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Coronavirus

First Minister announces updated COVID control plan to be published next week

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An updated version of Wales’ COVID control plan will be published next week, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced.

Welsh Government say the plan sets out in detail how national measures will be introduced in a more uniform and predictable way, depending on a range of indicators, including the level of the virus in Wales and the risk of infection.

They say it will provide greater certainty for people and businesses about the restrictions, which are needed to protect people’s health and slow the spread of the virus.

Wales is currently at alert level three. The national measures were strengthened on December 4 in response to rapidly accelerating levels of coronavirus across Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “This has been a truly challenging year. The impact of coronavirus on us all – on all aspects of our lives – cannot be underestimated. Like almost every country in the world, we have put restrictions in place to control the spread of this deadly virus.

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“This updated plan shows how the national measures will be introduced in a more uniform way as we move through the pandemic, providing greater certainty for people and businesses.”

The updated plan has been informed by latest analysis from our scientific and medical experts and the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE). It has also been informed by the experience in other parts of the UK.

The plan sets out four alert levels – from alert level one to alert level four:

  • Alert level one (low-risk) – this represents the closest to normality we are likely to have before the summer and the widespread take-up of vaccinations.
  • Alert level two (medium-risk) – additional, targeted controls are put in place to maintain infection rates at lower levels. These may be complemented by more targeted local restrictions to manage specific incidents and outbreaks.
  • Alert level three (high-risk) – these are the strictest package of restrictions, short of a firebreak or lockdown.
  • Alert level four (very high risk) – restrictions at this level are equivalent to a lockdown and reflect the seriousness of the situation.

The First Minister said that if the strengthened national measures, together with the efforts everyone is making, do not succeed in reducing the rates of coronavirus, Wales will need to move to alert level four after the five-day Christmas period. But this move is not a foregone conclusion.

He added: “The most important thing we can all do to control the spread of coronavirus is to reduce the number of people are in contact with. This virus thrives on human behaviour – whenever and wherever we come together and spend time together, the virus can be transmitted from person to person.”

The national measures will continue to be reviewed every three weeks, whatever alert level Wales is currently in.

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Coronavirus

Calls intensify for First Minister to announce Wales specific Covid-19 enquiry

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Welsh Conservatives have repeated the call for a Wales-specific Covid-19 inquiry.

On behalf of the Senedd Conservatives, Paul Davies MS challenged the First Minister over his refusal to hold a Welsh specific inquiry and denying victims’ families the answers they deserve.

The questioning from the Welsh Conservatives follows a tweet from Mark Drakeford which provoked an emotive response from the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice-Cymru group.

Following a summit yesterday between the British Prime Minister and leaders of the devolved administrations, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford tweeted:

Later, the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice-Cymru tweeted:

Taking up the issue on behalf of the families in the Senedd, Mr Davies said: “There is no reason why the Welsh Government can’t take part in a UK-wide inquiry and a Welsh inquiry. An open and transparent Government must be accountable to the people it serves, and the people of Wales deserve answers.

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 “An open and transparent Government must be accountable to the people it serves, and the people of Wales deserve answers. ‘Responsible, but not held responsible’ seems to be the mantra of this Welsh Labour Government. Now, organisations like the bereaved families group, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales and the British Lung Foundation have all joined calls for a Welsh inquiry.

 “It’s time for your government to do the right thing and commit to that inquiry. A Welsh inquiry is a necessary part in helping the country understand how decisions were made and whether lessons have indeed been learnt.”

Speaking outside the chamber, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Economy, Paul Davies MS said:“Welsh Conservatives have always said a Wales-specific inquiry, alongside a UK investigation, is essential in delivering justice for those affected by coronavirus and lockdowns.

“Throughout the pandemic we were told that different decisions would be taken in Wales to meet our specific circumstances, and now we need a specific public inquiry to scrutinise these decisions.

“Sadly, Wales has the highest Covid death rate in the UK and over 8,000 people have tragically died during the pandemic, a quarter of whom acquired the infection in hospital.

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“The grieving families deserve answers, and full, independent scrutiny of the decisions taken by Labour ministers and Wales should get the transparency, accountability, and scrutiny that every democracy needs to thrive.

“Regrettably, responsible but not held responsible seems to be the mantra of this Labour administration.”

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Coronavirus

Health board using converted shipping containers as ‘local vaccination centres’

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Swansea Bay University Health Board say they are making it easier for older people to get their Covid-19 booster vaccinations with the use of converted shipping containers.

Three containers, known as Local Vaccination Centres (LVCs), have been located in communities across the Swansea Bay area for those who may find it difficult to get to a mass vaccination centre.

The containers build on the success and experience of the Immbulance, the health board’s mobile vaccination unit.

And they are able to free up the Immbulance to be deployed to cover new areas.

The units can be located in one place for several days and include staff facilities, which means they can stay there longer and don’t have to be driven away each night and be brought back the following morning.

Staff are providing Covid booster vaccinations for those with an appointment only and aim to deliver 60 jabs every day.

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People can then wait the usual 15-minutes after a vaccination either in their cars or in the container itself.

One of the units has been placed in Seven Sisters Rugby Club car park to serve those in the Dulais Valley and neighbouring communities.

Another of the LVCs has been placed near the Guildhall in Swansea, which has proven to be a popular location for the Immbulance.

James Ruggiero, Swansea Bay University Health Board’s Assistant Head of Operational Planning for the vaccination programme, said: “This project is part of our ongoing effort to increase access to vaccinations across the Swansea Bay area. 

“These units are helping us in our aim to get as many people vaccinated as possible, particularly those who may have difficulty in travelling to our mass vaccination centres.”

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Lead image: Matthew Armstrong, immuniser; Andrea Howells, clinical supervisor; Ian Worthing, immuniser (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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People with weakened immune systems eligible for third primary Covid-19 vaccine urged to come forward

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People aged 12 and over living in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire with severely weakened immune systems at the time of their first and/or second COVID-19 vaccines are being asked to contact the health board to request a third dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The third primary dose is not the same as the booster vaccinations currently being rolled out at mass vaccination centres.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “If your immune system was severely weakened due to an underlying health condition or medical treatment, you may not have made a good immune response to the first two doses of COVID-19 vaccination.

“A third primary dose of the vaccine will improve your levels of immunity to give you better protection and should be given at least eight weeks after the second dose, but timing will depend on any treatment you may be having. A booster vaccination may also be needed at a later date.

“If you live in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion or Pembrokeshire and believe you are eligible for a third primary vaccine dose but have not been contacted yet, we are asking for you to get in touch with us as soon as possible.”

People eligible for a third primary Covid-19 vaccination dose are urged to complete an online form on the health board’s website.

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Those waiting for a Covid-19 vaccination booster are asked not to contact the health board yet, as they will be sent an invitation to attend a mass vaccination centre.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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