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Wales’ ambitious aim to offer all eligible adults a booster by end of the year

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FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford last night set out Wales’ aim to offer all eligible adults an appointment for a booster vaccine by the end of December.
Urgent plans are being put in place to further accelerate the booster programme as new evidence has emerged showing two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine are not enough to offer protection against the new omicron variant.
But the booster dose is vital in improving protection against the fast-moving variant.
In a televised message to Wales, the First Minister said: “We must be prepared for omicron cases to rise quickly and very steeply – just as they have in other parts of the UK.

The NHS in Wales is being put on high alert due to fears over the Omicron variant


“We are still learning about this new form of coronavirus. All the information we have tells us we are facing a very serious situation. By the end of the month, omicron will have become the dominant form of the virus in Wales, bringing a new wave of infections and illness.
“This could then translate into a large number of people needing hospital treatment just at a time when the NHS is already under significant pressure. The Welsh Government will do everything we can to protect people’s health and keep Wales safe.
“New evidence has emerged about the effectiveness of our vaccines against omicron. Two doses of the vaccine is simply not enough to give the level of protection against the infection we all need. We have already increased the speed of the roll-out of our booster programme. New clinics have been opened and operating hours extended. Urgent efforts are now underway to accelerate the programme even further so we can offer all eligible adults an appointment by the end of this year if possible.
“Please make getting a booster a priority, as it is the single of the most important things you can do to protect yourself against coronavirus and this new variant.”
The First Minister added: “None of us wanted to hear the news of a new omicron variant. After almost two long years of the pandemic, we had all hoped that we could put coronavirus behind us this Christmas. Unfortunately, we are once again facing a serious and worsening situation. But, we have faced challenges many times during this pandemic.
“We can once again pull together to look out for each other – for friends, family and neighbours – to protect each other and keep ourselves safe and well. We have already taken some steps to increase protections in Wales and we may need to take some further steps to keep Wales safe.”
Commenting, Welsh Conservative and Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “Whilst it is encouraging that all indications show Omicron is a milder form of the virus, it is more transmissible and it’s clear booster jabs are a vital defence against the variant. Therefore, it is essential that government infrastructure is geared up to deliver boosters on a war-like scale.

The military as well as volunteers will be assisting the NHS deliver ‘shots into arms’


“The system clearly needs to be modernised to introduce more dynamism and flexibility like online booking systems, especially considering the numerous questions over how normalised regular jabs are going to become.
“After heeding our calls for walk-in centres and reactivation of the volunteer army, Labour’s Health Minister should now extend the hours during which people are vaccinated, making greater use of community pharmacists, reopening mass vaccination centres, and prioritising boosters over jabs for teenagers.
“We do not need more restrictions if a critical mass of people get their jabs. There is a duty on all those eligible to get their vaccination and the Labour Government has a responsibility to deliver the rollout rapidly. A free society and an open economy depend on it.”
The Welsh Liberal Democrats welcomed the accelerated vaccine booster targets but have also called for greater support to be provided to the hospitality industry over the winter.
Commenting Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS stated: “I welcome the Welsh Government’s new target to offer every adult a booster vaccine by the end of December, vaccinations remain the best way out of this crisis.
“However, we would also like to see more financial support offered to hospitality firms being hit by reduced footfall due to concerns over Omicron. Despite no lockdown being in place pubs and restaurants are concerned about a drop off in trade during what is usually their busiest time of year, following fresh work-from-home guidance.
“Firms have already paid for stock for the Christmas period in the wake of supply chain disruptions. Much of this can’t be stored for the future, and even the small proportion that can will cause immediate cash flow disruption in already struggling businesses.”

A technician uses a single channel pipette dropper to test for Omicron


GMB Union said it encourages everyone to get their booster – but says frontline workers need a pay boost too.
Rehana Azam, GMB National Secretary, said: “There has been no respite for our frontline workers throughout the covid pandemic.
“They’ve put themselves in harm’s way to serve the public – particularly when governments and employers failed to ensure the provision of proper PPE and testing to keep them safe at work.
“GMB members know the importance of keeping safe and well, that’s why we’re encouraging everyone across the four nations to get their booster.
“But as governments, yet again, ask our NHS, social care and key frontline workers to undertake another huge national effort, they are still not paying these workers properly.
“Against the backdrop of covid, there is a cost-of-living crisis, key services face an understaffing crisis and the people delivering them are enduring a wage crisis.
“That’s not good enough and it’s got to be confronted.
“Our key workers must be paid properly – it’s the least they deserve for everything they are doing for all of us.”

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Community

Go Wild for Beat the Street Llanelli

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PARTICIPANTS in the Beat the Street Llanelli are invited to Go Wild this week!

The themed week starts on Wednesday, October 19, with the aim of encouraging local residents to explore their local parks, waterways and green spaces. Beat the Street players are invited to score double points this weekend on Beat Boxes in parks, green spaces and along the seafront.

Already, more than 6,200 people have signed up to the real-life interactive physical activity game and have together walked, cycled and rolled nearly 30,000 active travel miles. The community’s efforts mean that organisers of the game have donated £100 to three local charities; Tyisha Foodbank, Calon and Mind. A further £100 will be donated to all three when the total mileage reaches 45,000 miles!

There are also total and average points leaderboards for school, community, workplace teams and individuals with prizes for sports or book vouchers for the teams that top the tables at the end of the six-week competition.

