News in brief: Doctors surgery handed Covid-19 improvement notice

Llanyravon Surgery. Photo Google Maps

A Cwmbran doctors surgery has been hit with a coronavirus improvement notice for failing to follow Welsh Government regulations.

Llanyravon Surgery on Llanyravon Way was handed the improvement notice yesterday, February 1, for failing to undertake a coronavirus specific risk assessment.

The surgery, which was temporary closed at the start of the new year due to high levels of staff shortages, has 14 days to make the necessary changes.

If the necessary changes are not made, then the surgery could be subject to further enforcement action.

But because the surgery is used to “provide essential public services” it will not be issued with a closure notice.

Llanyravon Surgery has until February 15 to make the necessary changes.

A second inspection will take place after time has been given to implement changes, at which point either the improvement notice is dropped, or further action could be taken to ensure compliance.

In normal circumstances Torfaen council has the option to issue a closure notice if the venue fails to comply with rules after being issued with an improvement notice. But these rules don’t apply to essential infrastructure or services.

Coronavirus cases in Wales

Proportion of Covid deaths in Wales reach new high

Covid-19 was involved in 41.5% of all deaths in Wales, the highest level since the start of the pandemic, according to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics.

In the study, which covered the week ending 22 January, there were 447 deaths involving Covid, 20 fewer than the previous week, which was the highest recorded since the start of the pandemic last March.

It was still the third highest total registered during the pandemic but the first time the weekly total has fallen since 4 December.

In Wales, the number of deaths from all causes fell from 1,170 to 1,077, 265 deaths (32.6%) above the five-year average for the week.

The total number of deaths occurring involving Covid-19 in Wales has now risen to 6,473 people, according to the ONS.

Deaths counted by the ONS are when Covid-19 is mentioned by doctors on the death certificate and which occur in all settings – including hospitals, care homes, hospices and people’s homes.

The daily figures release by Public Health Wales only include the deaths of a hospital patients or care home resident where COVID-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death.

According to PHW’s latest figures there have been 4,782 deaths due to the virus since March last year, including seven newly reported deaths since yesterday.

Today’s update also recorded 614 new positive tests for the virus, taking the total number of cases to 193,526.

Overall, 439,640 people have now received their first coronavirus vaccine dose, with 1,066 receiving their second.

Four of the newly reported deaths were in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board area, two were in Hywel Dda and one was in Swansea Bay.

Cardiff (64) had the highest number of new infections, followed by Carmarthenshire (57) and Flintshire (51).

Wrexham has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 343.5 per 100,000 people. The all-Wales total is 131.3, down from 141.2 yesterday.

Picture by the Welsh Government.

Health board seeking ‘clarification’ on Covid vaccination rules

Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter

A health board is seeking “clarification” on Covid vaccination rules after it emerged foster carers have been left out of the current priority list.

The request emerged after the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) was contacted anonymously and told foster carers were not eligible for the vaccine, although they have always been able to request an immunisation against Hepatitis B.

While many foster carers may look after children for an extended time, they can also take on youngsters for short-term and respite placements, potentially leaving them at risk of exposure to Covid-19.

The issue comes at a time when the supply of foster carers cannot meet demand according to experts.

Betsi Cadwaldr is responsible for rolling out the immunisation across North Wales but has to follow guidelines from the Joint Council on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

They mention nothing about foster carers, although Betsi has confirmed social care staff who work with children do fall within the initial priority groups for vaccination.

Gill Harris, deputy chief executive and executive director of nursing and midwifery, confirmed the board was “following national guidance” on Covid vaccine eligibility.

She said: “Social care workers with a physical client facing role, including adult services, support workers in housing services and children’s services are in groups 1-4 in accordance with JCVI guidance.

“According to national guidance, foster carers are not currently part of this eligible group, unless the child in their care is critically vulnerable to Covid-19.

“This is because children themselves are not considered to be significantly at risk from Covid-19.

“However, we have written to Welsh Government to seek further guidance and clarity on this matter.

“We remain in regular contact with colleagues nationally for the latest guidance on eligible groups for vaccination.”

Only one county council in North Wales, Flintshire, confirmed it had sent Betsi a list of foster parents asking for them to be vaccinated.

Flintshire county council’s senior human resources and organisational development manager, Sharon Carney, said Betsi was “responsible for the Covid vaccination programme”.

She added: “I can confirm we submitted the list of foster carers to BCUHB last Tuesday and shared the link with our foster carers last Wednesday (January 20) to enable them to book a vaccine.”

All other county councils in North Wales either didn’t respond to our questions or directed the LDRS to the health board.

Welsh Government would only confirm it was “following the priority groups set out by the JCVI” and those with the highest priority would be “immunised as safely and as soon as possible”.

The NHS contact tracing app

Users of the NHS Covid App are now eligible to apply for self-isolation payment

Welsh Government has confirmed that people asked to self-isolate via the NHS Covid-19 app will now be eligible to apply for the £500 self-isolation support payment.

Currently it is not possible to apply for the payment within the app, meaning users can only apply for the payment by contacting their local authority.

Until the app is updated to verify individuals who have been asked to self-isolate, users will need to show evidence that the app has asked them to self-isolate in addition to evidence of reduced income when applying.

Local authorities will be able to accept and process applications for payments from Friday and applicants will be able to apply up to three weeks from their last date of isolation.

To be eligible to apply, app users will need to meet the criteria of the main scheme and be:

  • Employed or self-employed;
  • unable to work from home and will lose income as a result; and
  • (the applicant or their partner) are currently receiving, Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Employment and Support Allowance, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance, Income Support, Housing Benefit and/or Pension Credit; or
  • Have their application accepted under the discretionary element of Self-Isolation Support Scheme.

The Minister for Housing and Local Government, Julie James said: “The Welsh Government is committed to protecting people’s health and wellbeing and we will continue to support the people of Wales during this difficult time. The £500 payment has already provided financial security to those asked to self-isolate, helping to break the cycle of transmission and ensure no one has to choose between feeding their family or going to work and potentially spreading the virus.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, Angela Burns MS, described the implementation of the scheme as confusing and disadvantageous for those who really need the payment: “Aside from the statement from the Welsh Government being confusing, the app should have been readied before this scheme was opened.

“However, what is clear is that applications still cannot be backdated to September, meaning people in Wales who need this £500 payment – and who are likely to fall into the financially vulnerable category – cannot access it and are therefore badly disadvantaged.

“The Welsh Government can’t congratulate itself over this but must remedy both the ability to apply for a backdated payment and to sort out the app instead of the hybrid scheme it has put into place.”

The Senedd. Picture by Senedd Cymru.

Wales’ young and black population urged to register to vote in Senedd election

A new campaign is encouraging young people from Wales’ minoritised and racialised communities and African diaspora to register to vote in May’s Senedd election.

#YourVoice2021 is run jointly by Hub Cymru Africa and the Sub-Saharan Advisory Panel (SSAP) and is urging youngsters to register to vote and to apply for a postal vote.

For the upcoming Senedd election, 16 and 17-year-olds and foreign nationals will be able to vote for the first time.

Basma Kamel from SSAP Youth Network said: “Wales has a fantastically diverse population, and in this year’s election to the Senedd, we now have a chance to reflect this diversity in the national parliament.”

“I urge all my fellow citizens and foreign nationals who now call Wales their home to register to vote and make their voice heard.”

Peter Frederick Gilbey from Hub Cymru Africa added: “16 and 17 year olds will now rightly have a say over important issues that affect their future, such as health and education.

“This is a boost for our democracy as a whole – strengthening citizenship and boosting political engagement.”

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