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Coronavirus

Welsh Government publish new COVID vaccination strategy

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All eligible adults will be offered a Covid vaccine by the autumn, under ambitious plans published by the Welsh Government today 

Health Minister Vaughan Gething will today publish the Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy, which sets out three key milestones.

It comes as the latest figures show more than 86,000 people have received the vaccine. Wales will publish daily vaccine figures from today.

The three milestones set out in the plan are:

  • By mid-February – all care home residents and staff; frontline health and social care staff; everyone over 70 and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will have been offered vaccination.
  • By the Spring – vaccination will have been offered to all the other phase one priority groups. This is everyone over 50 and everyone who is at-risk because they have an underlying health condition.
  • By the autumn – vaccination will have been offered to all other eligible adults in Wales, in line with any guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

In total, around 2.5m people throughout Wales could be offered Covid vaccines by September, depending on further advice from the JCVI.

The strategy depends on sufficient and regular supplies of the vaccines being delivered. It will be kept under review in line with supply of the vaccine and any further advice from the JCVI.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “The Covid vaccines offer our best hope of a return to the normality we are looking forward to after such a difficult year, which has turned all our lives upside down.

“Delivering this vaccination programme to the people in Wales is a huge task but an enormous amount of work is going on to make it a success.

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“We are making good progress with thousands more people being vaccinated every day.

“Over the coming week we will see the programme pick up further speed with more clinics opening and the first vaccines to be given by pharmacists.” 

To reach as many people as safely and as quickly as possible, we are continuing to accelerate the vaccination programme as more supplies of the two vaccines become available.

This includes:

  • The number of mass vaccination centres increasing to 35 over the coming weeks, with at least one in each county. We started with seven, five weeks ago.
  • Military support in the mass vaccination centres – there are 14 immunisers and 70 other personnel providing support.
  • 100 GP practices providing clinics by the end of this week.
  • The first pharmacies to provide the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will start vaccinating in North Wales in the next week.
  • 14 mobile units, run by community nurses, which are taking the vaccine to care homes.
  • Text message vaccination appointment reminders.

Dr Gillian Richardson, who leads the Covid vaccination programme in Wales, said: “This is the biggest vaccination programme Wales has ever seen and the NHS is working incredibly hard to get the vaccine to as many people as possible, safely and as quickly as we can.

“People will be invited to come and have a vaccination at a clinic close to their home or at one of the mass vaccination centres. I know everyone is really keen to get their jab but please wait until you are contacted for your turn.

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“Vaccination will give us a path out of this pandemic but it will take us a little while to protect all the people in Wales who need it – this is why it’s so important everyone continues to take steps to protect themselves and their families from coronavirus.”

Conservative, Paul Davies MS – the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament – said: “We are pleased that a vaccine strategy has finally been published by the Welsh Labour-led Government but the failure to appoint a Vaccines Minister to drive this forward will hamper its delivery.

“The plan is late and yet another example of the First Minister’s dither and delay that is holding Wales back and causing unnecessary anxiety and concern for vulnerable people.

“We now need a rapid ramping up of the vaccine delivery in Wales to protect people in all parts of the country, especially given that as of yesterday, around 200,000 doses of the vaccine were sat in fridges instead of in people’s arms.”

Mr Davies added: “The Welsh Government must now publish daily vaccination figures for each priority group by health board to enable us to measure progress and hold Ministers accountable to the milestones set out today.”

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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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