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Temporary visitor restrictions in place at Prince Philip Hospital

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Members of the public are advised that Prince Philip Hospital in Llanelli that all wards are closed to visitors until further notice following a number of cases of Norovirus (diarrhoea and vomiting).

These temporary visitor restrictions are in place to help prevent the spread of this winter illness.

The restrictions are confined to the main hospital only and people are still able to visit loved ones in Ty Bryngwyn Hospice.

Patients who are scheduled to attend outpatient appointments are advised to do so as normal.

The situation is being monitored at regular intervals and a further update will become available when visitor restrictions are lifted.

Sharon Daniel, Assistant Director of Nursing for Hywel Dda University Health Board said: “I’d like to reassure visitors that a number of Norovirus cases have been diagnosed and appropriate infection control measures are in place to reduce the risk of infection.

“Unfortunately, at this time of the year, winter illnesses such as Norovirus and flu do become more commonplace and it’s important for anyone experiencing these symptoms to follow simple hygiene advice. This includes washing and drying your hands thoroughly, especially after going to the toilet and before you handle food, to prevent infections from being passed on to others.

“If you are otherwise fit and healthy, there’s usually no need to visit your GP; you should just rest at home until you feel better, while keeping warm, drinking plenty of water and taking painkillers if necessary. You can also help stop the spread of infections by avoiding unnecessary contact with other people while you’re infectious.”

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Self-isolation period cut to five days in Wales

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PEOPLE who test positive for Covid-19 will be able to leave self-isolation after five full days if they have two negative lateral flow tests, Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed today,

The two consecutive negative lateral flow tests must be taken on days five and six of the isolation period.

The changes are being made after a thorough examination of the evidence from Public Health Wales and bring Wales into line with changes made elsewhere in the UK.

They will come into effect from 28 January, at the same time as Wales is expected to complete the move to alert level zero.

A shorter self-isolation period will support public services and businesses by reducing pressures on the workforce through Covid-related staff absences.

Financial support through the Self-Isolation Support Scheme will return to the original payment rate of £500 in recognition of the shorter isolation period.  People who need support with essentials such as shopping and pharmacy goods will be able to access help through their local authority and voluntary organisations. 

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said:

“Self-isolation is one of the most effective ways of preventing the onward spread of this virus and disrupting its transmission. But self-isolating for long periods can have a negative impact on our mental health and can be damaging for our public services and the wider economy.

“After carefully reviewing all the available evidence, we believe that testing on days five and six together with five full days of isolation will have the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period.

“But it is really important everyone self-isolates and uses lateral flow tests in the way advised to ensure they protect others from the risk of infection.

“The response from the public has been outstanding in Wales throughout the pandemic and we want to thank everyone for working with us to keep Wales safe.

“The booster jab has lessened the likelihood of severe cases of the virus and hospitalisation, so I encourage anyone who is yet to have their vaccine to take up the offer.”

If a person is currently self-isolating as a positive case, or tests positive for Covid-19, they must self-isolate for five full days and should take a lateral flow test on day five and another test 24 hours later on day six.

If both results are negative, it is likely they are not infectious and can stop isolating.

But anyone who tests positive on either day five or day six must continue to self-isolate until they have two negative tests taken 24 hours apart or until day 10, whichever comes first.

This change reflects the latest evidence from Public Health Wales. Guidance on self-isolation for those working in more sensitive areas such as health and care will issue shortly. 

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson on health and care, said: “This is undoubtedly good news, but it’s now important to understand what needs to happen to bring this self-isolation period down to zero days – how is Welsh Government assessing this, what conversations are happening, and what criteria will need to be met for this important milestone to be reached?

“In the meantime, we must continue to see effective measures to push down community transmission further and to create more long-term resilience, including more action on clean air in schools, encouraging greater vaccine take-up, and ensuring our health and care services are given the support and resources they need.”

Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “With the booster jab rollout so advanced, the need to keep public services staffed, and the increasing desire to move to a point where we live with the virus, the time for cutting the self-isolation has undoubtedly come.

“Sadly, as has been the case throughout the pandemic with the Labour administration in Cardiff Bay, they replicate decisions taken by the UK Conservative Government but only after playing politics, questioning and undermining such changes days earlier.

“As we move from the pandemic to endemic these political games have to stop as Labour’s response to Omicron harmed Wales, not through mass hospitalisations and deaths, but through thousands having to isolate, leaving public services understaffed, consumers short-changed, and businesses losing out.”

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Omicron peak could come in ‘the next 10 to 14 days’ in Wales

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THE FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford has said he is ‘hopeful’ figures in Wales could start to reduce from around two weeks’ time.

The comments came during the live briefing held yesterday lunchtime in Cardiff, with the First Minister referring to modelling several times and comparing it to what has been recorded in firm figures.

The First Minister said of the above slide, “It shows you how the modelling that we’ve had done for us here in Wales shows how the Omicron wave wave is expected to behave. The blue line shows how cases are predicted to grow over the coming weeks. The black line shows the actual confirmed cases.

“As you can see, the actual cases are following very closely the predicted wave, and what the wave shows is the speed at which the Omicron wave will break over us and then how cases decline at a relatively rapid rate as well.

“Now we haven’t reached the peak of that wave yet, it could be within the next 10 to 14 days. But we will get to the top of the wave and then hopefully we will see the numbers reducing again here in Wales.

