News in brief: Delta variant cases in Wales more than double in the last seven days
Another big jump in the number of cases of the Delta Covid variant has been confirmed in the latest figures from Public Health Wales.
In the last seven days a further 961 cases of the highly transmissible mutation have been identified, taking the total number of cases in Wales to 1,749 an increase of 122% on the previous week.
The Delta variant, that was first identified in India in April, has become the dominant variant in Wales over the last month and for the latest week the Alpha (Kent) and Beta (South African) variants, accounted for just 70 cases.
In the week up 26 June, 2,096 people have tested positive for Covid in Wales, the highest number since mid-February.
PHW is reporting 481 new cases in the last 24 hours, with further rises in the north of the country where a number of Delta outbreaks have been a cause for concern.
Cardiff (64) recorded the highest number of new positive tests for the virus yesterday, followed by Wrexham (62) and Flintshire (57).
Flintshire continues to have the highest weekly case rate in the country at 157.6 per 100,000 people, a rise from 155.7 yesterday and the positivity rate is also the worst in Wales at 8.5% up 0.1%, in the last 24 hours.
Wrexham’s case rate has risen from 131.7 to 139.8 since yesterday’s update and the rate in Denbighshire has climbed from 120.2. to 131.7.
Wales national case rate is up from 64.8 to 66.5 and the positivity rate is up 0.2% at 4.4%.
Despite the increase in case rates, the numbers of Covid patients in Wales’ hospitals is the lowest since the start of the pandemic, reflecting the impact of the mass vaccination programme.
Covid vaccine booster programme could start by September
People in Wales could start receiving Covid booster jabs by September after the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation issued interim advice in support of a third dose for people most vulnerable to the virus.
Plans are being drawn up for the booster dose to be offered alongside winter flu jabs, which will again be extended to all over-50s in anticipation of a severe season this winter.
The JCVI has recommended booster jabs are rolled out first to frontline health and social care workers, those in older people’s care homes, the clinically extremely vulnerable and those over 70, followed by all adults aged over 50.
“We will be working with health boards to ensure they are ready to deliver a booster programme from the start of September in line with this advice,” Health Minister Eluned Morgan said.
Health officials say that any booster is likely to be a single shot, making the rollout faster and as most younger adults will not receive their second dose until later in the summer, they may not need a booster this year.
According to Public Health Wales, about 72% people (2,257,737) in Wales have now had at least one Covid vaccine, while 1,659,754 (53%) have had both jabs.
Research launched into use of Lateral Flow Covid tests in Wales
The government has launched a new survey to gain a better understanding of the use of Lateral Flow Covid tests in Wales.
Health and social care workers, education staff, students and workers in the public and private sector have been provided with LFDs for regular use, usually twice weekly, since the start of the year.
The tests are offered to people who do not have any symptoms of the virus and are used to identify new cases and reduce transmission.
Since 1 January 2021 2.7 million LFD tests have been registered in Wales resulting in 2,400 positive results, with an overall positivity rate of 0.13% but recent results have confirmed infections are rising.
Over the week ending 20 June 315 positive episodes were registered with a positivity rate of 0.27%.
“People are required to report the results of their LFD tests whether positive or negative on a UK government website but we are concerned not all are reporting the results, particularly if they are negative,” Health Minister Eluned Morgan said in a written statement.
“The number of tests registered in Wales has seen an overall increase over time but we recognise further improvements are needed and will be undertaking further communication and engagement work to stress the importance of reporting results.
“We are also working on our communications to improve participation in testing and ensuring understanding of the need to register both negative and positive results,” she added.
“These actions will help us improve the experience and benefits of regular asymptomatic testing.”
New Wildlife and Rural Crime Coordinator gets to work
Rob Taylor, Wales first Wildlife and Rural Crime Coordinator, says he is relishing the challenge offered by his new role.
Mr Taylor, who was responsible for establishing the current North Wales Police Rural Crime Team, will take on responsibility for coordinating the wildlife and rural work of the police and key partner agencies to reduce crime and its impact on rural communities across the country.
He will also coordinate Wales first Wildlife and Rural Crime Strategy and work with school officers to help children get a better understanding of what wildlife and rural crime is and how it affects communities.
“Policing our countryside and protecting our wildlife is something that I am passionate about,” Mr Taylor said.
“Wales has seen significant progress in regards to rural crime prevention, but we still have work to do in regards to offences such as livestock attacks and wildlife offences.
“I relish the opportunity I have been given and look forward to working closely with others and to making a positive difference here in Wales.”
New cinema get the green light despite soaring costs
Hannah Neary, local democracy reporter
Councillors have agreed to invest an extra £600,000 on building a 70-seat cinema at Pontardawe Arts Centre.
Neath Port Talbot Council’s cabinet voted in favour of investing more than double the previously estimated cost into the project during a meeting on Wednesday June 30.
Labour councillor Sandra Miller said: “I know it’s more costly, however, what we’re going to get out of it is going to be a project that is pivotal to the area and future valley activity.
“Having frequented the arts centre previously, it was never suitable for disabled people etc so we’re seeing some real improvements here and hopefully it will go from strength to strength.”
Bristol-based architects Childs Sulzmann were appointed to develop the project in September 2020 and have requested more than double the previous estimate to complete the works, which will include ground flood refurbishments.
The council agreed to invest £500,000 in the development in November 2019 but it now requires a further £600,000. The previously agreed cost of the new cinema was based on estimates by consultants employed by the Arts Council for Wales, who will invest £3000,000 into the project.
According to a report by Andrew Thomas, the council’s director of education, leisure and lifelong learning, the latest budget estimated cost for the new cinema is £1,317,076, with an extra £100,000 contingency figure.
“The cost is far in excess of what we thought the original budget would be,” said Mr Thomas.
“It isn’t just to deliver the cinema there is some remodelling work of the arts centre involved in this scheme to make the cinema better from a customer flow point of view. It’s just a much more complicated technical project than first thought.”
He added that council officers did not think the original budget estimate would be enough to deliver the project “but the Arts Council were insistent that if they were going to put their capital funding in then they wanted to do it their way and that’s what had to happen”.
“Our technical boys always thought that the budget cost was never enough but we did have to tow the line from the Arts Council if we were to secure their funding.”
Paul Dorrell, the council’s project director, said the first study was carried out by De Matos Ryan, who carried out “a basic feasibility study” on behalf of the Arts Council for Wales. He said the study left out a lot of factors such as a breakout space, ancillary toilets, work to the external plant and demolition of existing services.