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Coronavirus

Rise in number of children with Covid-19 admitted to hospital in Swansea Bay

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Almost as many children aged 15 and under have been in hospital with Covid-19 in Swansea Bay over the last three months than the whole of the rest of the pandemic.

So far 93 children in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have been ill enough to need inpatient treatment for Covid-19 since the pandemic began in March 2020. But almost half of those, 45, have been admitted this July, August and up to 24th September.

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The increase in paediatric admissions mirrors a steep rise in Covid-19 community infection rates in comprehensive school age children in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, currently running at one in 50 under-18s.

“These cases demonstrate that children are not invulnerable to Covid-19, and can and do become ill from it,” said Swansea Bay Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid.

“While children are much less likely than older adults to get seriously ill with Covid, it is noticeable and worrying that there is currently a spike in paediatric admissions.

“However this is not surprising given that there has been such a big rise overall in the numbers of comprehensive school age children getting Covid in our region. Unfortunately, there is also an increase in younger primary age children now testing positive as well.

“Swansea Bay currently has some of the highest overall Covid-19 infection rates in the UK, and younger people – particularly under-18s – are now by far the biggest single group of confirmed infections.”

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Infection rates in school age children are now 3 to 4 times higher than any other age group, with around 500 youngsters infected in the last week alone

Swansea Bay is starting vaccinating 12-15 year-olds on Monday, 4th October. Letters are being sent to homes with appointments at mass vaccination centres in Swansea and Margam. The health board say that the aim is to have offered all young people in this age group an appointment letter by 1st November.

How many people have been in hospital with Covid in Swansea Bay?

In total, by 24th September, 3,237 people with Covid have been inpatients in Swansea Bay hospitals.

During the first peak, March and April 2020, there were 404 individual Covid patients in our beds. In the next peak, December 2020 and January 2021, there were 1099. In the latest peak, this August and up to 24th September, we have treated 371 Covid-positive inpatients.

Swansea Bay currently has 65 confirmed Covid-19 cases in our hospitals, with nine people receiving critical care. This daily figure is relatively steady, and has been holding in the mid-60s for a couple of weeks. (These are not necessarily the same patients, as new patients are admitted, discharged, and sadly, some have died.)

Proportion of younger/older inpatients

The proportion of younger Covid-19 inpatients has risen dramatically during this current peak, compared with the two earlier peaks in the pandemic.

This is in line with vaccinations across different age groups, with more older adults double-vaccinated compared to younger ones.

In the first two peaks of the pandemic – March/April 2020, and December 2020/January 2021 – around 3%-4% of Swansea Bay inpatient cases were aged 16-29.

But now, in August and September, the proportion of younger adults has quadrupled, making up between 13.7% -18.6% of cases on our wards.

By contrast, older adults, aged 50+ accounted for more than eight out of 10 Covid-19 inpatient cases in the first two peaks. Now, that proportion as dropped to around half.
It isn’t just the proportion of older people which has gone down. The overall numbers of over-50s on our wards have also fallen from of 341 in March/April 2020; 895 in Dec/Jan, to 213 in August/September.

Figures show the vaccines work

“People are still being admitted with Covid-19, and some of them have been vaccinated. But that does not mean the vaccine isn’t working,” said Dr Reid.

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“On the contrary. Community infection rates in Swansea Bay are now as high as they were in the highest peak in December and January, but inpatient rates are about a third of what they were then. And of the people admitted, fewer need critical care.

“The difference in the proportion of younger and older inpatients in our hospitals since the vaccination programme began also demonstrates the protection the vaccine offers.

“The vaccination is not guaranteed to stop you getting Covid, but if you do, you are likely to get less sick. This is because the vaccine has already trained your immune system to fight the virus. These real-life statistics bear this out.”

Dr Reid urged anyone who has not yet taken up the offer of a Covid-19 vaccination to reconsider. While no vaccine was 100% effective, it was one of the biggest tools in the fight against Covid-19, he said.

“It’s not too late to get your vaccinations, please make an appointment to safeguard yourself and others.”

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Coronavirus

Face coverings retained in health and social care settings

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed the legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will remain in place.

