News in brief: Funding boost to prepare NHS for second Covid-19 wave
The government has announced £800 million of funding to help the Welsh NHS respond to the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 during the autumn and winter months.
This latest package takes the total amount of Covid-19 support for NHS organisations to more than £1.3bn.
The new support will help fund a strategic approach to the procurement of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for both the health and social care sectors, so that an appropriate ‘buffer’ of supplies can be established to respond to any second wave of infections.
It will also ensure a reliable supply of PPE is available for primary care providers – including GPs, dentists and optometrists.
The money will also help deliver Wales’ largest ever flu campaign, announced last month, amid concern of the consequences of Covid-19 circulating alongside influenza.
The eligibility age for the free flu vaccine has been lowered from 65 to 50 and households of people shielding from coronavirus will also be included in the programme.
Additional supplies of the nasal spray flu vaccine offered to children will be used to maximise uptake in the vaccination programme offered to 2- and 3-year-olds and to all children in primary schools. Increasing uptake of the vaccine among health and social care workers is also a key priority.
Money will also be allocated to ensure a faster turnaround of test results to support contact tracing, and to help provide health boards with extra capacity, both through existing hospital sites and access to field hospitals if needed.
Health and Social Services Minister Vaughan Gething said: “Whilst our services rigorously prepare every year for winter pressures, 2020 may be unlike any other. This £800m package will help with many aspects as we move into the next phase of the virus such as PPE supplies, testing and an ambitious flu vaccination programme.”
Welcoming the announcement, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, Andrew RT Davies MS, said: “Our fantastic NHS staff deserve full credit for the exemplary work they have carried out, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, in delivering first-class care to patients, and today’s latest funding announcement will allow them to continue their work.”
“This money needs to increase access to vital health provision which has been closed or greatly reduced since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak. As we have seen with the number of cancer deaths it is vital that these pathways to treatment are reopened as soon as possible to prevent as few premature deaths as possible.”
Two new deaths due to Covid-19 have been confirmed by Public Health Wales today. The total number of deaths now stands at 1,568.
PHW reported 14 new cases over the last 24 hours, taking the total of confirmed infections to 17,374. There were 4,553 tests carried out on Tuesday.
Preparations in place for second wave of coronavirus this autumn
Dr Frank Atherton, Wales’ Chief Medical Officer says plans are being put in place to deal with a second wave of coronavirus in the autumn.
“We could see a surge in the autumn and then a bigger peak in the winter and that’s the most likely scenario that we’re planning for,” he told BBC Wales.
“The really important thing here is to identify cases that are coming up, to make sure that clusters that are happening in parts of Wales, as we’ve seen recently up in Wrexham for example, are identified through our track, trace and protect programme, and we’re able to put in place the measures to really stamp on those, to stamp them down, so they don’t become widespread community transmission.
“That’s really what we’re trying to avoid.”
Plaid Cymru call for extension of childcare offer
Plaid Cymru Shadow Education Minister Sian Gwenllian MS has called on the Welsh Government to extend the childcare offer in Wales following the announcement yesterday that the scheme would reopen this month.
The Wales’ Childcare Offer currently provides 30 hours of early education and care to the working parents of 3- and 4-year olds.
It was suspended in April to allow resources to be refocused, to support the childcare needs of critical workers and vulnerable children during the coronavirus lockdown.
The offer funds childcare for 48 weeks of the year and currently supports close to 15,000 children.
Describing the offer in its current form as unfair, Ms Gwenllian said: “Whilst I welcome the announcement that the Welsh Government is restarting its childcare offer and providing important early years’ experiences for some children in Wales, it is deeply unfair that this policy discriminates against some children.
“By excluding 3-4-year-olds whose parents don’t work or are in education, the offer is discriminating against the poorest in our communities, and is having negative implications on children based on their parents’ status – how is this fair?”
“The current offer is incredibly restrictive, and that is why I’m calling on the Welsh Government not only to extend eligibility to children of parents who aren’t in work or are in education, but also to extend the offer beyond only 3-4 year olds.
“Plaid Cymru believes in a more inclusive approach, and if elected would phase in free universal childcare for children aged 12 months until they are eligible for full time education. We believe that no child should be left behind.”
Support extended for those in extreme hardship
The government has announced it has extended the relaxation of the Discretionary Assistance Fund rules until 31 March 2021.
The DAF provides grant funding to support people experience extreme hardship and applications are currently at a record high.
Since the beginning of the pandemic over £2.4 million has been used to support those who identified coronavirus as their reason for claiming assistance.
Changes to the fund, were introduced in response to the impact of the virus on households experiencing hardship early this year.
The extension until the 31 March 2021 will mean those affected by the pandemic can continue to make five rather than three claims in a 12-month period and the removal of the 28-day claim limit will continue.
Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government Hannah Blythyn said: “Many of the people whose circumstances have been adversely affected by the impact of Coronavirus are some of the already most vulnerable and the unprecedented nature of the pandemic means it is only right that we continue to support people.
“As credit payment holidays and the UK Government Furlough Scheme ends, we will potentially see a further impact on people, pushing them into financial hardship. By extending the relaxations of the DAF until the end of the financial year, we can ensure that everyone who needs support can access it.”