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Welsh Government

Flu jab for all over 50s and secondary school children this Autumn

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The Welsh Government has announced an expansion to their flu vaccination programme this Autumn with all over 50s and all secondary school pupils to get the jab.

Those eligible for COVID boosters will get their jab at the same time as their flu vaccination.

The move comes after 2020/2021 saw the largest number of flu vaccinations – over a million – ever given in Wales, and for the first time, the uptake in the over-65s exceeded 75%.

The Covid booster programme will also be co-administered to those who are eligible where appropriate to do so, in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines.

It comes amid warnings from the Chief Medical Officer in his annual flu letter that there could be a co-circulation of flu and Covid-19 this winter, as well as other respiratory infections.

The Welsh Government says that increasing the number of those eligible for the flu jab and coinciding this with the Covid booster programme will protect both the public and the NHS.

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It is hoped extending the flu vaccination programme will also reduce morbidity and mortality associated with influenza, as well as reduce hospitalisations during a time when the NHS and social care may again be managing winter outbreaks of Covid-19.

COVID booster jabs will be given at the same time as flu jabs to those eligible.

As well as all those ages over 50, the schools programme will be extended to all those in secondary school in years 7-11.

It means the flu vaccination vaccine will be available on the NHS to well over 1.5m people in Wales this winter.

The Welsh Government has set an ambition of 75% of secondary school pupils to have the flu vaccination and 80% of those aged 65 and over.

An additional funding package of £6.8m will be allocated to health boards to reach both new cohorts.

The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Frank Atherton, will be writing to NHS Wales about the National Influenza Immunisation Programme 2021-22, detailing the priority vaccination groups, the uptake ambitions, details of the vaccines available and the potential for co-administration of the Covid and flu vaccines this coming season

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He said: “This is the first time we have extended the flu vaccination programme to those in school years 7-11, as we appreciate the greater risk of flu and respiratory conditions spreading through young people during the winter period.

“We are concerned about a perfect storm of both flu and Covid-19 this winter, and are doing everything to prepare as best as we can.”

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Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is very important people take the opportunity to have their flu vaccination and we are delighted it can be rolled out with the Covid booster in some situations.

“It is thanks to the incredible success of our Covid vaccination programme, where we have learnt valuable lessons and seen unprecedented levels of uptake, that we have been able to extend the flu vaccination programme to all those over 50 years old and between years 7 to 11 in the schools programme.

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“We expect there to be a co-circulation of both flu and Covid-19 this winter and cannot stress enough how key it is that those who are eligible take up both their flu jab and Covid booster vaccine.”

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Armed Forces

Free swimming in Wales to continue for the Armed Forces

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On Armed Forces Day, the Welsh Government has announced the continuation of the Armed Forces Free Swimming scheme.

The scheme enables serving members of the Armed Forces and Veterans to swim for free at participating leisure centres and pools, using their Defence Privilege Card.

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The Armed Forces Free Swimming Scheme (AFFS) was first introduced in 2016 and represents the continued commitment to provide the Armed Forces community with access to services which meet their specific needs and recognise the service they have given to their country.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden, said: “I’m very pleased that we are able to continue to support this scheme which is designed to ensure members of the Armed Forces past and present are able to benefit from the physical, and mental, health benefits swimming can offer.”

Deputy Minister for Social Partnerships, Hannah Blythyn, said: “We are committed to supporting our Armed Forces personnel and recognise how initiatives like this can boost their mental and physical wellbeing. I hope they can enjoy the benefits from this scheme over the next three years.”

Chris Llewelyn, WLGA Chief Executive said: “Local government is proud to deliver free swimming for our Armed Forces personnel and Veterans. We hope that even more people take part in the scheme in the coming year, taking advantage of the significant recuperative and social benefits physical activity offers. There are participating pools in each of Wales’ local authorities; to find out where your closet facility is, visit your local authority website.”

Throughout the 2021-22 financial year the scheme was taken up on average each quarter by 569 serving military personnel and veterans across Wales. The trend shows an increase in uptake as restrictions have been lifted, with the last quarter recording a peak of 879 people benefitting from 2641 visits to their local community swimming pools.

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To support the scheme, £45,000 to be issued every year over a three-year period; in 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25.

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Coronavirus

Wales extends COVID-19 testing throughout July

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Welsh Health Minister, Eluned Morgan has confirmed that access to free LFD tests will be extended in Wales until July 31st 2022.

