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Coronavirus

Covid-19 vaccine progress welcome – but keep on keeping safe

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(Photo: Gustavo Fring on Pexels.com)

The prospect of new vaccines coming on line soon to combat Covid-19 is a very welcome light at the end of this pandemic tunnel – but we still need to take precautions to protect ourselves and others.

Swansea Bay University Health Board Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid, is concerned that some of the national media coverage given to any incoming Covid-19 vaccine could lead to some people letting their guard down too soon.

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The virus is still with us, so handwashing, keeping a safe distance (two metres) from others and wearing a face-covering in enclosed public spaces remain the most important ways to avoid catching Covid-19 and passing on.

Dr Keith Reid (Image: Swansea Bay BHS)
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Dr Reid said: “It is of course, incredibly positive that a vaccine with a 90% protection rate is being developed, and our planning in being able to deliver this vaccine has been underway for some time and is progressing very well. 

“However, while vaccines are part of the answer, they are not the whole part. 

“It concerns me that some elements of the media have almost implied we are all saved and this will all soon be over. 

“I don’t want that to impact on people’s behaviour, thinking that they can just go back to normal. 

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“In Wales of course, as we emerge from the firebreak, it is more important than ever that our communities follow the rules to try and drive the number of infections down.”

Swansea Valley GP Dr Iestyn Davies, has also called for people to continue to be vigilant and to carry on following the rules to keep the virus at bay. He said:

“While there is rightly cause for optimism with news that a Covid vaccination may be soon be ready, it would take well into next year for it to be rolled out to everyone such are the logistics involved.

“As such, the enforced safety measures, such as restricted access to our surgeries, pharmacies and clinics, social distancing and wearing of face coverings, still apply – and we greatly appreciate the manner in which you have adjusted to the ‘new normal’.

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“The important message is we are still here for you. If you need to see a doctor or have access to any of our other services, please get in touch – the only difference is we ask that you do not turn up in person to make an appointment in order to minimise any risks of spreading the virus.

“When you do have an appointment please wear a face covering, unless you are medically exempt, sanitise your hands on entering and follow the social distancing measures.

“I know it may seem strange and intimidating but please do not be put off by our new way of operating, it is all designed to keep everyone safe.”

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If you have Covid symptoms (a high temperature, a new and continuous cough, the loss or change to your sense of smell or taste, and problems with your breathing) you need to self-isolate and book a test.

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You can book a test at the drive-through centres at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, and Margam, by calling 01639 862757. Alternatively, if you prefer to be tested at one of our new mobile community testing units, please book via the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test. You can also ring 119 to get a home testing kit delivered to you.

Please stay home (unless you are going to get a test) as soon as you get any symptoms. This includes the period between getting a test and having your result.

If you have been told you must self-isolate but are on low income and cannot work from home, you may be eligible to a payment of £500 towards your loss of income. More details can be found here: https://gov.wales/self-isolation-support-scheme


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Coronavirus

Face coverings retained in health and social care settings

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will remain in place.

Speaking after the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister said the public health situation was improving following the recent spike in cases caused by the BA.2 sub-type of omicron.

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But Covid case rates remain high so maintaining the use of face coverings in health and care settings will help to protect to some of the most vulnerable people in society, staff and visitors.

The First Minister also urged everyone to continue to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following a set of simple steps to protect one another and keep Wales safe.

These include self-isolating if ill or testing positive for Covid-19; wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places, meeting outdoors wherever possible; keeping indoor areas well ventilated and washing hands regularly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic isn’t over but we are seeing encouraging signs the recent high levels of infections across Wales are falling.

“There are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while coronavirus is still circulating and reduce the spread of the virus even further. This is particularly true in places where some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated and live, which is why we will retain the legal requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings.

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“More generally, ensuring you are up-to-date with your Covid vaccinations and spring booster – if you are eligible – is really important. If you have Covid symptoms or test positive, please stay at home and help break the chain of transmission.

“Together, we can carry on keeping each other safe and keeping Wales safe.”

The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 26 May.

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Coronavirus

Schools’ Covid guidance aligned to businesses and other workplaces

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced that Covid-19 measures for schools in Wales will be brought into line with guidance for businesses and other organisations.

The Welsh Government has written to schools in Wales this morning to inform them of the changes.

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Since September last year, schools have applied measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus according to local circumstances, based on the Local Covid-19 infection control decision framework for schools. Schools will no longer be advised to use the framework.

The change is in line with the Welsh Government’s long-term Covid-19 transition from pandemic to endemic. The risk from coronavirus is now considered in the same context as other communicable diseases, such as flu.

The First Minister has announced that the remaining coronavirus restrictions will be removed from 9 May, if the public health situation remained stable. The changes to the guidance for schools will also come into effect from 9 May.

Schools and other education settings will continue to be advised to work with local authorities and public health advisors to ensure that measures remain appropriate and proportionate and reflect local risks and circumstances.

A checklist will be provided to support schools and settings in considering which control measures remain proportionate. Special schools will continue to follow the advice for children and young people with higher clinical risk and clinically extremely vulnerable adults.

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Speaking at the Welsh Government’s weekly press briefing, Jeremy Miles said: “In line with the wider public health guidance published at the last three-week review, we have today written to headteachers to signpost the impending changes to our advice for schools, which reflect the move from pandemic to endemic. This will ensure school guidance is more closely aligned with the rest of society.

“We all know that Covid-19 has not gone way. It remains vitally important we reduce the spread of the virus where we can – this includes, for example, following self-isolation guidance, and for education settings to continue to undertake robust risk assessments.”

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Coronavirus

Health board extends shuttle bus between Llanelli and COVID vaccination centre

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Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) has extended the free shuttle bus service between Llanelli town centre and the mass vaccination centre in Dafen to help people access their COVID-19 vaccination as easily as possible.

The shuttle bus, provided by Dolen Teifi, will continue to run between 10.30am to 4.40pm, seven days a week – with no service at 12.00pm from town or at 12.15pm from the mass vaccination centre to allow the drivers a lunch break.

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People can board the shuttle bus on the hour and at half-past the hour at Church Street, outside Llanelli Magistrates Court.

The shuttle bus will leave the mass vaccination centre quarter past and quarter to the hour, returning to the town centre and dropping passengers off opposite Llanelli library.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We need as many people as possible attending their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, or dropping in if eligible.

“This shuttle bus service is one of many additional resources and services being put in place across the Hywel Dda region to help support more people to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. I am pleased the shuttle bus service has been extended to help people reliant on public transport to access their COVID-19 vaccine.”

On 21 February 2022, the JCVI published a statement, recommending an additional spring booster.

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Strict COVID-19 safety measures are in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on this service, including wearing face coverings unless medically exempt.

A maximum of 14 passengers are allowed per journey with a screen in place between driver and passengers.

The health board say that passengers should only use this service if they are fit and well on the day.

They add that before travelling without an appointment to Dafen mass vaccination centre, people should check the health board’s website for up-to-date information such as vaccine eligibility and drop-in opening times.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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