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Coronavirus

People experiencing homelessness to be prioritised for Covid vaccine

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People who are or have recently experienced homelessness in Wales are to be offered a Covid vaccination as part of priority group 6, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed.

The prioritisation comes as people who are or have recently experienced homelessness are confirmed to be classed as at increased risk. This is because they are more likely to have an underlying health condition which puts them at high risk from both transmission and the harms of coronavirus.

According to ONS data, people with experience of homelessness have a lower than average non-Covid related life expectancy, with mortality at around 31 to 38 years sooner than the general population.

Guidance issued today [Wednesday 10 March] outlines that an inclusive, blended approach should be taken to ensure all homeless people are included as part of the Welsh Government’s plans to guarantee no one is left behind, as Wales continues its vaccination programme.

People are currently identified and contacted via their GP or health records to be offered a vaccine however many homeless people may not be registered with health or other local services.

Local authorities, third sector and housing organisations, as well as homelessness support teams, will be key in helping to support individuals to take up their vaccine offer.

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The vaccine will also be taken to where people are, rather than expecting them to visit services.

Those included are those sleeping rough, people in emergency accommodation and people recently homeless in supported accommodation.

Vaughan Gething MS

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “It is as shocking as it is saddening that those who are homeless are much more likely to have a physical or mental health conditions which put them at a higher risk from the harms of Covid-19.

“A fundamental principle of our vaccination programme is that no one will be left behind and as part of this commitment, we are already working to ensure it is as easy as possible for every eligible adult in Wales to have a coronavirus vaccine if they want one.

“Today’s guidance provides further information on how we are going to do this across organisations and government to ensure homeless people are supported to get protected and have their vaccine too.”

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Julie James MS

Minister for Housing and Local Government Julie James said: “Today’s announcement means we will be able to protect some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

“Since the pandemic began housing teams and support workers in local authorities and the third sector have been working tirelessly to support people who are experiencing homelessness into safe, secure accommodation. Thousands have been helped and lives have undoubtedly been saved. These teams will now play an absolutely crucial role in helping us get the vaccine to where it’s most needed.

“By extending the offer of vaccination to people who are experiencing homelessness and, importantly, taking the vaccine to where those people are, we can ensure that no one is left behind.”

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Katie Dalton, Director of Cymorth Cymru

Cymorth Cymru Director Katie Dalton said: “We are delighted that people experiencing homelessness are being prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccine in Wales. We have worked closely with the Welsh Government to evidence the particular risks to this population, and we are really pleased that Ministers have responded through the publication of this guidance.

“As well as the higher prevalence of underlying health conditions, we know that people experiencing homelessness are less likely to be registered with health services and could have missed out on the vaccine. The inclusive approach set out today means that public services and support providers are empowered to ensure that people sleeping rough and in emergency or supported accommodation are not forgotten and get the protection they need from COVID-19.”

Last year the Welsh Government announced £50 million to provide people with safe and secure homes, ensuring they do not fall into homelessness and no-one is forced back onto the streets.

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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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Coronavirus

Study reveals factors affecting public attitude towards Covid and the new normal

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female freelancer in face mask working on laptop at home

Partygate, a lack of media coverage and the perception that the virus is now milder could all affect future compliance with Covid guidance.

New Swansea University research has revealed that though many people feel life is now back to normal, a minority are still socially distancing and feel like they have been reconditioned to be more cautious. 

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The study, by Dr Simon Williams and Dr Kimberly Dienes of the School of Psychology, explored people’s current behaviours around Covid-19, including mask wearing, social distancing, testing and isolation. 

It also looked at people’s views on future booster jabs, including whether they felt they would want one.  The study went on to ask if they were likely to follow rules or guidance if another variant emerged this autumn.

It found most people were willing to take steps in future to reduce passing on Covid or other viruses, however a number felt they would only distance or wear masks if the situation was “serious” and “people started dying again”.  Many felt that the Partygate and other controversies over political figures breaking Covid rules would affect compliance with future rules.

The study has been published by PsyArXiv , a site used by researchers to share new findings on timely issues before they have been peer-reviewed for publication in a journal.

It found a lack of media coverage of the pandemic, the war in Ukraine and the cost-of-living crisis were big factors in why people felt they weren’t thinking about Covid as much.

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There was a common perception that new Omicron variants are milder than previous variants, which has reduced concern, with the use of face masks having been de-normalised.

The study found that people’s willingness to test is high.  However, knowing when to test, and willingness to buy tests was variable.

The desire to protect the NHS did not feature at all as a motivation to take actions to reduce transmission; and,

There was a modest appetite for future booster jabs among those who had been triple-jabbed.  However, a number suggested they would only be likely have a further booster if officially recommended or invited.

The research involved online focus groups with 28 participants between 15th and 30th June 2022.

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Dr Williams said: “Our study shows that many people feel as though things have returned to normal, and they haven’t been thinking about Covid much, if at all, recently.  This is understandable – it’s been a hard two years and people are entitled to enjoy the relative freedoms, compared to earlier in the pandemic. 

“However, it is also concerning, as we are currently in the middle of one wave, with new variants and new waves likely to emerge in autumn and winter.  The challenge is to find a more balanced, sustainable way forward, where we can keep some protective behaviours, while looking to governments and organisations to provide broader supports – like good ventilation, hybrid working, free testing, and better sick pay.

“Our study has a number of implications.  It’s important to provide adequate risk communication.  It’s important not to unduly worry people about the pandemic, but similarly it’s important that people are aware of the ongoing impacts.  The lack of recent media coverage, and the way some in Government have been taking about ‘living with the virus’ in ‘post-pandemic’ UK, may have provided too much of a false sense of security.

“Finally, trust has been shown to play a big role in how motivated people are to follow guidance and rules.  Partygate has severely dented many people’s confidence in Government’s handling of the pandemic, as well, potentially their willingness to do things like wear masks or socially distance in the future, if required. 

“There are some worrying signs that in the future, if further guidance or even rules come back into play, people may not be as willing to comply, which of course will have impacts on transmissions, hospitalisations and ultimately NHS capacity.”

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