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Coronavirus

First Minister tweaks COVID restrictions and threatens stricter measures unless Welsh infection rates decline

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced strengthened Alert Level Zero measures due to rising COVID infection figures – and warns of stricter measures to come unless rates begin to fall over the next three weeks.

The announcement comes as part of the Welsh Government’s three-week review of coronavirus regulations where the First Minister has confirmed Wales will remain at alert level zero – but some extra measures will be taken to protect people’s health.

The guidance around self-isolation is changing. Adults who are fully vaccinated and children and young people aged five to 17 will be asked to self-isolate until they have received a negative PCR test if someone in their household has symptoms or tests positive for Covid-19.

People who are not vaccinated will still have to self-isolate for 10 days following contact with someone who has tested positive, including close contacts outside of their household.

Head teachers will be given extra support to quickly put measures in place in their schools if case rates are high locally.

Staff and secondary school students will also be encouraged to take twice-weekly lateral flow tests to help keep coronavirus out of schools.

And, while coronavirus cases remain very high, the Welsh Government intends to extend the use of COVID Pass to theatres, cinemas and concert halls from 15 November. These are settings where large numbers of people gather indoors, close to each other, for long periods at a time.

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Mark Drakeford said: “Over the past three weeks, coronavirus cases have risen sharply to the highest rates we have seen since the pandemic began and more people are falling so seriously ill that they need hospital treatment.

“All this means that the pandemic is far from over. We need to take more action now to strengthen the measures we have in place at alert level zero to prevent coronavirus spreading even further and more people falling seriously ill.

“We hope this action will help to turn the tide of this delta. None of us wants to see a return to restrictions but if rates continue to rise, the Cabinet will have no choice but to consider raising the alert level at the next review.

“Let’s all work together as a team to reduce the spread of coronavirus and keep Wales open and keep Wales safe.”

The Welsh Government say that Vaccines remain the best defence against the virus – almost 400,000 people have had their autumn booster since the programme was launched and more than 40% of 12 to 15-year-olds have had their vaccine.

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Discussions have been held with the JCVI on the best interval between the second dose of the vaccine and the booster.

The Welsh Government say they continue to encourage everyone to work from home wherever possible and to remind everyone of the legal requirement to wear a face covering in indoor public places.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething yesterday met with retailers to urge them to do everything they can to raise awareness of the legal requirement to wear a face coverings in shops.

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Coronavirus

First Omicron variant COVID case confirmed in Wales

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A case of the Omicron variant of concern has been confirmed in Wales. The case is in the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board area and is linked to international travel.

In a statement, the Welsh Government said: “We are prepared to respond rapidly to emerging variants of concern and intensive investigations and robust public health action are being taken to slow any spread.

“The health impact of the Omicron variant is still being assessed. Currently there is no substantial evidence to suggest the Omicron variant will lead to a more severe form of illness but the data is being kept under constant review.

“As we better understand this variant we will be able to determine the next steps. In the meantime, sticking to the rules, following the steps which keep us safe and taking up the offer of a vaccine continue to be the best way to protect ourselves and the NHS.”

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Coronavirus

Council say they don’t want Cinema & Co to close – just to follow the rules

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Swansea Council have released a statement following a judge’s decision to shut an independent cinema that has refused to follow COVID safety rules.

The cinema must now close for “56 days or if the business provides written information to the authority evidencing that they have put in place reasonable measures to minimise the transmission of COVID-19.”

Cinema owner, Anna Redfern was ordered to pay Swansea Council’s court costs of £5,265.

In a written statement, Swansea Council said: “We welcome the decision today by the district judge, which we hope will encourage the owner of Cinema & Co to carry out the necessary work to protect staff and customers.

“During this entire process, the Council did not want to close down the business – indeed we have provided millions of pounds of funding, help and support so businesses can operate safely during the pandemic.

“We want Cinema & Co open and trading, the same as the majority of businesses in Swansea and Wales, who are following the rules and are doing all they can to keep people safe.

“We will continue to offer support and advice to Cinema & Co to ensure those measures are in place and that they can operate safely.

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“The coronavirus virus is still with us and significant concerns remain about the potential impact of the new Omicron variant.

“The measures and regulations currently in place are vital to help slow the spread of the virus and to protect the NHS”.

Cinema & Co has ignored two previous closure notices, one from the council on Public Health grounds and one from the Welsh Government through COVID legislation.

In court, the council’s barrister said if the venue fails to close “there is going to be an application for her to be in contempt of court which could result in a custodial sentence.”

On twitter, Richard Taylor, a former Brexit Party & Abolish the Welsh Assembly candidate who was behind the £60,000 fundraiser for Anna Redfern, said she planned to reopen tomorrow.

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(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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Coronavirus

Health chief urges people to follow Welsh Gov COVID guidance – and supports action against businesses that don’t

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woman wearing face mask

Director of Public Health for Swansea Bay University Health Board, Dr Keith Reid has issued a statement urging people to follow the Welsh Government’s guidance on staying safe through the pandemic – and supports action against businesses that refuse to do so.

The warning comes as news of the new Omicron COVID variant starting to spread in the UK, coronavirus infection rates continuing to be high in Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot, and enforcement action taken by Swansea Council and the Welsh Government against independent cinema Cinema& Co who have refused to follow COVID safety measures.

Dr Keith Reid

Dr Reid said: “We are now seeing the emergence of the new Omicron variant with the accompanying uncertainty.  This makes it more important than ever for us all to act in a responsible way that protects our local communities and the vulnerable people within them, and the NHS.

“Although we all want the pandemic to end, Covid is undeniably still with us. Many families across Swansea and Neath Port Talbot have already experienced – or are currently living through – the anguish of loved ones being seriously ill or having died with this virus.  Others, of all ages, are suffering long-lasting impact on their own health following Covid infection.

“In the last two weeks alone in Swansea Bay 10 people have died in our hospitals with Covid. Today, we have 35 Covid-positive patients in our hospital beds and five are seriously ill in intensive care.

“Since the pandemic began, our staff have witnessed almost 1,000 patient deaths with Covid, and that figure does not include people who died outside of our hospitals. That is not only a tragedy for the families involved, but it has exacted a heavy physical and mental toll on our NHS staff, who are exhausted and yet still carrying on as best they can.”

Dr Reid added: “For businesses the rules are quite clear and there is a statutory duty of care towards customers and clients who might use business premises and also for staff.

“I support enforcement action taken against any business that deliberately flouts the current regulations.

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“These regulations are not made lightly. They are put in place to protect the public and workers. They also allow business to continue to operate, but as safely as possible.

“The regulations are based on Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advice that a number of different ‘low cost’ interventions all have a part to play in reducing risk, and that together these actions mitigate against the risk of tougher measures needing to be reintroduced later.

“Included in the regulations is the need, for example, for premises to be properly risk-assessed so important safety issues like ventilation, social distancing, etc, can be considered and managed. Covid passes or negative lateral flow tests have another part to play in reducing the risk of further infections, particularly in premises regarded as higher risk. The passes are not the full answer, but they have a part to play.

Support and guidance on how businesses can implement reasonable control measures is available from the local authority, and is outlined in detail by the Welsh Government.

Meanwhile, I continue to urge everyone to carry on taking sensible everyday actions to protect their own health, and those of others:

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  • Make sure you have had your Covid vaccinations.
  • Self-isolate and get tested if you have any Covid symptoms, or symptoms which are unusual for you.
  • Wear a face-covering where you need to.
  • Open windows and doors to let the fresh air in when you meet up with others.
  • Avoid stuffy, crowded places – get together outdoors if you can.
  • Wash your hands frequently.”
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