccination slot can be offered to someone else rather than be wasted.
“Once you have been vaccinated, you should continue to follow guidance, staying two metres apart, washing your hands and wearing a face covering to protect those around you.
“I want to thank all those who have been working tirelessly to deliver the vaccine across Wales and help us meet our second milestone of offering a vaccine to all phase one priority groups. I also want to thank the 1.5 million people in Wales that have already come forward for their vaccine and done their bit in this national effort.”
Welsh Conservative deputy health spokesperson and candidate for Ceredigion and Mid and West Wales, Amanda Jenner, said: “The Conservative UK Government’s decision to go it alone has been fully vindicated with the phenomenal results of the British vaccination programme.
“The roll-out of the Moderna vaccine, administered by our outstanding NHS and volunteers, will boost our ability to protect Welsh people and restore our freedoms.”

VACCINE SUPPLIES

Starting from the middle of last year, the UK Government secured a deliberate oversupply of vaccine to ensure continuity of supply.
As part of that strategy, the Department of Health placed provisional orders – pending approval by the medicines’ regulator – of seven different vaccines in different stages of development.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine, 100 million doses of the Oxford vaccine, and 17 million doses from Moderna.
A further four vaccines are either in clinical trials or awaiting MHRA approval:  Novavax (60 million doses, Janssen (30 million doses), Valneva (60 million doses),  GlaskoSmithKline (60 million doses).
The number of Covid-19 vaccine doses on order is enough to fully inoculate the UK’s entire population twice.

BOARD STATEMENT ON VACCINATION PROGRAMME
194,057 people in our three counties have now received their first dose of the vaccine, and 47,087 people are fully vaccinated having received both doses.
We will have offered a first dose of the vaccine to all those in priority groups 5-9 by Sunday 18 April.
To ensure no one is left behind, this week the health board has launched an appeal asking people in groups 1 to 9 who have not been contacted to get in touch to arrange their first vaccine dose.
If one or more of the following applies to you and you have not received your first vaccine appointment, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 or by email COVIDenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk by Friday 16 April:

  • are aged 50 or over
  • are aged 16 to 64 and have underlying health conditions that put you at increased risk of COVID-19 mortality
  • work in a care home or in health and social care in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire
  • are the primary unpaid carer of an elderly or disabled adult who is at increased risk of COVID-19 mortality, or a child with severe neuro-disabilities
Please be patient if you haven’t been contacted about your vaccine yet and we politely ask that you do not contact the health board or your GP to ask about your vaccine. You will be contacted when it is your turn.

THE SECOND DOSE

Second doses are essential for longer-term protection, so it’s important that everyone comes forward for their full course when called.
When you will be contacted for your second vaccine dose depends on which vaccine you have received.
We are asking anyone who received the Pfizer vaccine and has not received a second vaccine appointment yet, to get in touch as soon as possible on 0300 303 8322. Please note our phone lines get very busy at times and you may have to wait for the call to be answered. You can also contact us by emailing your name and contact phone number to COVIDenquiries.hdd@wales.nhs.uk
The health board aims to complete all second Pfizer vaccine doses by week commencing Monday 12 April.
To check which vaccine you received, look at the card given to you when you received your first vaccine. It will say if you received either the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine or the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine.
If you received a first vaccine dose of the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine, we politely ask that you do not contact your GP practice or health board at this time to ask about a second vaccine appointment. You will be contacted when it is your turn for a second dose – we are calling those who received a Pfizer first dose at this time.
Care home residents, people aged over 80 and all other priority groups who have received the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine at the GP surgery will be contacted between 11 to 12 weeks following their first vaccine with an appointment time.
Confidence is building around the effectiveness of the vaccines.

Emerging evidence is clear on the impact of the vaccine in preventing severe disease and hospitalisation. That is now playing out in admissions to our hospitals, and thankfully, numbers of deaths from coronavirus being reported.
UK and EU regulators have also been very clear about the safety of the vaccines. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh any possible risks.
All three vaccines are safe and effective.

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Health

Police and drugs advice service issue warning over ‘deadly batch’ of heroin

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POLICE have asked the media to issue a warning over a batch of heroin.

The drug circulating in west Wales, first detected in Llanelli, is particularly dangerous, it has been confirmed.

“We are warning drug users to take extra care following reports of a particularly harmful batch of heroin circulating in the Llanelli area” said a Dyfed-Powys Police spokesperson.

“We have reasons to believe some drugs being distributed and used in the Carmarthenshire area at present have been contaminated with other substances and could be extremely dangerous for anyone taking them.

“We would also appeal to drug users to seek medical attention immediately if they become unwell.

“Please share this information with anyone you believe could come into contact with these drugs.

”In an emergency or if you think someone’s life is at risk always dial 999.”

Earlier this week Barod, the drug and alcohol abuse service reported a dangerous and toxic heroin circulating in Pembroke Dock which a spokesperson described as being ‘potentially deadly’.

To comes as Public Health England issued a formal alert about the risks of heroin containing fentanyl or carfentanyl.

The warning reads: “There is significant evidence from a small number of post-mortem results of recent drug user deaths and from police seizures that some heroin may contain fentanyl or carfentanyl added by dealers.

“These are highly potent synthetic opioids and very small amounts can cause severe or even fatal toxicity.

“Those of you in contact with heroin users should be alert to the increased possibility of overdose arising from heroin cut with these synthetic opioids, be able to recognise possible symptoms of overdose and respond appropriately.”

The fentanyls are a group of synthetic opioids; some have legitimate uses while others are illicit drugs.

Fentanyl is about 100 times more potent than morphine and is a licensed medicine used to treat severe and terminal pain. Carfentanyl is 4,000 – 10,000 times more potent than morphine and principally used as an animal tranquilliser.

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