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News in brief: Concerns raised over the misuse of ‘prescription’ sedatives in Wales

12 Jul 2021 7 minutes Read
Photo by Pasi Mäenpää from Pixabay

A report published by Public Health Wales has warned of the dangers of buying “prescription” sedatives and says there has been a substantial increase in non-prescribed “prescription” medications being submitted to the drug testing service in Wales.

Benzodiazepines such as Diazepam, are the most commonly identified class of mind altering, psychoactive substances identified by WEDINOS, which allows drug users in Wales to anonymously send samples in for testing, and Diazepam was identified in 13 per cent of all community samples received over the past year.

Josie Smith, Head of Substance Misuse for Public Health Wales and Programme Lead for WEDINOS said the service was “aware of the high number of substitutions within benzodiazepines” and warned: “These products may contain varying amounts of active ingredient, substituted drugs with different onset and duration times, different strengths or combinations of substances making it hard for individuals to know what they are taking and to reduce potential harms associated with use.

“This is a real threat to an individual’s health including risks of the overdose and development of dependency,” she added.

Overdoses

This weekend Swansea Bay health board issued a warning after a man died, and 12 overdoses have been recorded there since last Wednesday.

Health officials say it is unclear what is behind the cases, but people were initially warned against a “bad batch” of fake anti-anxiety drugs, mis-sold as Valium and Xanax.

Swansea Bay health board’s director of public health, Keith Reid, said: “I would like to offer my sincere condolences to the family and friends of the person who has died. It’s important that we see drug use primarily as a public health problem and recognise its very real impact on individuals and families in our communities.

“This number of overdose cases in such a short time is highly concerning, and we don’t know clearly yet what drug or drugs may be behind it.

“So we are advising people to take extreme care. If you are using drugs, then please exercise great caution – especially if you have changed your supplier recently or you have been offered, or are using, a new drug.”

Rapid antigen test. Photo by Steve Nomax on Unsplash

Covid cases in Wales hit 23 week high

Public Health Wales has recorded, 1.190 new Covid cases in the 48 hours up to 9am yesterday.

In the seven days up to 7 July a total of 4,290 people tested positive for the virus, the highest weekly total since the week ending 24 January when 5,631 cases were detected.

Wrexham continues to have the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 329.5 per 100,000 people, an increase of 9.5 since yesterday’s report and the weekly positivity rate of 14.2% per 100,000 tests is also the worst in Wales and has gone up from 13.1% in Sunday’s update.

Following the surge in Covid cases across Wales in recent weeks, just seven of 22 local authority areas currently have case rates of under 100.

Meanwhile, the national case rate has jumped 9.1 to 136.1 since yesterday and the positive test rate is up 0.5% to 6.6%.

Photo by Alexander Droeger from Pixabay

Plaid back government over face mask announcement

Plaid Cymru has welcomed the government’s announcement yesterday that the mandatory wearing of face masks will remain in place for ‘certain settings’ even if a decision is made later in the week to relax restrictions with a move from an alert level one to zero.

On Friday, Education Minister Jeremy Miles announced that face coverings in classrooms in Wales will no longer be recommended when schools return from the summer break in September and  the UK government announced last week that it was removing all Covid restrictions, including wearing a face mask in all public spaces, later this month.

“We know that face coverings are a hugely important form of mitigation in the fight against Covid-19 as they help stop the virus spreading from an infected person, while also providing a degree of protection to the wearer against the virus. Plaid Cymru therefore welcomes the Welsh Government’s sensible decision to require the continued use of face coverings in certain settings as case numbers remain high,” Plaid’s Health spokesperson, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said.

“First-hand evidence shows, however, that current laws for social distancing and face coverings are not properly enforced in enclosed settings such as trains. Consistency on the part of the Welsh Government is therefore crucial if these measures are effective in keeping the virus at bay.”

“Consistency is also important when it comes to schools. To keep young people safe from the risks of long Covid, mandatory face coverings must continue in crowded educational settings such as school buses and corridors, as this is the one group not protected by vaccines.”

The announcement by First Minister Mark Drakeford, refers to the laws remaining in place for settings, ‘including public transport and taxis, and health and social care, as a minimum.’

The government also say that further consideration is being given as to whether face masks will be required in other settings such as retail.

Beddgelert, Gwynedd

North of Wales top choice for UK holidaymakers

North Wales is the most popular holiday destination for tourists from the UK this summer, according to a new survey.

With most international travel severely curtailed due to the Covid pandemic, almost two-thirds (62%) of holidaymakers intend to spend their main summer break in the UK this year, up from 50% in 2019.

Figures compiled by the Sykes Holiday Cottages 2021 Staycation Index also revealed tourists intend to spend an average of £940 on their main holiday, including accommodation, travel, food and drink and that the majority of respondents planned to take two holidays this year

The 10 most popular destinations in the UK this summer are:  

1 North Wales
2 Cumbria
3 Cornwall
4 Devon
5 North Yorkshire
6 Yorkshire Dales
7 Peak District
8 South Wales
9 East Anglia
10 Dorset

“We expect the shift towards holidays at home to stick and hope to continue to see staycation destinations outside of the usual honeypot locations grow in popularity in the years to come,” Graham Donoghue, the chief executive of Sykes Holiday Cottages said.

Trident submarine. Picture by BodgerBrooks (CC BY-SA 2.0).

Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter

Gwynedd councillors have unanimously backed calls on the UK Government to pursue nuclear disarmament.

Council members have supported a motion backing the Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, with an amendment urging UK ministers to scrap plans to replace its Trident nuclear arsenal.

Originally presented by Nefyn councillor Gruffydd Williams, the move will see a letter being sent to the UK Government to inform it of the resolution.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 for its work in encouraging most United Nations members to agree to the International Treaty to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons.

The treaty outlaws the use or threat to use nuclear arms, and bars signatories from allowing “any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices” on their territory.

But with the UK Government not in support, instead backing  a replacement of the Trident nuclear deterrent, this stance has been condemned by Gwynedd’s councillors.

The UK has said that while it remains committed to a nuclear-free world, the government does not believe the treaty will bring about an end to nuclear weapons and could undermine existing efforts to do so, such as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Cllr Williams, proposing the motion, said: “Several anti-nuclear groups and organisations have already backed what’s being presented in front of you today.

“The UK has not signed and failed to take part in discussions, stating it will never support, preferring to renew Trident despite the astronomical cost of £205bn.

“They are proposing killing on a scale we can’t comprehend but we can show humanitarian leadership as a council.”

Cllr Elin Walker proposed a slight amendment to Cllr Williams’ motion, which was backed by all members, adding that the UK Government should back the treaty on top of offering Gwynedd Council’s support.

The motion was backed by 53 councillors with none voting against and three abstentions.

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