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Coronavirus cases in Wales still lowest in UK says Health Minister

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WALES continues to have the lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today. 

The minister said the number of confirmed cases in Wales is currently 9.3 per 100,000 people. 

Eluned Morgan said: “The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is at the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  We have recently seen a period of 10 days where no new deaths from the virus were recorded – sadly Public Health Wales reported one death yesterday.

“These achievements reflect the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Over recent weeks we have however seen very troubling developments in relation to the so-called India variant of concern – or as the World Health Organisation has re-named it, the delta variant.  This is further proof that coronavirus has not gone away. 

“We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England.   We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.  

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK.  We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty.  It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June. 

“Whilst Wales is moving to alert level one as previously signalled, we will now do this in a phased way.  

“Changes to the regulations from 7 June therefore focused on easing restriction on outdoor events and activities.  The risk of transmission is much lower outdoors and these changes will allow people to take advantage of the summer.”

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.

Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated can also now take place.  This includes concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups. All organisers must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

Finally, provision now allows for extended household to be made up of three households who can meet and have contact indoors.  This is an increase from two households previously. 

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.   In line with the coronavirus control plan, at alert level one this would mean the rule of six would apply for meeting indoors in private homes and in holiday accommodation.

We will also consider increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.

This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of the delta variant to become available.  It will also allow time for more people to be vaccinated, which remains our best route out of the pandemic.

I am extremely grateful to Health Board vaccination teams, local partners and the many volunteers across the country for the incredible progress of our vaccination programme. 

At this rate, and subject to supply, we expect to have offered all adults 18 and over their first dose by early next week and to have hit our 3rd milestone of an uptake of 75% in all of the age ranges by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.  In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

We are currently recognised as the world Leader amongst countries over 1 million inhabitants.  We have vaccinated more than 86.5% of the adult population with their first dose and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

Yesterday I published an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. 

The updated strategy looks back at what has been achieved to date and sets out preparations for what comes next, potentially including a booster for our most vulnerable citizens and a vaccine for children and young people. We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.

Wales’ successful Test, Trace, Protect service was established a year ago.  The Welsh Government has allocated an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing this financial year to £92m.

On 2 June we also published a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy setting out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.   This includes strengthening and enhance the tracing of variants of concern, as well as the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries.

On 20 May I set-out plans for a £100m investment to kick-start the health and care system’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This money will provide for new equipment, staff, technology and ways of working to help health boards increase capacity and cut waiting times. 

As we begin resuming non-emergency care following the pandemic we have an opportunity to create a health and care system fit for the future.

Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine. 

Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.   It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.

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Milford Haven: Arrest made following violent disorder in Charles Street

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POLICE arrested at least one person, and are making further enquiries, following violent disorder in Milford Haven

The incident left one man in hospital with injuries to his head and face.

The incident took place in the early hours of Saturday morning (Sept 18).

Ten police officers attended, and it is understood the police conveyed the injured party, who had been knocked unconscious, to hospital.

We have asked the police for a comment.

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High level of COVID-19 cases is impacting health service provision locally

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HYWEL DDA Health Board has said that the high number of COVID-19 cases locally is a concern and is impacting on our public services across the Hywel Dda area. This is despite While the link between coronavirus infections and serious illness is weakening.

Public bodies have been making efforts this week to reassure that multi-agency partners are continually working together across the region to protect our communities, local public services and the NHS.

There have been 300 new coronavirus cases recorded in the Hywel Dda health board area according to the latest figures. Public Health Wales (PHW) data shows there were 199 new cases in Carmarthenshire, 63 in Pembrokeshire and 38 in Ceredigion since the last report.

The total number of cases across the three counties now stands at 26,930 – 16,620 in Carmarthenshire, 6,742 in Pembrokeshire and 3,568 in Ceredigion. One new COVID-19 related death has been recorded in the Hywel Dda area since the last report, with the total reaching 503 throughout the pandemic.

In total 2,618 new cases of coronavirus have been reported across Wales on Friday (Sept 17), bringing the national total to 320,099 cases.

Steve Moore, health board Chief Executive reported that there are 66 people in our hospitals with confirmed COVID, ten of these are in Intensive Care. He stated that about half of those in ICU have been vaccinated and added that the clinical view is that patients respond more quickly and favourably if they are vaccinated. All COVID deaths in the past few weeks have been of unvaccinated people.

Infection rates are coming down slightly but are still very high, with 506 cases per 100,000 people in Carmarthenshire (the 2nd highest level in Wales) and 293 cases per 100,000 in Pembrokeshire. There is a test positivity rate of 16% across the HB area. It is thought that cases peaked on 6th September, though the full impact of schools going back may not yet have been seen.

Hywel Dda University Health Board, Public Health Wales and Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire local authorities together regularly monitor, review and agree actions needed to respond and manage the ongoing pandemic. This is co-ordinated through the Hywel Dda Regional Incident Management Team, established at the beginning of the pandemic, and continues to be further supported by county specific teams.

The Health Board put out a statement on Friday (Sept 17), saying: “Communicating regularly with our public across the region has been a key focus in our response to the pandemic. Currently, this has involved Community Development Outreach workers engaging with minority ethnic groups within the community”; and supporting youth services and groups in messaging to young people about how to keep safe and encourage vaccination.

“Local public sector leaders have come together to acknowledge the sacrifices people have made to keep our communities safe and to appeal to the public for support during the coming days and weeks.

Maria Battle, Chair of Hywel Dda UHB, continued: “The future does bring a degree of uncertainty, such as the roll out of the flu vaccine alongside COVID-19 booster jabs. What is certain however is the commitment of the health board and our partners to be as prepared as possible. The health board’s comprehensive recovery plan outlines, first and foremost, how we recover from the pandemic: how we support our staff to recover after what has been an exhausting year and a half, and how we lay the foundations to recover our services and support our communities.”

