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Coronavirus

Use of face masks to continue in Wales says First Minister

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woman wearing face mask

Ahead of Mark Drakeford’s coronavirus rules update on Wednesday, the First Minister has said that face coverings will continue to be required in certain settings, such as public transport and taxis, and health and social care, as a minimum, while coronavirus remains a public health threat.

Mr Drakeford added that active further consideration is being given to whether face coverings should also be required in other settings, such as retail, if restrictions are relaxed further.

Wales is currently at alert level one – face coverings are mandatory in all indoor public places at alert level one and above.

Next week, Ministers will hold the regular 21-day review of the coronavirus regulations, which will set out whether restrictions can be relaxed in some indoor places, including people’s homes.

They will also publish new plans setting out how Wales will move beyond alert level one to a new alert level zero, with fewer legal restrictions.

But Ministers today confirmed face coverings will continue to be required by law in some places while coronavirus remains a public health threat.

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The continued use of face masks in shops is still to be decided (Image: Norma Mortenson / Pexels.com)

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We will need everyone’s help to keep coronavirus under control as we continue to respond to the pandemic – this virus has quite certainly not gone away.

“We know many people are still worried and anxious about going out. We will maintain the requirement to wear face coverings in certain places – on public transport and health and social care settings, and others where necessary – to help keep us all safe.”

Scientific evidence supports the use of face coverings, alongside other measures, as a way of reducing the transmission of the virus.

They largely protect other people, rather than the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main sources of transmission of virus. They are particularly useful in busy or crowded, indoor and poorly-ventilated areas.

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Public transport vehicles are usually enclosed spaces. If a train or bus is crowded it may not be possible for people to choose not to get on as it could be their only route to work.

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Health and social care settings can be high risk environments where sick patients and staff could be at increased risk of exposure to the virus. Wearing face coverings in these areas can help protect others.

The rules on face masks will also be changing in schools. On Friday, Education Minister Jeremy Miles wrote to all schools in Wales explaining that wearing face coverings in the classroom will no longer be recommended from September.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan added: “Wearing face masks is an effective way of reducing the transmission of coronavirus.

“We all have a duty to help to protect each other. Keeping everyone safe has been the Welsh Government’s priority through the pandemic and will continue to be the priority in future.”

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Welsh Conservative Senedd Leader, Andrew RT Davies said: “Let’s not forget that Wales has the highest death rate of any country of the United Kingdom and it was only this time last year that the Welsh government were viciously and vocally arguing against the use of face masks.

“It does seem as if they are just trying to get ahead of a press conference that the UK prime minister is going to be doing tomorrow rather than actually any informed decision making which we expect in Wales on Wednesday.”

The First Minister will make a statement to Plenary on Wednesday setting out the outcome of the 21-day review and providing further details on the new alert level zero.

(Lead image: Anna Shvets on Pexels.com)


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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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