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Health

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.

Health

A round up of Covid changes to measures and information

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FROM Today (Oct 12) Pembrokeshire County Council is urging the public to be vigilant following the important changes to the Covid-19 measures and information about the vaccination and testing programme.

To ensure our communities are aware, here’s a summary of what you need to know:

NHS COVID Pass:

From 11 October, you must use the NHS COVID Pass to show that you are fully vaccinated or have tested negative (through taking a lateral flow test 48 hours before event or attending venue) to attend large events, nightclubs and other similar venues.

You can get your NHS COVID Pass at: https://covid-status.service.nhsx.nhs.uk/.

You will need to register with the NHS before accessing your pass, please bear this in mind before any big event you’re planning to attend.

More information for businesses on the requirements for the NHS COVID Pass can be found on the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/reasonable-measures-action-cards-businesses-and-organisations-coronavirus

COVID-19 Testing for children and young people and for staff working in special schools and colleges:

From Monday 11 October, staff in primary schools, secondary schools and colleges and learners who are under 18 in secondary school and college who have a household member that has tested positive for COVID-19 should undertake daily lateral flow every day for seven days, in addition to PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8.

This should start on the day a household contact is confirmed positive from a lateral flow or PCR test result.

Testing children under 5 years of age:

It is no longer recommended that children under 5 years of age take COVID-19 tests without symptoms.

Where children under 5 do have symptoms Welsh Government do not routinely recommend tests unless directed to do so by a doctor or if parents believe a test is absolutely necessary and in the best interests of the child.

Booster vaccines:

Those eligible for a booster vaccination will be invited to attend a Mass Vaccination Centre by Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) when it is their turn i.e. those who received their second vaccine dose more than six months ago.

You may have received an appointment at one of the HDUHB mass vaccination centres further away but you can attend your nearest centre at a time that suits you.

You won’t need to contact HDUHB beforehand. Please bring your appointment letter with you when you attend.

Vaccines for 12-15 year-olds:

12 -15 year-olds in Pembrokeshire are beginning to receive invites to attend a Mass Vaccination Centre by HDUHB when it is their turn.

You may have received an appointment at one of the HDUHB mass vaccination centres further away but you can attend your nearest centre at a time that suits you.

You won’t need to contact HDUHB beforehand. Please bring your appointment letter with you when you attend.

Not vaccinated yet?

You may have previously declined the vaccination but have since change your mind – there’s still time to get vaccinated. Walk-in clinics remain open at all Mass Vaccination Centres for those aged 16 and over who require a first or second dose.

Find your nearest centre here: https://hduhb.nhs.wales/healthcare/covid-19-information/covid-19-vaccination-programme/mass-vaccination-centres/

COVID-19 has not gone away and we all need to continue to play our part to keep Pembrokeshire and each other safe.

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Health

Hywel Dda Health Board: Visiting restrictions for Withybush Hospital

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DUE to increased cases of Covid-19 in hospital and the community, the decision has been made to close Withybush Hospital in Haverfordwest to visitors with immediate effect.

Visiting will only be permitted in extenuating circumstances, such as end of life and critical visits. All visitors must carry out lateral flow device (LFD) test at home prior to travelling to the hospital.

Lateral flow self-test kits can be obtained by:

When visiting our hospitals please remember to wear a face mask, this will be replaced by a surgical face mask at reception or ward.

Please remember to maintain social distancing and to wash your hands as often as possible using soap and water and hand sanitiser.

The situation is being monitored at regular intervals and a further update will be made when visitor restrictions are lifted.

We thank everyone for your understanding at this time while we work to stop the spread of this virus.

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Health

New plan to keep Wales open and safe during “challenging” winter ahead

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The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, will today (Friday October 8) publish new plans to help keep Wales open and safe during the difficult autumn and winter months ahead.

The Welsh Government is publishing an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, which outlines the key actions, which could be put in place to control the spread of the virus.

Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks, following the latest review of the coronavirus regulations. This means all businesses are open and Wales has the lowest level of restrictions.

Speaking ahead of his press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“We are facing a challenging winter ahead – coronavirus hasn’t gone away and flu is forecast to return this winter.

“Vaccination is the best defence we have against coronavirus – the more people who are fully vaccinated, the better our chances of controlling the spread of this awful virus.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on increasing take up of the Covid-19 vaccine across the age and priority groups and rolling out the booster vaccine too. We also encourage everyone who is eligible, to have their flu jab this year.

“There is also a range of other measures we can all take to help protect ourselves and our loved ones, such as washing our hands, reducing the number of people we meet and wearing a face covering in indoor public places.

“These measures have helped keep us safe throughout the pandemic and they will also help to protect us from other winter viruses, such as flu and other respiratory infections.”

The latest version of the Coronavirus Control Plan sets out two planning scenarios for the pandemic over the winter – in the first, called Covid Stable, Wales remains at alert level zero through the autumn and winter, with all businesses able to open.

This is thought to be the most likely scenario for the future, as we become used to living with coronavirus and we gradually move out of the pandemic to a position where the virus becomes a seasonal illness.

Under this scenario, if case rates fall, measures could be relaxed further in response, and if they rise, some existing measures could be strengthened to protect people’s health.

The second planning scenario, called Covid Urgent, is designed to deal with any sudden changes to the situation, caused by the emergence of a new, fast-spreading variant or if vaccine immunity levels fall, causing a rise in pandemic pressures, which risk overwhelming the NHS.

In such a scenario, the alert level system and restrictions would be used proportionately, but as a last-resort means, to protect people’s health, control the spread of infections and to protect the NHS.

Help keep Wales safe:

• Get your Covid-19 vaccines, including your booster when invited

• Get tested and self-isolate if you have symptoms

• Outdoors is safer than indoors

• Keep your distance when you can

• Wash your hands regularly

• Wear a face covering in indoor public places

• Keep indoor places well-ventilated

• Work from home whenever possible

• Use a Covid Pass in nightclubs and large events.

Commenting on the First Minister’s announcement Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:

“Like the First Minister acknowledged, vaccinations have proven to be the key that unlocked society and the economy after severely weakening the link between infection and hospitalisation. To those who have yet to be vaccinated, we urge them to do so and those eligible to get a booster jab.

“However, while we remain at Level 0, new restrictions are coming in as the coercive, ineffective, and anti-business Covid passports will limit our freedoms, fail to limit the spread of coronavirus according to the Welsh Government’s own scientists, and add additional burdens on already stretched businesses.

“There has been a poor communication campaign from the Welsh Government on their introduction, little justification of their effectiveness, a failure to address confusion and fix bugs, and no explanation on how they will police the alternative Covid test system so open to abuse.

“We have passed the peak of infections without further restrictions and passports will do little to stem the problems that has led to the worst-ever A&E waiting times, longest ever NHS treatment backlog, and second slowest ambulance response times built up under Labour mismanagement.

“So instead of further restrictions, we need Labour ministers to bring forward a proper winter pressures plan that introduces the Covid treatment hubs for which Welsh Conservatives have long called for and reverse their damaging decision to bring in Covid passports.”

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