Currently, Ysgol Gymraeg Ffwrnes leads the total points leaderboard, with Llangennech in second place and Stebonheath CP School in third. Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel is in fourth place on the total points leaderboard and eight on the average points leaderboard.

Zoe Jermin-Jones, Assistant Headteacher at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel, said: “We think that this fun, innovative idea is fantastic! Our learners at Ysgol Gymraeg Brynsierfel have told us that the idea of competing in a town-wide game is really exciting! They are involving parents, family members and friends,  and are telling us everything about how people are getting out and about, walking, cycling and scooting. Our teachers can even be seen taking walks around Llwynhendy during their lunch breaks. We have received nothing but positive feedback from all involved. 

Beat the Street is a truly wonderful resource that improves both physical and mental wellbeing. We’re looking forward to future Beat the Street games already!”

Beat the Street Llanelli: commissioned by Carmarthenshire County Council, supported by Sport Wales, provided by Intelligent Health.

Paolo Piana, Chair, Llanelli Community Partnership, said: “We’re delighted to support the Beat the Street programme and it’s great to see people out exercising and exploring new areas. It’s amazing how we tend to stick to the same tried and tested routes and how the game has opened up the idea of exploring the town on foot, which reveals new areas and parks you might not have known about, even if you’ve lived here for years.

“Beat the Street is a positive and community-focused way of encouraging people to get more active, by walking, cycling, rolling and wheeling around this beautiful area.”

Anyone of any age is invited to take part in the free game and you can still get involved for the remaining weeks. Just pick up a card from one of the distribution points listed at www.beatthestreet.me/llanelli, register your card, join a team and get playing! For more information, news and FAQs, follow @BTSLlanelli on social media.

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Health

Hywel Dda Health Board confirms Bank holiday arrangements

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FOLLOWING confirmation that Monday, 19 September, will be a Bank Holiday to mark the Queen’s State Funeral, the Health Board is contacting all patients to confirm or re-arrange their appointments, depending on service availability. Whilst all emergency services will be operating as normal, we need to adjust some elements of our planned care services and prioritise patients with urgent care needs wherever possible.

Our Chemotherapy Units will be operating as normal on Monday and some surgery for urgent cases will take place at our hospitals.

Where appointments need to be re-scheduled, patients are being contacted over the coming days by the relevant team to re-arrange their appointment as quickly as possible. In some cases, this may mean bringing appointments forward to this week. Some face-to-face outpatient appointments will still go ahead, and some may be held as an online/virtual appointment on Monday.

If you have an appointment on Monday, and have not been contacted by 1pm on Friday, please contact the health board’s communication hub on 0300 3038322 or email ask.hdd@wales.nhs.uk for further information and guidance. Staff at the communication hub are available to answer calls between 10am-4pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. We are contacting all patients by telephone or text message, please check your telephone for any messages.

As GP surgeries and most Community Pharmacies and Dental services will be closed on Monday, a Bank Holiday out of hours service will be provided. Individuals requiring repeat prescriptions are encouraged to arrange them in advance.

All urgent and emergency care services will continue as normal. If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can visit the online symptom checker or call NHS 111. The Minor Injury Units at acute hospital sites will be open as usual. Opening hours for community walk-in services can be found on the health board’s website. Please attend an Emergency Department, or call 999, if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury, such as: 

Severe breathing difficulties 

  • Severe pain or bleeding 
  • Chest pain or a suspected stroke 
  • Serious trauma injuries (e.g. from a car crash)

We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your support and patience.

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Health

Autumn Covid-19 booster roll-out begins today in Wales

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THE ROLL-out of the autumn Covid-19 booster has started today (September 1) in Wales with care home residents and staff across Wales the first to receive the vaccine.

Everyone who is eligible for the autumn booster will be invited for a vaccination by their health boards. Invitations will be issued in order of vulnerability, with everyone eligible being offered a booster vaccine by December.

The vaccine will help support the immunity of all those who are at higher risk from COVID-19, improving their protection against severe illness, while also helping to support the NHS during winter 2022-23.

This autumn, in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine booster will be offered to:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • People aged five to 49 years who are in a clinical risk group
  • People aged five to 49 years who are household contacts of people who are  immunosuppression
  • People aged 16 to49 who are carers.

In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), eligible adults aged 18 and over will initially be offered the Moderna vaccine which protects from both the original strain of coronavirus and the Omicron variant. Those eligible aged under 18 will be offered the Pfizer vaccine. Both vaccines will be offered at least three months after a previous dose.

The vaccines will be administered in a variety of settings including GP surgeries and vaccination centres.

The winter respiratory vaccination strategy will ensure all those eligible for the autumn booster are also protected from seasonal flu – people are being encouraged to take up the flu vaccine when offered. All those eligible for a flu vaccine will be offered it before the end of the year.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Our winter respiratory vaccination programme will help protect the most vulnerable in our communities from flu and coronavirus this winter.  The COVID-19 booster campaign will start with those in care homes, alongside those working within the NHS and the social care sector.

“Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic – they have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives.

“I want to thank everyone working in the NHS and other organisations who will once again lead efforts to protect the most vulnerable through vaccination.

“This year, we will  once again offer an expanded flu programme, with 1.5 million people being eligible for a free vaccine.

I would encourage anyone who is eligible to take up their invitation to help themselves.

“All eligible adults will be invited for their autumn COVID-19 booster via letter and text message from their health board by December and I would ask people not to contact their GPs about their invite so they can continue to focus on looking after people’s health.”

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