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Legal pandemic rules to be removed at end of month – but strong advice will remain

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THE FIRST MINISTER has said Wales will “move away from legal requirements” on the pandemic response, but still expects “most people to continue to do what is asked for them to behave respectfully of other people”.

The First Minister Mark Drakeford made the comments during the live briefing at lunchtime, adding, “With nearly 1000 people in a hospital bed associated with COVID-19 the pressures that creates in the wider NHS remain very real, and with some serious and continuing knock on consequences on other health services and treatments.

“The public health situation has improved thanks to the efforts that we have all made together in Wales over recent months. The result is that in this latest three week review of the regulations, Wales can remain at alert level zero.”

“Now that combination of high vaccination rates and improving level of infections means that we are able to think about moving beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.

“This does not mean that the pandemic is over. But, it does mean that we are able to think now about how we can live safely with the virus just as we live with other infectious illnesses. Today we’ve published a plan that sets out how we can do this, while ensuring that we can respond quickly if a new variant emerges. Or, if we have another pandemic wave putting unsustainable pressure on our NHS.

“If the public health position remains favorable, we will start this transition by removing the legal underpinning of the measures we have lived with for the last two years and will remove the legal requirements from the 28th of March.”

The First Minister detailed that from that date the legal requirement to wear face coverings will end, the legal requirement to self isolate will end, and the legal requirement for businesses to carry out specific covid risk assessments and take reasonable measures will end as well.

With the legal regulation frameworks being withdrawn the First Minister went on to explain strong advice would remain, “I wanted to be clear that the ways we have learned to behave and which have kept us safe during the pandemic will continue to be important after the 28th of March.

“While we have moved away from legal requirements, the Welsh Government will continue to provide guidance, which will make it clear for example that we should self isolate if we are ill with the virus, businesses and employers will still be subject to the general health and safety requirements. Schools will continue to operate using the national framework, and for now, we’re recommending the face coverings continue to be worn in communal indoor areas by all staff and secondary school age students.”

On testing he explained from the 28th of March, the routine use of PCR tests for the general public will come to an end. Lateral flow tests instead will continue to be available free online for anyone with symptoms. PCR testing will continue to be used to test patients admitted to hospitals, to test health and social care staff, care home residents and others in vulnerable settings.

He wrapped up his opening remarks by saying, “Now as we approach the second anniversary of the pandemic, we can look forward with growing confidence that the next year will be one in which we will have this very different relationship with the virus as we move beyond the emergency response.

“I know that some people, especially the most vulnerable and those who have been shielding will be anxious about this process, I want to be clear that the plan that we have set out will go on protecting your health and well being as we all learn to live safely with the virus.

“Together, we can go on keeping one another safe.”

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Health

Those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster should get jabbed by end of June

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ALL those eligible for the Spring Covid-19 booster are being urged to take up their offer of the vaccine before the end of next month.

A deadline of 30 June has been introduced to ensure all those eligible for the spring booster will have a long-enough interval between this and the autumn 2022 booster, if they are also eligible.

An announcement by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) about which groups will be eligible for the autumn booster is due to be published shortly.

The JCVI has advised that people over-75, older care home residents and all those aged 12 years and over who are immunosuppressed are eligible for the spring booster.

Those who are 75 on or before 30 June, can get their booster at any point up to the deadline.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “It is important we continue our very high take up levels of the vaccine to help protect us against the risk of serious illness from Covid-19. I would urge everyone who is offered a spring booster vaccination takes up the invitation.”

If someone eligible for a spring booster has had a Covid infection recently, they will need to wait 28 days from the date they tested positive before they can be vaccinated. They will still be able to get vaccinated after 30 June as part of this campaign if they have to postpone their appointment.

All those eligible for spring boosters will be invited by their health board or GP.

It is not too late for anyone who needs a primary dose (first, second or third) to be vaccinated.

Please check for local arrangements.

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Health

Young people in Wales being failed when moving from child to adult mental health services

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MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES are failing young people when they move from child to adult services, says a mental health charity.

Mind Cymru is calling for Welsh Government to make urgent changes to improve the system.

Nia Evans, Children and Young People Manager at Mind Cymru, said: “Young people have told us that their needs, thoughts, and feelings about moving to adult services are often unheard, or ignored.

“Welsh Government must support Local Health Boards to make sure this doesn’t happen, change the way services are run and make sure our young people are being heard and properly cared for.”

Mind Cymru has published a report, in ate the result of interviews with young people about their experiences of moving from Specialist Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services – (SCAMHS) to AMHS.

They highlighted five key areas where services are failing young people:
– Poor information offered to young people, particularly on their rights
– Inconsistent use and follow through of care and treatment plans
– High thresholds for SCAMHS and AMHS referrals to be accepted
– Feeling abandoned / cut off from SCAMHS
– Age still dominates decision making process for moving from SCAMHS to AMHS

Nia Evans said: “Any one of these issues could make the process of moving from children’s services to adult services difficult for our young people. But often, more than one is happening at any one time.”

“Our young people have a right to care and support from a mental health system that has been put in place to help them recover. Action must be taken immediately to make sure support systems are robust and doing the job they were designed to do.”

Mind Cymru is asking people to email their Member of the Senedd (MS) and amplify the voices of these young people whose experiences are often unheard, and use the #SortTheSwitch hashtag on social media.

The full report is available here, including what a good move from SCAMHS to AMHS would look like for young people, and where the current system could improve.

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Community

Extension of shuttle bus from Llanelli to vaccination centre

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HYWEL DDA University Health Board (HDUHB) has extended the free shuttle bus service between Llanelli town centre and the mass vaccination centre in Dafen to help people access their COVID-19 vaccination as easily as possible.

The shuttle bus, provided by Dolen Teifi , will continue to run between 10.30am to 4.40pm, seven days a week. Please note there will be no service at 12pm from town or at 12.15pm from the mass vaccination centre to allow the drivers a lunch break.

People can board the shuttle bus on the hour and at half-past the hour at Church Street, outside Llanelli Magistrates Court SA15 3AW. The shuttle bus will leave the mass vaccination centre quarter past and quarter to the hour, returning to the town centre and dropping passengers off opposite Llanelli library.

Bethan Lewis, Interim Assistant Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “We need as many people as possible attending their COVID-19 vaccine appointments, or dropping in if eligible.

“This shuttle bus service is one of many additional resources and services being put in place across the Hywel Dda region to help support more people to receive their COVID-19 vaccination. I am pleased the shuttle bus service has been extended to help people reliant on public transport to access their COVID-19 vaccine.”

On February 21, 2022, the JCVI published a statement, recommending an additional spring booster.

Strict COVID-19 safety measures will be in place to ensure the safety of drivers and passengers on this service:

  • All passengers and drivers must wear a face covering, unless medically exempt
  • A maximum of 14 passengers will allowed per journey
  • A screen will be in place between driver and passengers
  • Passengers should only use this service if they are fit and well on the day

Before travelling without an appointment to Dafen mass vaccination centre, we advise checking the health board’s website for up-to-date information such as vaccine eligibility and drop-in opening times  https://hduhb.nhs.wales/covid19-vaccination

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