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Health

Coronavirus cases in Wales still lowest in UK says Health Minister

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WALES continues to have the lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today. 

The minister said the number of confirmed cases in Wales is currently 9.3 per 100,000 people. 

Eluned Morgan said: “The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is at the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  We have recently seen a period of 10 days where no new deaths from the virus were recorded – sadly Public Health Wales reported one death yesterday.

“These achievements reflect the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Over recent weeks we have however seen very troubling developments in relation to the so-called India variant of concern – or as the World Health Organisation has re-named it, the delta variant.  This is further proof that coronavirus has not gone away. 

“We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England.   We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.  

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK.  We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty.  It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June. 

“Whilst Wales is moving to alert level one as previously signalled, we will now do this in a phased way.  

“Changes to the regulations from 7 June therefore focused on easing restriction on outdoor events and activities.  The risk of transmission is much lower outdoors and these changes will allow people to take advantage of the summer.”

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.

Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated can also now take place.  This includes concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups. All organisers must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

Finally, provision now allows for extended household to be made up of three households who can meet and have contact indoors.  This is an increase from two households previously. 

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.   In line with the coronavirus control plan, at alert level one this would mean the rule of six would apply for meeting indoors in private homes and in holiday accommodation.

We will also consider increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.

This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of the delta variant to become available.  It will also allow time for more people to be vaccinated, which remains our best route out of the pandemic.

I am extremely grateful to Health Board vaccination teams, local partners and the many volunteers across the country for the incredible progress of our vaccination programme. 

At this rate, and subject to supply, we expect to have offered all adults 18 and over their first dose by early next week and to have hit our 3rd milestone of an uptake of 75% in all of the age ranges by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.  In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

We are currently recognised as the world Leader amongst countries over 1 million inhabitants.  We have vaccinated more than 86.5% of the adult population with their first dose and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

Yesterday I published an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. 

The updated strategy looks back at what has been achieved to date and sets out preparations for what comes next, potentially including a booster for our most vulnerable citizens and a vaccine for children and young people. We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.

Wales’ successful Test, Trace, Protect service was established a year ago.  The Welsh Government has allocated an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing this financial year to £92m.

On 2 June we also published a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy setting out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.   This includes strengthening and enhance the tracing of variants of concern, as well as the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries.

On 20 May I set-out plans for a £100m investment to kick-start the health and care system’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This money will provide for new equipment, staff, technology and ways of working to help health boards increase capacity and cut waiting times. 

As we begin resuming non-emergency care following the pandemic we have an opportunity to create a health and care system fit for the future.

Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine. 

Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.   It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.

Health

People urged to remain vigilant as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in Ceredigion

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Number of Covid-19 cases per 100,000 in Ceredigion.

A SIGNIFICANT increase of COVID-19 cases has been seen across Ceredigion lately.

Between 3 and 9 September 2021, Ceredigion saw the third largest increase of all Welsh Authorities, where the incidence increased by 132.1 cases per 100,000 compared to the previous 7 days.

There is a real concern regarding the number of cases amongst people under 25 years old who continue to be the age group with the highest number of cases – in the last 7 days, this accounted for 859.8 cases per 100,000 in Ceredigion.

We are also seeing a slow increase in the number of cases amongst people aged 60 and over.

There is also evidence of household transmission, so if someone is self-isolating in your household, make sure that you can keep as much social distance as possible, maintain good hygiene and keep your home well ventilated.

Get vaccinated

It is never too late to get your vaccine, this will give you the best protection against the virus as we look ahead to winter. 

Following a Welsh Government announcement this week, the vaccine will now be offered to 12-15 year olds in Wales. More information can be found here: https://gov.wales/written-statement-covid-19-vaccination-jcvi-chief-medical-officers-advice-vaccinating-12-15-year. Further information will be available shortly regarding the rollout in Ceredigion.

An autumn booster vaccine will also be offered to certain groups over the next few weeks. The booster vaccine aims to reduce the incidence of COVID-19 and maximise protection in those who are most vulnerable to serious infection. The booster vaccine will be offered initially to people living and working in care homes and frontline health and social care staff. Those who are eligible for the booster vaccine will be invited to attend a vaccination centre shortly. More information can be found here: https://gov.wales/written-statement-covid-19-vaccination-jcvi-announcement-autumn-booster-programme

Symptoms

If you develop any symptoms, self-isolate immediately and book a test via https://gov.wales/get-tested-coronavirus-covid-19 or by calling 119.

The main symptoms include a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss or change to smell or taste. You should also be mindful of symptoms including a sore throat, runny nose, headache, tiredness, shortness of breath, vomiting, diarrhoea and generally feeling unwell.

The COVID-19 vaccine offers you protection but also offers greater protection for your loved ones and our communities. Getting vaccinated saves lives.

