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A Day in the Life of a Covid Contact Tracer



Two women explain life on the ‘virtual front line’ in the war against coronavirus in Swansea Bay

Joanna Evans likes to run along Swansea Beach early in the morning, taking in the sea air and settling her mind before a hard day’s work while her colleague Shakira Walilay prefers a country walk near her Swansea Valley home to prepare for her shift.

They are both contact tracers with the joint NPT Council, Swansea Bay University Health Board and Welsh Government Test Trace Protect (TTP) Covid-19 service for the region.

Shakira, also a college student, was a call centre worker for firms like Virgin Atlantic and TUI then became a delivery driver before signing up in January 2021 to join the TTP service – part of the ‘virtual front line’ in the ongoing battle in Swansea Bay against Covid-19.

Shakira, who works from home equipped with headset and laptop said: “Any two calls I make are never the same. Some people are going through a lot due to Covid, some are really quite ill and others have lost loved ones – it definitely hits at the heartstrings when you’re listening to this. But the good thing about this job is we are there to help, to point people in the direction of help…help they are often in serious need of.


“Yes, we do a bit of detective work in asking where they think they may have been infected and who they may have come into contact with – people can be secretive but I definitely don’t ‘interrogate’ anyone – you can learn a lot from pieces of information, about where they work and where they have been, information which can help them and others and stop the spread of the disease throughout the community.”

As well as going for a walk to get ready for work, Shakira likes to go for another country walk – after work.

She said: “I don’t look at a screen, not even my phone – for at least an hour and go for some exercise and fresh air. It helps clear your mind and gives you time to deal with some of the people you’ve spoken to and the stories and difficult circumstances you’ve heard that day. Like I said, they’re always different.

“I get plenty of help and calls from colleagues if I’ve had a particularly stressful day and there is wellbeing support in place. We’ve also had events like (virtual) quiz nights to help build team spirit. The TTP service is evolving as we go along and as I’m talking to people from Neath Port Talbot where I live it makes TTP here a local service – not like the ones operating in England which are privately run.


“The vast majority of people I speak to are fine but I’ve been shouted at, even screamed at. But we are here to help. I spoke to someone who said they thought the pandemic was all over until they suddenly lost their sense of taste and smell. It’s not over.”

Joanna Evans, a registered nurse with 25 years experience, is seconded to the TTP service from her role as an Operating Theatre Sister at Singleton Hospital.

She said: “I was advised to shield last year and I was told I could not have patient contact – I felt that joining the TTP team would give me back a purpose…it was a very steep learning curve after working face to face with people every day to sitting in front of a laptop – let’s say it was a very different environment. Contact Tracing is a public health protection service provided 365 days a year. Last year I worked on Christmas day and people were still willing to engage with us.

 “I work from 8.15am to 5.15pm every day (though I sometimes work on as you cannot just shut your laptop when in the middle of something). I’m an early riser…I like to get out early when it’s quiet and before logging on at 8.15am I go for a run on Swansea Beach near my home to get in some exercise and fresh air before starting my day’s work.


“After I log on and get details of positive cases from the NHS database, we have a virtual meeting on Microsoft Teams to discuss the day’s workload, try to work out if any clusters are developing….then I just get on with it. Ensuring confidentiality (and data privacy) using empathetic interviewing techniques I gain information about those individuals our cases (positive) have come into contact with while infectious. I provide advice and guidance on isolation, symptom development and transmission of the virus to the public and assess their ability to safely isolate.

“Collaborating with other Health Professionals and approved organisations I signpost individuals to where they can receive further help and support if needed. This is part of the “Protect” element of the service that is sometimes overlooked. I have even had to get urgent medical help to people – including the ambulance service!

“There are occasions when I contact people who have tested positive that, for whatever reason, they have not been told earlier and I’m telling them for the first time. This is where my nurse training comes in. Perhaps for some this news will be expected but for others it can be very traumatic – I do all I can to advise and reassure them. The TTP service here is an eclectic mix – people in it are from all sorts of backgrounds, like nursing such as myself, the police, the council – they all bring elements from their previous roles that I think have helped to improve and develop the service.

“Most of the people I’ve contacted in Neath Port Talbot have been lovely and I’d like to thank them for their help.”

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‘Vaccines are best way to help NHS ahead of challenging winter’ says Health Minister




People eligible for booster COVID-19 vaccinations and flu jabs are encouraged to take up the offer ahead of a challenging winter for NHS Wales, the Health Minister has said.

In an updated COVID-19 vaccination strategy, being published today (Tuesday October 12), Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirms that the majority of people eligible will be offered their booster vaccination by December 31, 2021.

People who are severely immuno-suppressed will be offered a third dose of vaccine to provide them with as much protection as possible.  They will be prioritised for an urgent appointment at a time that’s right for them based on their treatment and the advice of their clinician.

The strategy also confirms that by November 1, 2021, offers will be made for;

  • one dose for all 12-15 year olds and,
  • a booster vaccination for care home residents and health and care staff.

Everyone in the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)’s 1-9 priority groups will be invited for a booster vaccination when it has been at least six months since their last dose. As before, invitation letters will be sent directly from health boards and people are requested not to contact their GP.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “This winter will be incredibly difficult for our health service so it is vitally important for people to take up the offer of their COVID-19 and Flu vaccine if eligible to protect themselves and the NHS.

“Vaccinations for coronavirus are highly effective and protection against hospitalisation is estimated at around 95 per cent after the second dose. The flu vaccine will also protect people from serious complications and I encourage anyone who is eligible to get their flu vaccine regardless of their eligibility for a COVID-19 booster vaccine.


