News in brief: Decision on Covid jabs for 12 to 15-year-olds expected next week
The Welsh government is ready to start vaccinating 12 to 15-year-olds as early as next week, according to the First Minister.
“The four UK chief medical officers are continuing to discuss and take further expert evidence about whether the vaccine should be available to 12 to 15-year-olds,” Mark Drakeford told reporters at today’s press briefing.
“We are expecting a decision next week and, if the roll out is agreed, the NHS here, will be ready to begin.”
According to the latest figures, under-19s currently make up the largest proportion of cases across Wales, accounting for 31% of all new positive tests and Mr Drakeford said it was concerning that some people are still not taking up the offer of a jab.
“We know that many who are admitted to hospital have not been vaccinated – and many are those are young people under the age of 30.
“It is never too late to be vaccinated in Wales – so please take this important step to protect yourself and your loved ones by getting vaccinated,” he said.
Mr Drakeford also revealed the government is expecting the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to confirm the arrangements for the autumn booster programme in the next few days.
“There is emerging evidence from Israel that the effectiveness of vaccines may start to decrease after eight months, making a booster jab important,” he said.
“We will start sending invitations out as soon as the announcement is made and our NHS has worked hard to make sure it can start the programme as soon as it gets the go ahead.”
ONS records 66% increase in Covid infections
Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have confirmed an increase in the number of people in Wales infected with Covid-19.
In the week ending 3 September, the ONS estimates that 46,800 people in Wales had Covid, up from 28,100 the previous week, an increase of 66% and accounting for 1.54% of the population or one in 65 people.
Scotland has the highest rate in the UK, with 117,300 estimated to have the virus, 2.23% of the population.
In Northern Ireland, 1.74 % of the community population had the virus, 31,800 people, while the Covid rate is lowest in England where 754,600 people were infected, 1.38%.
Meanwhile, Public Health Wales has confirmed five further deaths due to Covid-19 and 2,467 new cases of the virus in the last 24 hours.
The newly reported deaths take the total recorded in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 5,726.
Despite the surge in Covid cases in recent weeks, which has seen the case rate increase to the level seen at the peak of the second wave of the pandemic last winter, the average number of deaths is eight times lower than was recorded then – four deaths a day compared to an average of 32.
Merthyr continues to have the wort case rate in Wales at 795.7 down from 804 yesterday and the national case rate has risen to 522.7 from 501.8 yesterday.
Health board introduces visiting restrictions due to increase in Covid cases
Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board is introducing new visiting restrictions from today due to the growing number of Covid-19 cases.
From midnight, the board is asking people not to visit any of its hospitals, with the following exceptions:
The patient is receiving end-of-life care (visiting to be agreed with our Specialist Palliative Care In-Patient Services.
One partner or support person accompanying a woman once in established in labour, and in the immediate post-natal period prior to either transfer home or to the postnatal area. There will be no visiting to the antenatal or postnatal wards.
One partner attendance at ultrasound scan appointments will be limited to the appointments at 12 weeks (dating scan) and 20 weeks (anomaly scan) and some scans arranged via the Early Pregnancy Service.
Paediatrics and neonatal areas (one person only as agreed with the clinical team).
From Friday, all patients attending outpatient hospitals are also expected to do so alone.
A spokesman for the health board said: “Due to growing numbers of Covid 19 positive patients, both in our hospitals and our communities, Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board has taken the difficult decision to further restrict visiting to our hospitals.
“We have free Wifi across our sites and family and friends of patients are encouraged to keep in contact during this difficult time using online technology.
“We understand how difficult these visiting restrictions will be for families, but please support us to minimise the impact of the virus and keep people safe. We will provide regular updates as the situation changes.
“Our priority is always the health and safety of patients, visitors, those who use our services and our staff during this challenging time.”
The number of people with Covid requiring hospital treatment has more than doubled in the last week according to figures released by the Welsh Government and case rates are back at the levels seen as the peak of the pandemic’s second wave last winter.
More places for students is next step to north Wales medical school
Health Minister Eluned Morgan has announced more medical students will spend all of their training in north Wales as part of moves towards establishing a medical school there.
The Welsh Government’s current C21 North Wales training programme, which is delivered in partnership by Bangor and Cardiff Universities will be expended from 20 to 25 students this year and 40 students in next year’s intake.
The programme allows students to study for all of their medical degree in north Wales, with a greater focus on community medicine and a wide range of placements including a full year at a GP’s surgery.
“I want to give even more students the opportunity to study while embedded in our north Wales communities because we are committed to delivering care as close to people’s homes as possible, the minister said.
“We know there are challenges to recruiting staff to north Wales, which is why we want to nurture medical students educated here and encourage them to stay, first through the extremely successful C21 North Wales Programme, and longer term, through a north Wales medical school.
“The North Wales Medical School Task and Finish Group have reported back to me and I will be establishing a Programme Board to implement their recommendations and to work to establish an independent north Wales medical school.”
In May Jo Whitehead, CEO of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board, confirmed a new medical school in north Wales could be ready by 2025 and said the costs of the establishment would be released later in the year.
Wales star set to return to action after two years out with knee injury
Wales outside-half Gareth Anscombe will return to action after being sidelined for over two years with a series knee injury, as the Ospreys take on Northampton in a pre-season friendly this evening.
The 30-year-old joined Ospreys from Cardiff in the summer of 2019 but is yet to play for the region because of the injury suffered in a game against England at Twickenham in August 2019.
He aggravated the injury in October 2020 when it was confirmed he faced another year out after further surgery.
Anscombe was Wales starting fly-half in the 2019 Championship and scored 43 points in five appearances as Warren Gatland’s side won the Grand Slam.
Work begins on major redevelopment of paper mill
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Several buildings at a Flintshire-based paper mill look set to be demolished as part of a major redevelopment.
A series of upgrades are planned at UPM Shotton as new owners Eren Holding look to expand the range of products it produces.
The site on Deeside Industrial Park, which employs 190 people, was sold as part of an agreement by UPM earlier this year.
The mill currently produces newsprint paper but that is due to stop when Turkish industrial firm Eren takes over at the start of October.
It’s expected the demolition work could take up to six months, with the buildings earmarked to be removed including the two main paper mills and a goods warehouse.
A consultant acting on Eren’s behalf said the site upgrades would have a positive impact on the area.
In a letter to Flintshire Council, Elle Cass from SLR Consulting Limited said: “A justification for this demolition and any discussion of planning merits is not a requirement of this process.
“However, we consider that it is helpful to provide some context; particularly given the positive longer term economic and wider benefits of our client’s overall proposals.
“The demolition of these buildings is required in order to prepare for the part redevelopment of the site for new modern paper mill production which will be dealt with under a subsequent full planning application.
“Early demolition is being proposed to ensure that there is no delay in the redevelopment proposals and to minimise the duration of the temporary closure of the plant.
“This will ensure that the additional employment and investment proposed at the plant can be delivered in as timely a manner as possible, alongside the visual, environmental and sustainability benefits which the upgraded proposals will deliver.”
When the takeover was agreed in May, Eren said it planned to integrate the Shotton site into its existing business units and provide investment.
A commitment was also made that all employees would transfer to the new owners.
Council officials have been asked to consider whether the proposals should be classed as permitted development and therefore would not require prior approval.