News in brief: Covid cases drop to levels last seen in September as 1m vaccine target is passed
The number of new cases of Covid-19 reported in Wales has dropped to levels last seen in mid-September.
According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales 1,407 people tested positive for the virus over the last seven days, the lowest since 13 September when the weekly total was 1,092.
There have also been no further deaths due to Covid for the first time since early September.
The overall weekly case rate across Wales has dropped to 49.8 per 100,000 people and the positive test proportion is 3.6% for every 100,000 tests.
“While this is encouraging news, it should be noted that there is often a lag in reporting deaths following the weekend,” Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales said.
“The weekly incidence of COVID-19 infections is now below 50 cases per 100,000 population in more than half of the local authorities in Wales, with the overall rate at 44.6 cases per 100,000.
“This does vary between local authority areas and therefore we remind the public that Level 4 restrictions are still in place. You should stay at home, work from home if you can, wear a face covering where required, wash your hands regularly and stay two metres from anyone you do not live with. “
Gwynedd remains the area with the highest infection rate in Wales at 77.1 for the week, down from 85.1 yesterday and it also has the highest positive test rate at 8.6%.
Today also marks a significant milestone in the vaccine rollout in Wales as the number of people to receive at least one dose climbs above the one million mark.
Figures up to yesterday evening recorded 998,296 people had received one jab and 183,739 had both doses.
New Welsh border control posts are yet to get the green light
The Welsh government has confirmed work is yet to commence on construction of the two border control posts that will be used to inspect imports from the EU from 1 July.
Exports into the EU from the UK have been subject to controls since 1 January under the terms of the post-Brexit trade agreement, but the British government delayed putting import controls in place to give businesses time to prepare for the new measures.
Thirty designated border control posts across the UK are due to undertake checks on goods, plants and animals entering from the EU from 1 July, but planning permission has yet to be submitted for the two Welsh BCPs and work has commenced at just a handful of ports elsewhere.
All Border control posts must be biosecure so that inspection of live animals, meat and plants can take place without risk of contamination, with vets on hand to carry out the controls and must offer large parking areas for HGVs.
The location of the site in south-west Wales, which will serve Fishguard and Pembroke has not been confirmed yet and it also remains unclear where the BCP in Holyhead will be built.
The Welsh government said an announcement was expected shortly on the two BCPs in Wales but confirmed that “a consultation and planning process” would precede the start of construction.
“It’s obvious not all of the facilities are going to be ready; how much of it will be is still up for debate, ”Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the trade body British Ports Association told the Guardian. “Our frustration with government is they are not willing to share what the plan B is.”
A UK government source confirmed at the weekend that a review of the current proposals had begun due to fears of potential food shortages in the summer.
Conservatives pledge to champion gender parity in Wales
Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS has marked International Women’s day by pledging the party will “champion” gender parity in Wales.
“This world event offers us the opportunity to recognise, and pay tribute to, the immense social, economic, cultural and political contribution of women,” Mr Davies said.
“Whilst great strides have been made in Wales and across much of the world in recent years towards gender parity, we know there is so much more to do.
“There is still implicit, unspoken discrimination which in today’s world is unacceptable and ensures we do not unleash our people and our country’s true potential. We can and will do better.
“Welsh Conservatives are committed to creating a more equal society in Wales. We will fight on all fronts and ensure action is taken to tackle issues such as the gender pay gap, that more female appointments are made to public and sponsored boards, and to act as champions of gender parity and equality in Wales.”
New fund launched to provide Microprocessor Controlled Prosthetic Knees
Health Minister Vaughan Gething has announced a new £700k fund to provide specialist Microprocessor Controlled Prosthetic Knees (MPK) to eligible patients.
Currently the MPK are available to veterans who live in Wales who were injured in service.
This type of prosthetic knee improves people’s mobility and function by using computer technology to provide enhanced stability and safer walking, making it easier for the user to navigate slopes, stairs and uneven terrain with greater stability.
The fund will be available from 1st April to those eligible via the NHS Prosthetic and Amputee Rehabilitation services, which are delivered in-house by three specialist Artificial Limb and Appliance Centres (ALACs) located in Cardiff, Swansea and Wrexham.
Minister for Health and Social Service, Vaughan Gething, said: “The funding announced today will make a huge difference to those who are eligible for the Microprocessor Controlled Prosthetic Knees (MPK).
“This type of knee improves the quality of life for the individual and their families, enabling them to live as independently as possible. I am delighted that from 1st April all health boards in Wales will be able to access the fund.”