News in brief: Care home residents to get Covid-19 vaccinations within two weeks
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has approved the way doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine can be distributed to care home residents, meaning homes in Wales should be able to start vaccinating residents within two weeks.
Because of the way the vaccine doses are packed and the need for them to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, the regulator needed to approve the way in which they are broken down into smaller consignments for distribution to care homes.
The MHRA, has stipulated that the vaccine is repacked for shipping in refrigerated cold rooms at between 2 and 8C and transferred into carriers that maintain the same temperature.
The vaccine, which will start being distributed across Wales from next Tuesday, must also be used within 12 hours of being unpacked.
Dr Gill Richardson, co-chair of Wales’ Covid-19 Vaccine Programme Board, told the Senedd earlier in the week: “At the very beginning, in the first week of immunisation, we’ll be bringing people to the vaccine and that will include care home staff.
“And then as we learn more about the vaccine – and we are all learning at a UK level – it’s very much hoped that a mobile model can be developed so that we can safely deploy to care homes without putting care home residents at risk of bringing them to a centre unnecessarily.”
The initial delivery from Pfizer/BioNTech to the UK is expected to be 800,000 doses, of which just over 30,000 will be distributed in Wales.
The UK Government says further doses are expected later in the month but is unable to say how many or when they will arrive.
A further 24 people in Wales have died with coronavirus and 1,645 people have tested positive for the virus, according to the latest figures from Public Health Wales.
Cardiff (242) had the highest number of new cases in Wales, followed by Swansea (90) and Rhondda Cynon Taf (149).
There have been 1054 cases in the capital over the last seven days.
Neath Port Talbot has the highest weekly infection rate at 509.4, following 139 new cases yesterday and also has the highest positive test proportion in Wales, up from 23.7% to 24.4% per 100,000 tests since Friday’s report.
Lib Dems call for new electric vehicle charging points in Wales
Fresh demands for a large increase in the number of electric vehicles charging points across Wales have been made by the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
The Party is calling on the Welsh Government to ensure that no community is without access to an EV charging point by 2025 ahead of the ban on new petrol car sales due in 2030.
Analysis of figures by the Welsh Liberal Democrats has shown that Wales is already behind the rest of the UK and risks falling further behind unless the government and local authorities act.
Wales has only 3.3% of the UK’s charging points, significantly behind London and the south-east who between them have 39.6% of the UK’s share.
Of points installed in the last year London and the south-east received 45% of new charger capacity whilst Wales has received around 12%.
Over 1.8 million people living across nine council areas in South Wales have access to fewer than 100 charging sites, with large parts of the South Wales Valleys being completely isolated.
Welsh Liberal Democrat environment spokesperson Rodney Berman said: “Wales has been dragging its feet on this issue. We know that over the next few years there will be significantly more interest in electric vehicles ahead of the ban on new petrol cars in 2030.
“Unless Wales acts now, we will be storing up problems for the future. People across the rest of the UK are switching to electric vehicles, but for people in Wales to feel confident to make this switch we need urgent action to increase the number of charging points particularly for people who don’t have access to off-street parking.
“I want the Welsh Government over the next five years to ensure there is an ample network of public charging points across Wales so that the public are ready and feel confident enough to make the switch to electric vehicles.”
Earlier this week the Welsh Government published its strategy, including an investment of up to £30 million, to increase the number of electric car charging points available across the country.
Over the next decade the strategy identifies the need for between 30,000 and 50,000 fast chargers and 2,000 to 3,500 rapid/ultra-rapid chargers.
Christmas bubble boost for people living on their own
The government has made a change to the rules on how many households can come together over the Christmas holiday to help people who live on their own.
It was originally announced that from 23-27 December, three households can join together as one bubble for the holiday period.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has now confirmed that bubble can now be joined by a single person, single parent or someone with caring responsibilities, who would otherwise be on their own over Christmas.
Mr Drakeford said the change was “an important addition to the Christmas arrangements” to make sure such people were “not left out”.
Swansea schools report just 1.1% of pupils have tested positive for Covid since September
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Swansea Council says its schools continue to be a safe place during the coronavirus pandemic and confirmed that only 1.1% of pupils have tested positive for the virus since the start of term in September.
Swansea currently has the 5th highest infection rate in Wales at 366 cases per 100,000 people and the 3rd highest positive test rate at 20% per 100,000 tests.
Cllr Jennifer Raynor, Cabinet Member for Education Improvement, Learning & Skills told a meeting of full council that 365 out of 31,500 pupils, from reception to year 11, had tested positive for Covid-19 as of December 2.
This compared to 215 out of 3,570 school staff testing positive during that time – a 6% rate.
Cllr Raynor said 19,417 pupils and 871 school staff had been asked to isolate, in addition to the positive cases, as per the guidelines.
She added that schools had been commended by visiting Health and Safety Executive officers, and had followed Welsh Government advice to keep classes and year groups together.
“We really need to congratulate our schools, especially the teachers and heads, who have organised this absolutely brilliantly,” she said.
Cllr Raynor, who holds the education brief, said Public Health Wales had confirmed that most positive cases were in the community, as opposed to spreading within schools.
She thanked parents for their support when their children were isolating, which she said was “no mean feat”.
She said: “There are, however, cases where pupils have not been isolating, and families have not been quite as supportive.
“And there has been meeting up with other pupils from different classes, different year groups, different schools and there has been movement around families.
“So we request that the families limit the contact of their children within our communities.”