Even if you’ve been double-vaccinated, please be respectful of others by washing your hands regularly, wearing a face mask where needed and keeping a social distance from other people.

By following these good practices we can all do our bit to keep Ceredigion safe.

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Health

Almost 22,000 Virtual Consultations carried out with patients over past 12 months

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A STAGGERING 21,685 consultations have been carried out virtually between medical staff and patients during the past 12 months in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

As part of the Welsh Government’s response to COVID-19, TEC Cymru and partners established the NHS Wales Video Consulting (VC) Service that provides safe access to healthcare online. The service is utilised across all health settings in Wales, including pharmacies, prisons, opticians, and dental practices.

Clinicians and patients in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area agreed that the greatest benefit of having a virtual consultation was the lowered risk of catching infection, with 93 percent saying they would be happy to use the VC Service again in the future.

Across Wales almost a quarter of a million video consultations have been held, with the highest number of users in physiotherapy as well as speech and language therapy.

The findings reinforce the Welsh Government’s Help Us, Help You campaign, which encourages people to get to know the breadth of NHS services and options available to them through the NHS 111 Wales website.   

Health Minister, Eluned Morgan, said, “This useful evaluation shows promising results on the use of video consultation in healthcare settings. It’s encouraging to see that this service has been highly rated by both patients and clinicians and I hope that it will continue to be used and developed beyond the pandemic to allow wider access to healthcare services.”

The evaluation of the service showed it is well accepted across a wide range of care sectors and specialities and is clinically suitable for a wide range of patient demographic groups regardless of health status, age, gender, ethnicity, household income, and place (urban/rural).

Gemma Johns, TEC Cymru Research & Evaluation Lead said, “TEC Cymru follow a robust phased approach to its Research and Evaluation. We learn more as we move through each phase and utilise each dataset to support local Health Boards to make better informed decisions for their staff and patients.

“In the new Phase 2a evaluation VC report, we have been able to deep dive into patient and clinician experiences and identify how the benefits clearly outweigh the challenges. We have been able to demonstrate how well VC is working for our Welsh patients and clinicians and also the opportunity to challenge many assumptions on digital exclusion in Wales. The findings in this report seek to support Health Boards and the Welsh Government on future decisions and ways of working in NHS Wales and the sustainable use of VC moving forward.”

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said, “If you are offered a video consultation appointment this is because your Health Care Professional has indicated that is it safe and appropriate to do so. Your video appointment will be confidential and will not be recorded.

“By putting off small problems or regular appointments you could potentially be putting more strain on NHS emergency services so please, help us, help you, do not put anything off. Local GP surgeries are open and are there to offer medical advice and consult patients.”

Have you used the VC service? A series of focus groups is being held online throughout August for anyone who has used the VC service to share their experience. Find more information on how to get involved here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/phase-2-data-follow-up-groups-tickets-159459861739

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Community

A reminder to residents and visitors as the number of Delta cases increase

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CEREDIGION is starting to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ceredigion and across Wales over recent days. The Delta variant has been detected in Ceredigion; a different variant which causes a wider range symptoms than previously, the Council has said.

We are becoming increasingly concerned about this increase; the current rate per 100 thousand of the population is 33 and this is likely to increase further over the coming days. This is a significant rise, considering at the beginning of June the rate per 100 thousand of the population was as low as 2.8 per 100 thousand.

The new variant of COVID-19 is in all parts of Wales. It spreads faster and we need to be more vigilant and ensure that we follow the most recent guidelines which are as follows:

·       Only members of your extended household can enter your home.

·       Face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that are open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), and on public transport and in taxis.

·       People should try and work from home if they can.

·       People should maintain social distancing, including outdoors, and don’t mix with too many different groups of people.

·       People should wash their hands regularly and follow other advice on hygiene.

·       People must self-isolate when told to do so by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect or as soon as you develop symptoms

·       Book a test if you experience any of the symptoms.

Symptoms of the Delta variant of coronavirus include a headache, followed by sore throat, runny nose and fever. We are urging people who feel unwell with ANY of these symptoms to book a test, be extra cautious, social distance, and maintain good hand hygiene.

As everybody is making the most of a summer with more relaxed restrictions than at the start of the year, it’s still vital for everyone to remember we’re still battling this virus and trying to prevent the threat of a third wave. Limiting your contacts is essential for keeping the infection rate down and it’s how we will ultimately protect each and every one of us.

In Ceredigion, over 68% have received the first vaccine and over 44% have now received the second vaccine. A first dose of the vaccine is now available to everyone over 18. The second vaccine significantly improves your immunity, so it is important that you get your second dose to complete your course of vaccinations.

Getting both vaccine doses and following COVID-19 guidelines will protect us all against the new variant. Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDdUHB) are now running walk-in clinics for first and second dose vaccination from Monday 21 to Sunday 27 June. More information on the HDdUHB website.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

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