THIS week, First Minister Mark Drakeford, got his flu vaccination and encouraged others to take up the offer this winter to help keep people safe and well.
This year will be Wales’ largest ever flu vaccination programme, with people aged 50 and over and all those eligible for a free vaccine being invited to have their jab.
The school’s flu vaccine programme has also been extended this year to include all those in secondary school in years 7-11.
The Welsh Government has also extended the free flu vaccine to all primary care workers in Wales.
Those eligible for the free flu vaccine also include pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.
The COVID booster programme will also be co-administered to those who are eligible where appropriate to do so, in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines. Both vaccines can be administered in succession without delay so there is no need to postpone either appointment once booked
First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, who received his flu vaccine this week, said:
“Unlike last year, we are expecting a significant amounts of flu to circulate this winter and Covid is still with us. It’s very important people take up their offer of the flu vaccine as well as the Covid booster. Data suggests this winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season.
“As we have seen with COVID, vaccines play a huge role in helping to help protect us. They are the best way to keep everyone safe and help stop the spread of the virus.
“We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community, and reduce the pressure on our NHS.”
Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant for Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme said:
“Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.”
“Getting it is simple, and for most eligible groups is available from either their General Practice or a Community Pharmacy, with separate arrangements in place for school-age children and NHS staff.
“To help extend protection against infection it is very important to get your COVID-19 booster vaccine when offered. It is available to those eligible groups that completed their primary course of the vaccinations earlier this year.
“COVID-19 booster vaccinations are offered by invitation at existing local mass vaccination centres. Please get yours when you are invited.”
Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales
A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.
The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.
Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital.
These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.
Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.
Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.
“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”
Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.
Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?
“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”
Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.
“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”
The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.
Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.
“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”
Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.
Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven.
Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.
Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.
Covid-19 rule changes in Wales
As the Welsh Government attempts to curb the country’s high Covid rates, self-isolating laws are changing in Wales.
Welsh restrictions are being revised in the latest three-weekly review.
In light of the First Minister’s warning that if rates don’t fall in the next three weeks restrictions will be reinstated at the next review on November 19.
What is changing in Wales?
• If someone in your household tests positive or has Covid symptoms you’ll now need to isolate until you’ve had a negative test.
• You’ll need a Covid Pass in theatres and cinemas from November 15.
• Headteachers will be helped to introduce measures if case rates are high locally.
• Shops have been encouraged to get people to stick to the rules to wear masks.
• Businesses encouraged to resume working from home.
Self-isolation: what’s changing?
It is currently not necessary to self-isolate if you are double vaccinated and living with someone who tests positive, unless you have symptoms or a positive test yourself.
When someone in a household has symptoms or tests positive for Covid-19, the Welsh Government’s new guidance recommends that adults who are fully vaccinated, and children and young people aged five to 17, should isolate themselves until they have received a negative PCR test.
If you are not vaccinated, you will need to self-isolate for ten days following contact with someone who has tested positive, including close household contacts.
It is important that you self-isolate until you have taken a PCR test if someone in your household tests positive for the disease. Once the test is negative, you do not need to isolate.
If it is positive, you too will have to isolate. Also, you will have to isolate while you await the results of the test.
Besides that, what else is changing?
From November 15, you’ll need a Covid Pass to go to the cinema or theatre, meaning they are now needed in more places in Wales.
Staff and secondary school students will also be encouraged to take twice-weekly lateral flow tests to help keep coronavirus out of schools.
Retailers have been asked to ensure that people are wearing their masks indoors.
Welsh Government has also encouraged people to work from home “wherever possible”.
What are the latest figures for Wales?
The latest figures for Wales, released on Thursday, showed another 12 people in Wales have died with coronavirus.
New figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) published on Thursday, October 28, which cover the last 24-hour period, show the total number of Covid-related deaths in Wales is now 6,134.
There were also 2,664 new positive cases recorded in today’s update, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 432,395.
