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Coronavirus

Closing schools early ‘would risk virus spread’ says leader of Swansea Council

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Shutting schools in Swansea early would likely increase the spread of coronavirus and lead to even higher infection rates, more people having to isolate, more hospital admissions and more deaths, the Leader of Swansea Council has warned.

Rob Stewart said the rate of infections among pupils is below that of the general population in Swansea and schools have strict procedures in place to protect both learners and staff.

The clear medical advice is that if pupils are not in a supervised environment in schools they are likely to be mixing with young people from outside their bubbles and form groups including children from different schools.

All schools in Swansea are being encouraged to remain open until Friday December 18 and take INSET days on December 21 and 22 and the position is being kept under continuous review.

But just like the wider population in Swansea, there is an increasing number of positive cases resulting in school staff having to self-isolate.

Where this leads to reduced or unsustainable staffing levels, individual schools may have to close before December 18 and remote learning used where possible.

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Cllr Stewart said: “In Swansea we are seeing record levels of Covid-19 cases. Our local health experts are clear, we are at risk of a health catastrophe if we don’t slow the spread of the virus now.

“Public health experts are equally clear that the spread is not due to schools. The main cause of rising numbers of cases is because people in the community generally are not adhering to social distancing.

“The early closure of schools could significantly add to this, because it will add to the pressures on parents by increasing the likelihood of children mixing in a less controlled way while they are outside of the school environment, or leaving parents having to take children with them to busy shops and other settings.

“Schools have done an amazing job in ensuring our school settings are as safely controlled as they can be and I am very grateful to our head teachers and their teams for this.

“Spot inspections of schools by the Health and Safety Executive have shown very high levels of commitment by staff and pupils alike to the rules while at school.”

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He added: “There seems to be a misconception among some people there are high levels of infection in schools but this is not the case.

“Many schools have seen classes and year groups having to isolate but usually this is because one pupil or one teacher has tested positive and the move is a precaution to help prevent others from contracting the virus.

“This sensible and cautious approach – which follows the advice of Public Health Wales and Trace, Track and Protect – is why the level of transmission in schools is below that of the general population in Swansea.”

The general population in Swansea now has one of the highest rates of coronavirus infection in Wales and Swansea Council along with Neath Port Talbot Council and Swansea Bay University Health Board this week again urged people to follow the rules, maintain social distancing and stay at home if they have symptoms or are required to isolate.

Where children are asked to isolate parents are being urged to ensure they do not mix with others from outside their household and not to take them shopping or to other places where there are likely to be lots of people.

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Parents are also being asked to avoid having gatherings of other people’s children in their homes.

Cllr Stewart added: “We know children have birthdays and want to celebrate in the normal way but sadly parties and sleep-overs will only spread the virus.”


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Coronavirus

Swansea professor’s COVID contribution recognised with new honour

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A Swansea academic at the forefront of shaping our understanding of Covid-19 has received further recognition for his work in the field of data science.

Co-director of Population Data Science and Clinical Professor of Public Health at Swansea University, Professor Ronan Lyons has been elected to a prestigious European body, the Academia Europaea.

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This latest honour follows on from Professor Lyons becoming a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences and being appointed OBE in the New Year’s honours.

The focus of his work is the use of routinely collected data to better understand factors that influence health and wellbeing and developing and evaluating interventions aimed to improve the health of the public. He has led some of the largest studies ever undertaken in this field and contributed to research surrounding the pandemic and its consequences at Wales, UK and European level.

Professor Lyons said he was delighted to have been recommended for membership of the prestigious Academia Europaea, which aims to encourage the highest possible standards in scholarship, research and education, and promote a better public understanding of the benefits of learning.

He said: “This honour is a recognition of the shared efforts and hard work of the various teams and partners I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. None more so than over the last two years, during the pandemic.

“Through the European Population Health Information Research Infrastructure (PHIRI) Project we’re developing research infrastructure to generate the best Covid-19 population health knowledge. The multi-disciplinary, One Wales working group provided crucial evidence to Welsh Government’s response to Covid community transmission and informed policy development across the UK.

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“The International Covid-19 Data Alliance (ICODA) partnership with Health Data Research UK and the Bills Gates Foundation and others, is supporting a globally coordinated approach to tackling Covid and future threats.

“This has been an incredibly challenging period for us all and I’m enormously proud that these labours have been acknowledged and rewarded by this election.”

Professor Lyons now joins more than 5,000 other eminent, individual scientists and scholars, who cover a broad range of academic disciplines that include former Nobel Prize laureates, Turing Award recipients and Fields Medal winners.

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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Carmarthen

Health board lifts visiting restrictions at Glangwili and Withybush hospitals

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Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed that restrictions for people visiting patients will be lifted in Glangwili and Withybush hospitals from Wednesday 20 July 2022.

Visiting to Bronglais Hospital, Prince Philip Hospital and community hospitals remain open, by appointment only.

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The health board are advised that it will still be a requirement to wear masks in Glangwili, Prince Philip and Withybush hospitals.

Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience, said: “Last week we had to make the decision to extend measures at Glangwili Hospital in addition to Withybush Hospital to reduce the risk to our patients and staff and we thank people for their support and co-operation.

“We can all continue to take protective measures to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 to protect vulnerable people and the NHS.

“We strongly advise anyone in our locality who has the classic symptoms, or who suspects they may have COVID-19 to isolate and take an LFD test. If positive, we urge people to isolate – this will help you to rest and recover while protecting others from risk of transmission.”

(Lead image: Google Maps)

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Coronavirus

Mask wearing reinstated at Llanelli’s Prince Philip Hospital

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Hywel Dda University Health Board have said that all staff and visitors to Prince Philip Hospital must wear face masks (unless exempt) with immediate effect following the latest review of prevalence of COVID-19 in the community.

This follows the decisions made last week to reinstate mask wearing at Glangwili Hospital and both mask wearing and visiting restrictions at Withybush Hospital.

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The health board have said that visiting will continue in general at Glangwili and Prince Philip hospitals following the latest review of case numbers but local ward restrictions are in place so please contact the ward to arrange your visit in advance

Mandy Rayani, Director of Nursing, Quality and Patient Experience for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Wearing a surgical mask or face covering and keeping a physical distance when attending a hospital or medical facility will help protect our most vulnerable patients and service users.

“We are grateful for the ongoing support and efforts of our communities to stop the spread, particularly around more vulnerable people.

“These measures will be continually reviewed, and as soon as it is safe to do so, we will ease these restrictions.”

The health board is stressing the continued importance of the behaviours known to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and other infectious diseases, and the different requirements in place in health and social care settings.

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Mandy, added: “Isolating if we have symptoms of COVID-19, or other infectious diseases, is one of the most important things we can do to prevent the onward spread and break the chain of transmission.

“We strongly encourage anyone in our locality who has the classic symptoms, or who suspects they may have COVID-19 to isolate and take an LFD test. If positive, we urge people to continue with the same isolation guidance that has been in place – this will help you to rest and recover and protect others from risk of transmission.”

Later this week, the Welsh Government will update its vaccine strategy with details of the next booster dose in the autumn.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Sir Frank Atherton said:

“The vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and others from coronavirus. While the vaccine does not completely stop transmission it offers protection against serious illness and reduces the risk of hospitalisation.

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“You can still get the vaccine if you haven’t had your full course, or you were too ill to get your spring booster and I would encourage parents to think about getting the vaccine for their children over the summer months to help minimise any disruption to their education during the autumn and winter terms.”

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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