“The latest figures show that there are more than 2300 cases per 100,000 people across Wales. Cases are highest amongst 20- to 39-year-olds but we are also now seeing rises in older age groups. As community transmission increases rapidly, while the figures are clearly concerning, they are in line with what the modelling forecasts told us.”

“Every close contact is an opportunity for it to spread.”

Data was also released on the number of people to being admitted to hospital with coronavirus, “The latest figures show that there are now a total of 994, just under 1000, COVID-19 patients in our hospitals in Wales and that is a 43% increase on a single week and that number is the highest we have seen in Welsh hospitals since March of last year”.

“There are now around 40 people are so ill in hospital that they have to receive critical care and the majority of those people are people who have not been vaccinated. Very sadly since just the start of this year, public health Wales has reported 38 New deaths from coronavirus.”

When asked about reversing restrictions, and what timeframes could be involved, the First Minister said, “As people will have seen from the model that we showed earlier, the position over the next 10 days to two weeks is not going to be one that is easing.

“The numbers are likely to continue to rise. So it will not be until we have past the peak of infections and we are sure that we can see the pressures on the spread of this virus in the community are beginning to reduce, and will then take a while as it always does to feed through into reducing pressure on health services, hospital services, critical care services.

“So I don’t anticipate that over the next fortnight we will be in a position to move away from the level of restrictions we currently have in place. But, we will track it every day. We will review it every week. And when we see that corner being turned and we can see the number as we hope coming down reasonably rapidly. That will be the point at which we will be able to assess when it is safe to begin to lift the extra restrictions and protections we put in place so far.”

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Public Health Wales apology over lack of clarity on smear test changes

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PUBLIC HEALTH WALES has apologised and admitted it hasn’t “done enough” to explain the reasons for increasing the length of time between cervical screening tests.

The change, which was announced on Tuesday, means people aged between 25 and 50 with a cervix will now wait five years until another test, rather than three, providing no human papillomavirus (HPV) cells are detected.

HPV is a very common virus that most people will come into contact with at some time during their lives. One or more high-risk types of HPV are present in over 99.8% of cervical cancers.

HPV testing was successfully introduced in Wales in 2018 and almost nine out of 10 results show no high-risk HPV.

There are about 160 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year in Wales and it is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35.

But Public Health Wales has admitted it has failed to give clear information over the change, leading to concerns cancers could be missed.

In a tweet this weekend PHW said: “We are sorry. We haven’t done enough to explain the changes to cervical screening and have caused concern. We are working to make this clearer and more information will be available as soon as we can today and in the coming days.”

Cancer charities have sought to reassure women concerned by the change. Cancer Research UK has said people should be aware increasing the gap between screenings is “safe” and the new form of testing means people are invited for further based on their risk of developing cancer rather than their age.

An online petition, calling for the reintroduction of the three year gap between routine smear tests, has now attracted more than 680,000 signatures.

Alice Davies, Cancer Research UK’s health information manager, said people should be aware the decision to increase the time between screenings was made on scientific advice and due to a new way of testing samples which detects human papilloma virus (HPV) and means doctors are better able to identify those at risk of developing cervical cancer.Ms Davies said: “As the new test is more accurate at finding those at risk of cervical cancer, screening intervals can be safely extended from three to five years.

“If someone is HPV positive then their next screening interval will be shorter than five years. The new test allows women to be invited back for screening based on their risk of developing cervical cancer, rather than just their age.

“Overall this makes the programme more accurate, and means people don’t have extra rounds of screening that wouldn’t give them any benefit, while offering more screening to people at higher risk.”On Wednesday Public Health Wales said it accepted it has to do more to explain the reasons for the change.

Charity Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, described as the UK’s leading cervical cancer charity, has sought to reassure people concerned about the changes.

It has said the change has been introduced following advice from the UK National Screening Committee which recommended the five year gap between tests due to the use of HPV tests which are more sensitive and effective.

It said this means the advice is most women aged 25 to 49 can, as those aged 50 to 64 are, can be tested every five years rather than three.

The charity says the improved testing will likely mean more lives saved by identifying those at greater risk of cancer earlier.

According to Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust women in Wales, and Scotland, are invited back based on the result of the screening.

If those show high-risk HPV and cell changes you will be invited to colposcopy.

If it identified high-risk HPV but no cell changes you will be invited for cervical screening in one year.

If there is no HPV you will be invited for cervical screening in five years.

Public Health Wales says HPV testing was introduced in Wales in 2018 and almost nine out of 10 results show no high-risk HPV.

Heather Lewis, consultant in public health for Cervical Screening Wales said: “The HPV test we now use in Wales is more effective at identifying people at higher risk of developing cell changes which can cause cervical cancer.

“The evidence shows that it is therefore safe to extend the time between cervical screening tests for people who do not have HPV identified.”

HPV is a very common virus that most people will come into contact with at some time during their lives. One or more high-risk types of HPV are present in over 99.8% of cervical cancers.

Increasing the time between smear tests will also reduce risks from screening.

Head of Programme for Cervical Screening Wales at Public Health Wales, Louise Dunk said: “Testing everyone who attends for cervical screening using a test for high risk HPV will identify those at risk and prevent more cancers than just examining the cells alone.

“It is a really positive development that this more effective test will mean that women and people with a cervix, who test negative for HPV, now only need to attend their testing every five years, rather than three.”

There are around 160 cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year in Wales and it is the most common cancer in women under the age of 35.

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