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Coronavirus

Study reveals lockdown impact on youngsters’ mental health

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Young people were the hardest hit as the second Covid-19 lockdown took its toll on the mental health and wellbeing of the Welsh population, new research has revealed.

The study – the first to compare experiences during the first and second lockdowns of the pandemic– discovered levels of wellbeing dropped significantly between the two periods with those aged between 16 and 24 and people living in deprived areas the most affected.

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The Wales Wellbeing research group – a collaboration between Swansea University, Cardiff University, and the NHS in Wales – was set up to monitor just what issues most affected the population. It has carried out a series of surveys throughout the coronavirus crisis. asking the Welsh public how they have been coping.

Headed by Professor Nicola Gray, of Swansea University’s School of Psychology and Professor Robert Snowden, from Cardiff University, it has now revealed:

  • Clinically significant levels of psychological distress in 40.4 per cent of participants in the second survey, a 9.8 per cent increase from the first survey;
  • Poorer mental health in women, younger adults, and those from deprived areas; and,
  • The greatest reduction in mental health in the youngest age group (16-24 years old).

Its latest findings, based on surveys carried out by between June and July 2020 and January to March 2021, have just been published in online journal Advances in Mental Health.

The researchers examined the responses of 12,989 participants to the Wave 1 survey and 10,428 participants to the Wave 2 survey.
Their answers showed levels of wellbeing were lower in the second survey compared to the first, which were already low compared to pre-pandemic data from 2019.

Professor Gray said: “Of most note is that the decrease in mental health is greatest in younger people, exaggerating the existing imbalance in mental health for these younger people. Thus, 66.3 per cent of the youngest group sampled were reporting moderate to severe psychological distress compared to 16.7 per cent of those 75 and older.

“These results suggest that the presence of a second period of lockdown may be responsible for the present findings of a decline in mental health.”

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She said the data shows young people’s mental health is especially vulnerable to lockdown restrictions: “There are many potential reasons. We know peer relationships play an especially important role in protecting adolescents against anxiety, depression, and suicidal ideation.

“So, any restrictions that limit peer contact are likely to be especially detrimental to younger people. Younger age groups also have lower resilience compared to older people and they have less financial and employment security.”

Professor Bob Snowden added: “While there needs to be more research to understand the causal elements, our finding that younger individuals continue to be more adversely impacted by the pandemic must be considered by those responsible for planning wellbeing support for communities during the pandemic and beyond.”

The team now hopes its findings will reinforce the need to consider wellbeing as we gradually move on from Covid-19.

Professor Gray said: “The virus has caused a global crisis with unprecedented impact. Continual monitoring of population wellbeing and psychological distress levels, alongside investigations into the causes of decreased mental wellbeing, is vital.

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“Post-pandemic recovery programmes must address the increase in mental health and wellbeing difficulties in young people, individuals from deprived areas, and women.”

(Lead image: Swansea University)

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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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