The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales based on the cases for every 100,000 people (for the seven days up to October 23) now stands at 671.3 – a fall from the 699.7 reported on Wednesday and a second consecutive day where rates have fallen.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the rates must drop in the next three weeks, or restrictions will be considered again.
The four UK chief medical officers have asked the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation for urgent advice about reducing the interval between the second dose of the vaccine and the booster.
Welsh Government said that 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.
New plan to keep Wales open and safe during “challenging” winter ahead
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, will today (Friday October 8) publish new plans to help keep Wales open and safe during the difficult autumn and winter months ahead.
The Welsh Government is publishing an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, which outlines the key actions, which could be put in place to control the spread of the virus.
Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks, following the latest review of the coronavirus regulations. This means all businesses are open and Wales has the lowest level of restrictions.
Speaking ahead of his press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“We are facing a challenging winter ahead – coronavirus hasn’t gone away and flu is forecast to return this winter.
“Vaccination is the best defence we have against coronavirus – the more people who are fully vaccinated, the better our chances of controlling the spread of this awful virus.
“We will continue to focus our efforts on increasing take up of the Covid-19 vaccine across the age and priority groups and rolling out the booster vaccine too. We also encourage everyone who is eligible, to have their flu jab this year.
“There is also a range of other measures we can all take to help protect ourselves and our loved ones, such as washing our hands, reducing the number of people we meet and wearing a face covering in indoor public places.
“These measures have helped keep us safe throughout the pandemic and they will also help to protect us from other winter viruses, such as flu and other respiratory infections.”
The latest version of the Coronavirus Control Plan sets out two planning scenarios for the pandemic over the winter – in the first, called Covid Stable, Wales remains at alert level zero through the autumn and winter, with all businesses able to open.
This is thought to be the most likely scenario for the future, as we become used to living with coronavirus and we gradually move out of the pandemic to a position where the virus becomes a seasonal illness.
Under this scenario, if case rates fall, measures could be relaxed further in response, and if they rise, some existing measures could be strengthened to protect people’s health.
The second planning scenario, called Covid Urgent, is designed to deal with any sudden changes to the situation, caused by the emergence of a new, fast-spreading variant or if vaccine immunity levels fall, causing a rise in pandemic pressures, which risk overwhelming the NHS.
In such a scenario, the alert level system and restrictions would be used proportionately, but as a last-resort means, to protect people’s health, control the spread of infections and to protect the NHS.
Help keep Wales safe:
• Get your Covid-19 vaccines, including your booster when invited
• Get tested and self-isolate if you have symptoms
• Outdoors is safer than indoors
• Keep your distance when you can
• Wash your hands regularly
• Wear a face covering in indoor public places
• Keep indoor places well-ventilated
• Work from home whenever possible
• Use a Covid Pass in nightclubs and large events.
Commenting on the First Minister’s announcement Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said:
“Like the First Minister acknowledged, vaccinations have proven to be the key that unlocked society and the economy after severely weakening the link between infection and hospitalisation. To those who have yet to be vaccinated, we urge them to do so and those eligible to get a booster jab.
“However, while we remain at Level 0, new restrictions are coming in as the coercive, ineffective, and anti-business Covid passports will limit our freedoms, fail to limit the spread of coronavirus according to the Welsh Government’s own scientists, and add additional burdens on already stretched businesses.
“There has been a poor communication campaign from the Welsh Government on their introduction, little justification of their effectiveness, a failure to address confusion and fix bugs, and no explanation on how they will police the alternative Covid test system so open to abuse.
“We have passed the peak of infections without further restrictions and passports will do little to stem the problems that has led to the worst-ever A&E waiting times, longest ever NHS treatment backlog, and second slowest ambulance response times built up under Labour mismanagement.
“So instead of further restrictions, we need Labour ministers to bring forward a proper winter pressures plan that introduces the Covid treatment hubs for which Welsh Conservatives have long called for and reverse their damaging decision to bring in Covid passports.”
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