‘Just a matter of time’ until cases of monkeypox arrives in Wales says First Minister
It is “just a matter of time” until the first class of monkeypox are confirmed in Wales, the First Minister has said.
However, he said that Wales was in a fortunate position of having been able to prepare in advance of its first cases.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said on Monday that confirmed monkeypox cases in the UK had more than doubled to 57, including the first cases in Scotland.
Health officials said that while the outbreak is “significant and concerning”, the risk to the population remains low.
Speaking at First Minister’s questions, Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price raised the issue, saying that “this unusual multiplication of the virus will be familiar and seem like an echo of early 2020”.
Mark Drakeford responded that “we’ve had no confirmed cases of monkeypox yet in Wales, but when I discussed this yesterday with the Health Minister and the deputy chief medical officer, he was very clear with us that this was just a matter of time.
“Wales is not immune from a disease of this sort. We’re in the fortunate position, if that’s the right way to put it, that, with cases occurring elsewhere in the United Kingdom, we’ve been able to put our response in place in advance of cases coming to Wales, and that is exactly what we were discussing yesterday.
“The actions being taken by Public Health Wales, by our health boards, to mobilise a public health response for dealing with cases of monkeypox if and when they do arise in Wales.”
Adam Price said that the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS agency had expressed concern that some of the reporting and commentary on monkeypox has used language and imagery that was “discriminatory, reinforcing homophobic and racist stereotypes that are not just wrong, but also undermine our ability to respond”.
“Can you set out the public measures that you are taking as a Government, emphasising that while anyone can get the disease, no-one should be prevented from coming forward to get the medical help they need, and help us prevent onward transmission, because they fear being blamed or stigmatised?” Adam Price asked.
UNAIDS had said that “a significant proportion” of recent monkeypox cases have been identified among gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.
But transmission was most likely via close physical contact with a monkeypox sufferer and could affect anyone, it added, saying some portrayals of Africans and LGBTI people “reinforce homophobic and racist stereotypes and exacerbate stigma”.
Mark Drakeford responded to Adam Price: “The fact that cases may predominantly arise in one part of the population is no guarantee at all that they don’t arise in other parts of the population.
“Nobody should feel that they are inhibited from coming forward for the help that they will need for what is, as we are told, a rare and not normally an exceptionally serious condition, but a very unpleasant and disturbing one.
“Nobody should be prevented from coming forward for help by any of the way in which this may be poorly reported.”
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