Temporary Chief Constable of Dyfed-Powys Police, Claire Parmenter, said: “With the uncertainties we face locally at the moment, we want everyone living, working and visiting this area to keep each other as safe as possible, so please remember the protective behaviours that will help ensure this for us all.

“We want it to be as easy as possible for people to get in touch when they need us. So save your time and report online – as you can now report non-emergency crimes and incidents online quickly and easily on our website

“This includes reports of domestic abuse, crimes, antisocial behaviour, road traffic incidents and collisions, and more. The online reporting isn’t replacing 101. But it’s important to promote the availability of our online services to those who would prefer to use this option, and it does mean we can answer calls from those who cannot contact us online quicker.

“We continue to work with our partners in a coordinated approach to serve in the best interests of our communities at this challenging time.”

Cllr Emlyn Dole, Leader of Carmarthenshire County Council, said: “Carmarthenshire currently has a very high number of COVID-19 cases and is one of the worst affected areas of Wales at the moment. This is putting huge pressure on our services and the NHS.

“This virus does not discriminate – it is affecting people young and old. I would appeal to anyone who has not yet had the vaccine to go and get it as soon as possible. We should also remain vigilant when socialising and follow the measures in place to protect us.”

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, said “Although Wales is now in Alert Level 0, COVID-19 is still spreading in our communities. We must all continue to consider how we keep each other safe and reduce the risk of spreading the coronavirus. It remains good practice to maintain social distancing and to limit our contacts as much as possible.

“We urge all Ceredigion residents aged 16 and above to ensure that they take up the offer of both doses of the COVID-19 vaccination. It’s easy to go and get the vaccine with walk-in clinics available. Having both doses will not only protect you, but also your family, friends and colleagues. We also look forward to 12-15 year-olds becoming protected through vaccination.”

David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council, said: “It has been easy to think we are through the worst of this pandemic, but the recent weeks have been a reminder how we must all continue to tackle this issue collectively. These past 18 months have been very tough and lockdown restrictions have changed our lives.

“In the past few weeks we have experienced a high volume of visitors to the county which can at times add additional pressures on our services.

“I cannot emphasise enough that this pandemic has not ended. Covid-19 has not gone away and we must all continue to work together and redouble our efforts, particularly as we head into autumn and winter.

“Please continue to socially distance where possible, wear face coverings where required, continue regular handwashing and choose outdoor activities or meet people outdoors over indoors.

“If you have COVID-19 symptoms, get tested. Don’t risk spreading this virus. These are simple actions that we can all take to help. They really do make a difference.

“Our front-line teams are working hard to support our communities and ensure we deliver key services. I would ask for your support to help us to keep Pembrokeshire open and welcoming to all.”

Over half a million doses of vaccine have been delivered in total with 91% of the eligible population having had at least a single dose.

A 3rd dose is soon to be offered to a well-defined group of immunocompromised people. The single dose vaccine for 12-15 year olds will be given out at Mass Vaccination Centres (MVCs) during evenings and weekends starting in early October.

From 27th September booster doses will be given with GPs delivering them to care homes, and the MVCs will be used for everyone else. GPs will be concentrating on administering flu vaccines.

Cases of RSV which can be serious in children under 5 are expected to peak in late October/early November and the HB has been asked to prepare for a 50% increase in cases.

What local Heath Board is doing?

Vaccination – Hywel Dda University Health Board, Public Health Wales and Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire local authorities together regularly monitor, review and agree actions needed to respond and manage the ongoing pandemic. This is co-ordinated through the Hywel Dda Regional Incident Management Team, established at the beginning of the pandemic, and continues to be further supported by county specific teams.

Health care – Board says it has taken steps to ensure it can care for those most critically ill in our hospitals by postponing some operations temporarily and realigning our workforce; has further limited visiting in areas affected by COVID-19.

Supporting communities – through the local county incident management teams (IMTs), local authorities are providing guidance and support to schools following the recent return of pupils.

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NHS Covid Pass to enter large scale events and nightclubs to be introduced

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Next month, people in Wales will need to show an NHS Covid Pass to enter nightclubs and attend events.

The move has just been announced by the first minister today (Friday 17th September).

According to the government, the measure is being introduced to control the spread of Covid in Wales, where cases are now at an all-time high.

Despite the increase in cases, the alert level will remain at zero for the next three weeks, and no new restrictions beyond passes will be introduced.

The First Minister is urging everyone to work from home whenever possible and to get fully vaccinated.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Across Wales, coronavirus cases have risen to very high levels over the summer as more people have been gathering and meeting.

“Tragically, more people are dying from this terrible virus.

“The very strong advice we have from our scientific advisers is to take early action to prevent infections increasing further.

“The last thing we want is further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again. That’s why we must take small but meaningful action now to control the spread of the virus and reduce the need for tougher measures later.”

On October 11, the NHS Covid Pass requirement takes effect.

All people over the age of 18 will need to have a pass to enter:

  • Nightclubs
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people, such as concerts or conventions
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance

It means concerts and large scale sports events will now require the passes.

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status.

It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Mr Drakeford continued: “My message to you today is a simple but serious one – the pandemic is not over and we all need to take steps to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

“We have high levels of the virus in our communities and while our fantastic vaccination programme has helped stop thousands more people from becoming seriously ill or dying, the pressure on the NHS is increasing.

“We hope introducing the requirement to show a COVID pass will help keep venues and events – many of which have only recently started trading again – open.

“Showing a COVID Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“We will continue to work closely with all businesses affected to ensure a smooth introduction and operation of this system.”

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