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Coronavirus

Plans to reopen non-essential retail and allow travel out of Wales announced as Welsh lockdown rules relaxed further

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First Minister, Mark Drakeford, is set to announce lockdown rules will be relaxed further later today, with Wales moving fully into Alert Level 3 by 17th May, subject to public health conditions remaining favourable.

All remaining non-essential retail and close contact services will be allowed to reopen from Monday 12 April, while the rules will also be changed to allow travel into and out of Wales from the rest of the United Kingdom and Common Travel Area. Changes remain subject to public health conditions continuing to remain favourable.

All children and students in Wales will return to face-to-face education on Monday 12 April.

The Welsh Government is also signalling further changes it aims to confirm at the 22 April review, subject to public health conditions and final confirmation by Ministers, which would see outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality reopen, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants on Monday 26 April.

By early May, plans include allowing organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people to take place, and for gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities to reopen for individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.

The changes continue the Welsh Government’s planned, step-by-step approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions, taking account of the highly-infectious Kent variant, which is now the dominant form of the virus in Wales.

The public health situation in Wales continues to improve. The number of cases of coronavirus in our communities is generally falling and pressure on the NHS is easing.

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First Minister, Mark Drakeford said: “Thanks to a real team effort across Wales, coronavirus cases remain stable, and the vaccination programme continues apace. As a result, the Welsh Government has the headroom to continue its careful, step-by-step approach to relaxing restrictions.

“The review we have concluded this week, means we can continue with our programme of further re-opening of the economy and loosening the restrictions in place.”

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Monday 12 April

Should public health conditions remain favourable, from Monday 12th April, the Welsh Government have advised the following relaxations can go ahead:

  • The full return of children to schools for face-to-face education, all post-16 learners will return to further education and training centres, and university campus’ will be able to open for blended face-to-face/online learning for all students;
  • All remaining shops can reopen, completing the phased reopening of non-essential retail;
  • All remaining close contact services can open, including mobile services;
  • Travel restrictions on traveling into and out of Wales will be lifted. However, restrictions on travel to countries outside the Common Travel Area without a reasonable excuse, remain in place. The Common Travel Area means the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland;
  • Viewings at wedding venues can resume by appointment;
  • Outdoor canvassing for elections can begin.

A small number of outdoor pilot events of between 200 and 1,000 people are also being planned.  These build on the test events held last September and include cultural and sports events across Wales, including a potential stadia event. 

The Welsh Government is working with the Muslim Council to consider how they can also incorporate events to help people celebrate Eid at the end of Ramadan. All events would be subject to Local Authority and public health agreement.

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The further relaxations follow the successful return of primary pupils and many older secondary school and college students to face-to-face learning and the start of the phased re-opening of non-essential retail, including the opening of hairdressers and barbers.

Ministers are now signalling further easements to restrictions in the coming weeks subject to the public health situation remaining favourable.

Monday 26 April:                                                                     

  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, would be allowed to reopen;
  • Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants. Indoor hospitality will remain restricted.

Monday 3 May:

  • Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people can again take place;
  • Weddings receptions can take place outdoors, but will also be limited to 30 people.

Monday 10 May:

  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. This will include individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes;
  • Extended household will again allow two households to meet and have contact indoors.

Preparations will be made to allow the following relaxations to be considered at the review on 13 May by the next Welsh Government, subject to public health conditions remaining favourable.

Monday 17 May:

The reopening/resumption of the following, from the first week of the new cycle, i.e. Monday 17 May:

  • Children’s indoor activities.
  • Community centres;
  • Organised indoor activities for adults, limited to a maximum of 15 people. This includes exercise classes.

After 17 May, to consider enabling indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to reopen in advance of the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.

These are indicative dates to give the sectors time to plan and prepare –decisions on these will be made nearer the time, once the impact of other relaxations have been assessed and subject to the health situation allowing the relaxations to go ahead.

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The First Minister added: “The sacrifices we have all made are having a positive effect in the battle against Coronavirus. This last year has been incredibly difficult for all of us and again I want to thank everyone for their efforts.

“These efforts have allowed us to gradually ease the restrictions, to gradually introduce more elements of normal life.

“With the weather improving, with more opportunities to see family and friends, there are reasons for optimism. However, we can’t let our guard down yet. We all still need to be vigilant, we still need to do our part to keep this deadly disease at bay.”


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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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