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Self isolation period to reduce from 10 to 7 days in Wales following review

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THE WELSH GOVERNMENT have issued a formal three week review update on the coronavirus situation in Wales, announcing some changes.

Formally the regulations require a review ever 21 days, however recently the Welsh Government have been doing more frequent reviews. Today’s statement appears in line with the three weekly legal review period.

The update has come via a lengthy statement from First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, which in summary notes:

  • Self isolation period to reduce from 10 to 7 days on basis of two negative lateral flow tests taken on days six and seven
  • ‘marked increase’ in covid, attributed to Omicron
  • Case rate increasing in older people
  • Hospitalisations remain low ‘but are starting to increase’
  • Covid bed occupancy ‘has grown by a third over Christmas period’
  • Wales has ‘not seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 patients needing critical care’
  • Wales has ‘significant stock’ of lateral flow tests ‘sufficient’ for needs
  • 4,000,000 more being loaned to England to help shortages, taking total loaned to 10,000,000 in ‘mutual’ aid
  • Supply of such tests ‘responsibility of UK Government’ pointing to deliver and issues finding any at pharmacies.

The full statement from the First Minister is below:

“Since the last formal review of the regulations, the Cabinet has moved to a weekly review in response to the rapidly evolving public health situation and the emergence of the omicron variant.
Today, a review has taken place of the public health situation over the Christmas period. It has deteriorated in the last week as the omicron wave has arrived. We have seen a marked rise in cases of coronavirus – the majority are likely to be caused by the omicron variant.
This is similar to the position in the rest of the UK.
Over the last few days, record numbers of infections have been identified and the overall seven-day case rate has risen to more than 1,000 cases per 100,000 people across Wales.
Cases are highest among 20 to 29-year-olds and 30 to 39-year-olds. We are also starting to see the cases rates increase in the older age groups.
Hospitalisations remain lower than in previous waves, but these too are starting to increase. The overall Covid-19 bed occupancy has grown by a third over the Christmas period. This is a combination of both omicron and delta cases.
The number of confirmed Covid-19 patients in hospital has also increased to 446 on 29 December. This is 49% higher than the same day last week. We have not seen a rise in the number of Covid-19 patients needing critical care.
Enormous efforts have been made to provide booster vaccines to all eligible adults in the run-up to Christmas – almost 1.6m people have received a booster.
The concentrated attention on vaccination has also led to increases in the number of people coming forward for first and second vaccinations in December. It is never too late to be vaccinated in Wales.
I want to place on record my thanks to all those who have given up their time this Christmas to help protect others, and to all those people, in every part of Wales who have made coming forward for vaccination their priority too.
If you have not yet had your booster please make it a priority. It is the most important thing you can do to protect yourself against this awful virus.
Demand for PCR tests and for lateral flow devices continues to rise and has reached new record levels. Wales has a significant stock of lateral flow tests, sufficient to meet our needs over the weeks ahead.
The Health Minister has agreed today to loan a further four million such tests to the English NHS, bringing that mutual aid to 10 million lateral flow tests.
Distribution of lateral flow test kits through home delivery and pharmacies remains the responsibility of the UK Government and we are working with it, as it increases the capacity of the system.
Wales moved to alert level two on Boxing Day. The public health situation remains very volatile and the Christmas period is always one when collecting and analysing data is challenging.
Against this background, the outcome of the review is that we will continue with the current arrangements for alert level two protections in Wales, while continuing to closely monitor the situation.
The Health Minister published a written statement on 23 December about reducing the self-isolation period from 10 to seven days, on the basis of two negative lateral flow tests taken on days six and seven, from 5 January.
We will introduce this change tomorrow (31 December).
This means people who have tested positive for Covid-19 must self-isolate for seven days. On days six and seven of their self-isolation period they should take lateral flow tests and if these tests – taken 24 hours apart – are positive, they should continue to self-isolate.
We are bringing the change forward because the balance of harms has changed and the rising number of cases has begun to have an impact on the number of people, in critical jobs, who are excluded from the workplace because of self-isolation.
The Cabinet will continue to review the position in Wales on a weekly basis, as we see the omicron variant take hold across Wales. Given the seriousness of the threat the virus poses, it remains vitally important that each one of us continues to take all those simple precautions which will help to slow down the spread of the virus and the risks it poses to all of us.
This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should Members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.”
Commenting on the changes to the Labour Welsh Government’s isolation rules, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Russell George MS, said: “Along with the Health Minister, I extend our enormous gratitude to all the NHS professionals and volunteers who have spent the Christmas period looking after us in hospital, and keeping the vaccine programme rolling out. Your dedication and commitment will not be forgotten.
“We welcome the changes announced today that sees the self-isolation reduced by three days to enable those critical workers, to keep the economy turning and to maintain staff levels in the NHS. It is a shame that the Labour Government rejected this change last week but at least they have seen the evidence and changed their minds.
“However, the Labour Government needs to lead by example and publish the evidence they are receiving before making decisions, so that we can thoroughly scrutinise their actions. It is not good enough that they want to impose restrictions, which do not make sense, without showing us this crucial evidence to justify them.”

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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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