Tests will be available to the public that are showing symptoms of coronavirus (high temperature a new, continuous cough, a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste), alongside free access for people visiting someone eligible for new COVID-19 treatments.

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The announcement comes following a rise in cases, with The Office for National Statistics recent survey reporting an increase in cases across the UK. An estimated 1 in 45 people in Wales currently have COVID-19.

The emergence of the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants are also contributing to this increase as they become more dominant across the UK.

The health minister has also announced the following testing will continue to be in place –

  • LFD and PCR testing for those eligible for COVID-19 treatments.
  • PCR testing for COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses for symptomatic care home residents and prisoners.
  • PCR and LFD testing under the patient testing framework and when clinically advised including pre-operative hospital patients and care home residents returning from inpatient hospital stays
  • LFD testing for symptomatic health and social care staff.
  • Twice weekly LFD tests for asymptomatic testing for health and social care staff
  • Those visiting people in care homes should continue to test using tests provided by the care home they are visiting.

Self-isolation payments of £500 will end on 30th June 2022, whilst the COVID-19 Statutory Sick Pay Enhancement scheme will be extended until 31st August 2022 to support social care staff to stay away from work due to testing positive.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: “Testing has been an effective tool in breaking the chain of transmission and with an increase in cases its vital that we keep testing in place to protect the most vulnerable in our society. As we have seen before, Covid can quickly change, I am announcing this extension in response to the changing picture and new variants of concern.

“I would also ask people to take protective measures to protect the more vulnerable in the community, wear masks in health and care settings, stay at home if you test positive, and take up the offer for the vaccine. We know that the vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, I would urge those eligible to have their spring booster if they have not already had it, the booster is available until June 30.

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“Covid has not gone away, whilst we are learning to live safely with it, we will continue to monitor the situation and as we have done for the last two years, we will work together to Keep Wales Safe.”

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Welsh Government

‘We are here to help you rebuild your lives and settle into Wales’ – vows Social Justice Minister after meeting Ukraine nationals

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Ukraine nationals who fled their country after the Russian invasion have been welcomed to Wales by the First Minister and Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt.

The Ministers met the Ukrainian nationals seeking sanctuary in Wales on World Refugee Day (20 June).

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They visited a Welcome Centre where more than 200 people have been sponsored under the Welsh Government Super Sponsor scheme.

Thousands more people from Ukraine have already claimed sanctuary in Wales, thanks to many people who have kindly volunteered to be a sponsor, after fleeing the country following the Russian invasion.

More than 6,500 people have been welcomed to Wales after having their visa applications confirmed, with 3,600 of these with the Welsh Government as a super sponsor.

A further 5,500 visas have been issued to those with a sponsor in Wales, of which 2,965 have Welsh Government as a super sponsor.

The true figures are likelier to be higher as the total number of confirmed applications is an undercount of around 1,300, with the super-sponsor scheme making up the majority of the undercount.

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During their time at the Welcome Centre, guests have been given support in terms of schoolwork for children and young people, finding work for adults and keeping in touch with other Ukrainian families in Wales.

As well as English and Maths lessons for the children, adults have also been taught English to help them settle into Wales and boost their chances of finding work.

Every effort is also being made to enrol children in local schools once their families have found suitable communities to settle into.

Welcome Centres across Wales are working closely with local government, health boards, charities and others in an effort to find suitable places for Ukraine nationals to settle.

They are being given advice to help find their way in a new country, including help with money, welfare benefits and advice about finding work.

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Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt has met with Ukraine nationals

Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt: “We are proud to have been able to welcome thousands of people to Wales from Ukraine and it has been truly humbling to meet them today and hear their stories.

“We are determined to be a Nation of Sanctuary and will do everything in our powers to help them rebuild their lives and settle into Wales.

“It has been heartening to see the efforts being made at the Welcome Centre to make them feel at home and I would like to thank them for all they have done.”

First Minister with a Welsh dragon crocheted by a person from Ukraine

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are working very hard with local authorities across Wales to find placements for people after their time in the Welcome Centre.

“Thousands of Welsh households said they wanted to take part in the Homes for Ukraine scheme and many of those are already hosting Ukrainians.

“We would like to thank them for their efforts as, combined with our incredible Welcome Centres across Wales, it has helped provide those in need with sanctuary at their darkest hour.”

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