The original testing strategy was published in July 2020 and has been revised in light of our greater understanding of the virus, the development of new testing technology and the roll-out of our vaccination programme. The new strategy also expands our testing approach to include more regular testing for NHS and care home staff and patients in hospitals.
A community testing framework is also being published today which builds on the pilot schemes in Merthyr Tydfil and Lower Cynon to test asymptomatic people to stop the spread of the virus.
Today’s revised strategy focuses on the following priority areas;
· Test to diagnose – Testing patients on admission to hospital, patients who develop symptoms while in hospital, asymptomatic in-patients five days after admission and planned admissions to protect patients who are at increased risk.
· Test to safeguard – Regular asymptomatic testing for NHS and care home staff, supported living staff, staff working with vulnerable people in special schools, domiciliary care staff and prison staff.
· Test to find – Continuing to test anyone who thinks they have symptoms to identify to isolate Covid-19 cases in the community, reduce the transmission of infection, support contact tracing, protect vulnerable individuals and help to slow or stop the spread of the disease.
· Test to maintain – Regular testing of the workforce in various settings to find cases and exploring whether testing of asymptomatic contacts could allow people to safely remain at work or schools instead of isolating for 10 days. We are currently piloting and evaluating this approach.
· Test to enable – Considering how testing might work alongside vaccination to enable people with a negative result or those who demonstrate the required level of antibodies in their system to travel internationally, attend work or cultural or sporting events or meet family and friends.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:
“Testing has continued to play a pivotal role in our overall approach to preventing the transmission of Covid-19 across Wales.
“Since the last strategy was published, new testing technologies have demonstrated it is possible to test at far greater scale, frequency and speed than ever before. Testing remains important as we roll out the vaccine. Once vaccinated, it is still critical that people continue to follow the guidance and if showing symptoms, get tested.
“Today I’m setting out our revised approach so we can continue to safeguard our most vulnerable people and protect the NHS. The strategy also looks ahead at how we can use testing as an appropriate and effective safeguard alongside the vaccine as we return to normality.”
Paramedic students receive vaccination
Swansea University paramedic students have received their coronavirus vaccine as they continue to work on the NHS frontline.
The students say they are delighted they have now been protected as they go about their duties helping support vital services.
Sarah Board, a second year Dip HE Paramedic Science student, said: “Having transported a very unwell Covid patient into Bronglais Hospital this week, I felt far happier spending an hour in the ambulance treating her and being in such close proximity knowing I had had my vaccine.
“It felt like having an added layer of PPE!”
Josephine McCarthy, who is in her first year on the BSc Paramedic Science course, added: “Being able to have the vaccine enables us to keep others and ourselves safe. At the moment, every little helps.”
Nikki Williams, team lead for paramedic studies, said: “At Swansea University we enjoy a close partnership with the Welsh Ambulance Service (WAST) and this has strengthened over the past year.
“Throughout the pandemic our students have been able to continue their education and training, particularly their clinical placements.
“WAST has ensured all students have been issued with appropriate PPE, protecting them, their colleagues, service users and their carers.
“Providing the vaccine to our students is the next step in this exemplary process and demonstrates the vital role students play in delivering care during their training.”
Mel De Castro-Pugh, a second year Dip HE Paramedic Science student, said: “As a frontline paramedic student with an underlying health condition, having the vaccine – combined with the right level of PPE – has given me some peace of mind working with Covid patients.
“I can finally see a light at the end of the coronavirus tunnel, we just need as many people as possible to get vaccinated.”
WAST vaccination lead Jo Kelso said: “As a Trust, we have been delighted to have our student paramedics join us to directly fight against this disease and have ensured they are afforded access to the vaccines alongside their frontline WAST colleagues in patient-facing roles, our volunteers and our sub-contracted partners.
“Having the support of our health board colleagues to include Swansea University students in their mass vaccination clinics is deeply appreciated.”
Paramedic students have been working alongside qualified colleagues throughout the pandemic. Back in March, 101 Swansea students signed up to work with WAST and support the non-urgent and non-critical, planned patient transport services which in turn freed up qualified paramedics for more urgent duties.
All local hospitals to become smoke-free from March
PEOPLE living across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire are being reminded that today marks just two weeks until all hospital grounds in the three counties become smoke-free.
New laws, being introduced across Wales on Monday 1st March, build on the smoking ban introduced in 2007, and will result in all parts of Glangwili, Bronglais, Withybush and Prince Philip hospitals becoming smoke-free.
The law will also apply to all other Health Board run facilities.
The move is part of a national drive to create a healthier Wales and healthier future by protecting everyone from harmful, second-hand smoke, supporting those trying to quit, as well as reducing the normalisation of smoking, which is why the smoke-free law includes schools, public playgrounds, and outdoor areas of children’s daycare and childminding settings.
Anyone found breaking the law by smoking on these grounds could face a £100 fine.
Ros Jervis, Director of Public Health at Hywel Dda UHB, said: “This is great news for people in the three counties and Wales as a whole. Preventing people smoking on our hospital grounds will promote healthier care environments, protect hospital users from harmful second-hand smoke and support those using NHS services to quit.”
“We know the harms smoking can do to health, so I look forward to having the backing of our staff, patients and visitors, to ensure we all play our part in building a healthier Wales for the future.
Many smokers have already been motivated to give up smoking due to the COVID-19 pandemic and it is hoped this new legislation will encourage even more to do so. We have learnt that smoking can increase the risk of contracting COVID-19 and also the severity of the disease.
Quitting with support provides the best chance of stopping smoking for good, which is why we are making smoking support services available to those who would like help.
The Hywel Dda Healthy Lifestyle and Wellbeing Team (Smoking) can provide expert and confidential NHS behavioural support and access to medication to help stop smoking or access to stop smoking medication. Support is currently provided via telephone. The service can be contacted via 0300 303 9652, which is a freephone number.
The women in Wales leading the fight against Covid
On International Day of Women and Girls in Science, Deputy Minister and Chief Whip Jane Hutt highlighted some of the amazing women that are leading the fight against Covid in Wales and the importance of studying STEM.
Jane Hutt stated:
“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the vital role science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) play in the world today. Never before have STEM professionals been more in the public eye.
It’s vitally important that on International Day of Women and Girls in Science we increase the visibility, importance and appeal of science for all.
By sharing stories of STEM female role models during the pandemic, we can hopefully inspire and motivate more girls and women to study STEM, setting them on a path to a rewarding career.
Two women in particular that I wanted to highlight are Dr Catherine Moore and Dr Emma Hayhurst.
Dr Moore is a Consultant Clinical Scientist, who led the effort to establish COVID-19 testing in Wales within a month of it being recognised as a new coronavirus. This resulted in the Public Health Wales microbiology laboratory at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff becoming the second in the UK to be able to test for the virus.
Dr Hayhurst is a lead scientist on a project at the University of South Wales to develop a rapid test for COVID-19. The test is quick and portable, it doesn’t need to be processed in a lab and the results can be available in less than 30 minutes.
Jane Hutt concluded:
There are numerous examples of STEM female role models in Wales who have come to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic and I want to pay tribute to all their amazing work.
What better day than International Day of Women and Girls in Science, to show how important it is to study a STEM subject but more importantly to showcase to the world that these are some of the amazing women leading the fight against Covid-19 in Wales.”
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