“We have so far given more than 4.6 million COVID-19 vaccinations and 85 per cent of the over 16 population are fully vaccinated.

“There is no concern over the supply of any of the vaccines and we hope as many people as possible take up the offers to continue to protect those most vulnerable and the NHS.”

Health boards are already making good progress in providing the booster, vaccinating 16 and 17 year olds and 12-15 year olds, including those most of risk due to underlying health conditions.

We are also encouraging 12-15 year olds to have a conversation about having the vaccine with their family or trusted adult.

Most younger adults will only have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer or early autumn and they will still have a high level of protection. The benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered when more information becomes available.


The strategy also sets out that a digital booking system is being developed to allow people to book appointments online to try to make it as easy of possible for people to come forward at a time which suits them.

Appointments for first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are still available for anyone unvaccinated.

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COVID Pass for events and nightclubs in Wales start from today




group of people in a concert

People in Wales must show a Covid Pass or demonstrate their Covid status to enter nightclubs and attend large events from today (11th October).

Businesses could be fined up to £10,000 and issued closure notices for non-compliance. Fines could also be issued for people faking test results or vaccine status.

Cases of coronavirus continue to be high across Wales, especially among younger adults the Welsh Government have warned.

The new law starting today mandates that all adults over-18 will need to show an NHS Covid Pass or a negative Covid test to enter certain premises:

  • Nightclubs and similar venues;
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people;
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people;
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

The controversial law passed by just one vote, after Welsh Conservative minister Gareth Davies, who was attending the party’s conference in Manchester, couldn’t log onto Zoom to vote against the proposal.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Our fantastic vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength but the pandemic is not over. Cases of remain high across Wales and, unfortunately, families across the country are losing loved ones to this awful virus.

“The clear advice from our scientific advisers is that we need to take early action now.


“The Covid Pass is just one of a series of measures in place to help prevent people spreading and catching coronavirus while helping to keep the economy open. None of us want to see further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again.

“Showing a Covid Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open, with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“Together, if we all continue to follow the clear guidelines we’re all used to by now, we’ll be doing everything we can to Keep Wales Safe.”

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status. It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Only people attending these venues and events will need to show their Covid status. Staff working or volunteering in these venues are encouraged to take lateral flow tests twice a week to check they do not have the virus. Workplaces are required by law to undertake Covid risk assessments, and to put reasonable measures in place to ensure staff safety.


The Welsh Government say that Covid passes have been used successfully in many venues and events in Wales throughout the summer.

The First Minister confirmed last week that Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks. Plans are in place to respond to a challenging winter ahead with both coronavirus and seasonal flu both in circulation.

Welsh Government Ministers are continuing to encourage people to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus by continuing to work from home whenever possible, ensuring they take up the offer of a Covid vaccine, keeping your distance, isolating and taking a PCR test if you have symptoms, and wearing a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport.

The Welsh Government say they will use the current enforcement regimes for monitoring compliance – this means businesses and events will need to ensure their proposed arrangements to comply with the Covid pass regulations are included in their risk assessments, and reasonable measures to ensure compliance.

Penalties for non-compliance will include:

  • a premises improvement notice or premises closure notice;
  • a fixed penalty notice and a maximum fine for businesses of £10,000.

In addition, it is now an offence for a person to provide false or misleading evidence of vaccination or testing status where that evidence is required as part of the requirement for holding a Covid pass.

(Lead image: Mark Angelo Sampan /

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First Minister unveils new plan to keep Wales open and safe during “challenging” winter ahead




The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, will today (Friday 8 October) publish new plans to help keep Wales open and safe during the difficult autumn and winter months ahead.

The Welsh Government is publishing an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, which outlines the key actions, which could be put in place to control the spread of the virus.

Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks, following the latest review of the coronavirus regulations. This means all businesses are open and Wales has the lowest level of restrictions.

Speaking ahead of his press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are facing a challenging winter ahead – coronavirus hasn’t gone away and flu is forecast to return this winter.

“Vaccination is the best defence we have against coronavirus – the more people who are fully vaccinated, the better our chances of controlling the spread of this awful virus.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on increasing take up of the Covid-19 vaccine across the age and priority groups and rolling out the booster vaccine too. We also encourage everyone who is eligible, to have their flu jab this year.


“There is also a range of other measures we can all take to help protect ourselves and our loved ones, such as washing our hands, reducing the number of people we meet and wearing a face covering in indoor public places.

“These measures have helped keep us safe throughout the pandemic and they will also help to protect us from other winter viruses, such as flu and other respiratory infections.”

The latest version of the Coronavirus Control Plan sets out two planning scenarios for the pandemic over the winter – in the first, called Covid Stable, Wales remains at alert level zero through the autumn and winter, with all businesses able to open.

This is thought to be the most likely scenario for the future, as we become used to living with coronavirus and we gradually move out of the pandemic to a position where the virus becomes a seasonal illness.

Under this scenario, if case rates fall, measures could be relaxed further in response, and if they rise, some existing measures could be strengthened to protect people’s health.


The second planning scenario, called Covid Urgent, is designed to deal with any sudden changes to the situation, caused by the emergence of a new, fast-spreading variant or if vaccine immunity levels fall, causing a rise in pandemic pressures, which risk overwhelming the NHS.

The Welsh Government says that in such a scenario, the alert level system and restrictions would be used proportionately, but as a last-resort means, to protect people’s health, control the spread of infections and to protect the NHS.

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