Speaking after the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister said the public health situation was improving following the recent spike in cases caused by the BA.2 sub-type of omicron.

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But Covid case rates remain high so maintaining the use of face coverings in health and care settings will help to protect to some of the most vulnerable people in society, staff and visitors.

The First Minister also urged everyone to continue to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following a set of simple steps to protect one another and keep Wales safe.

These include self-isolating if ill or testing positive for Covid-19; wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places, meeting outdoors wherever possible; keeping indoor areas well ventilated and washing hands regularly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic isn’t over but we are seeing encouraging signs the recent high levels of infections across Wales are falling.

“There are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while coronavirus is still circulating and reduce the spread of the virus even further. This is particularly true in places where some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated and live, which is why we will retain the legal requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings.

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“More generally, ensuring you are up-to-date with your Covid vaccinations and spring booster – if you are eligible – is really important. If you have Covid symptoms or test positive, please stay at home and help break the chain of transmission.

“Together, we can carry on keeping each other safe and keeping Wales safe.”

The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 26 May.

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Coronavirus

Schools’ Covid guidance aligned to businesses and other workplaces

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The Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, has announced that Covid-19 measures for schools in Wales will be brought into line with guidance for businesses and other organisations.

The Welsh Government has written to schools in Wales this morning to inform them of the changes.

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Since September last year, schools have applied measures to stop the spread of Coronavirus according to local circumstances, based on the Local Covid-19 infection control decision framework for schools. Schools will no longer be advised to use the framework.

The change is in line with the Welsh Government’s long-term Covid-19 transition from pandemic to endemic. The risk from coronavirus is now considered in the same context as other communicable diseases, such as flu.

The First Minister has announced that the remaining coronavirus restrictions will be removed from 9 May, if the public health situation remained stable. The changes to the guidance for schools will also come into effect from 9 May.

Schools and other education settings will continue to be advised to work with local authorities and public health advisors to ensure that measures remain appropriate and proportionate and reflect local risks and circumstances.

A checklist will be provided to support schools and settings in considering which control measures remain proportionate. Special schools will continue to follow the advice for children and young people with higher clinical risk and clinically extremely vulnerable adults.

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Speaking at the Welsh Government’s weekly press briefing, Jeremy Miles said: “In line with the wider public health guidance published at the last three-week review, we have today written to headteachers to signpost the impending changes to our advice for schools, which reflect the move from pandemic to endemic. This will ensure school guidance is more closely aligned with the rest of society.

“We all know that Covid-19 has not gone way. It remains vitally important we reduce the spread of the virus where we can – this includes, for example, following self-isolation guidance, and for education settings to continue to undertake robust risk assessments.”

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Coronavirus

Health board extends shuttle bus between Llanelli and COVID vaccination centre

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Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDUHB) has extended the free shuttle bus service between Llanelli town centre and the mass vaccination centre in Dafen to help people access their COVID-19 vaccination as easily as possible.

The shuttle bus, provided by Dolen Teifi, will continue to run between 10.30am to 4.40pm, seven days a week – with no service at 12.00pm from town or at 12.15pm from the mass vaccination centre to allow the drivers a lunch break.

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People can board the shuttle bus on the hour and at half-past the hour at Church Street, outside Llanelli Magistrates Court.

The shuttle bus will leave the mass vaccination centre quarter past and quarter to the hour, returning to the town centre and dropping passengers off opposite Llanelli library.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We need as many people as possible attending their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, or dropping in if eligible.

“This shuttle bus service is one of many additional resources and services being put in place across the Hywel Dda region to help support more people to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. I am pleased the shuttle bus service has been extended to help people reliant on public transport to access their COVID-19 vaccine.”

On 21 February 2022, the JCVI published a statement, recommending an additional spring booster.

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Strict COVID-19 safety measures are in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on this service, including wearing face coverings unless medically exempt.

A maximum of 14 passengers are allowed per journey with a screen in place between driver and passengers.

The health board say that passengers should only use this service if they are fit and well on the day.

They add that before travelling without an appointment to Dafen mass vaccination centre, people should check the health board’s website for up-to-date information such as vaccine eligibility and drop-in opening times.

(Lead image: Hywel Dda NHS)

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