News in brief: Health chief concerned at Covid threat from outside Wales
Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has backed the government’s cautious approach to lifting the coronavirus lockdown in Wales and highlighted concerns that a new wave of the virus could be sparked by failing to tighten travel restriction from other countries.
On Thursday, First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed the full timetable for when pubs, gyms and tourist accommodation can reopen in Wales, if infection rates continue to fall and yesterday’s figures from Public Health Wales confirmed the country currently has the lowest level of coronavirus of all four UK nations and the highest rates of vaccination.
“We have entered a sensitive phase in our management of the pandemic with community transmission at reduced levels, a decline in test positivity and NHS capacity continuing to improve, “Dr Fank Atherton said.
“However, a significant proportion of our population is still susceptible to the direct impact of Covid-19, severe infection, hospital admissions and death.”
Dr Atherton said the latest lockdown, introduced in the run up to Christmas, “has had the intended impact on reducing the prevalence of the virus” but warned, “our data modelling continues to suggest that lifting too many restrictions simultaneously, will increase the opportunities to mix, will increase the number of infected individuals and will lead to a rebounding of case rates and the real possibility of another wave of coronavirus.”
“The prospect of re-seeding of infection and the introduction of new variants of Covid-19 from other parts of the UK and from other countries remains as a threat to our continued recovery and we should continue to press for more effective UK border controls,” he added.
“I recognise the merits of consistency across UK nations, but my recommendation is that we maintain our incremental approach. Unlocking in this cautious manner will build on the considerable sacrifices that have been made by everyone to protect and preserve public health.”
“Careful monitoring at each stage will enable the evaluation of relaxations against vaccination effectiveness, will support the management of new outbreaks and clusters, and allow for better detection and responses to new variants. This approach will facilitate the timing and sequencing of relaxations based on the progress of the pandemic so that we tailor our recovery to the risk. “
The weekly national case rate in Wales is currently 35 per 100,000 people and the proportion of positive tests has declined to 2.5% per 100,000 tests, the lowest recorded since the middle of September last year.
Earlier this week figures published by the Office for National Statistics confirmed The total number of deaths involving coronavirus in Wales had declined for the ninth week in a row.
New drive-through test centre for Bridgend
Bridgend Council has announced a drive-through test centre will open at the Halo Swimming Pool, Marshfield Avenue, Pyle from today.
Appointments will be available daily from 9am to 5pm and must be booked in advance.
The local authority also confirmed the closure of the walk-in centre at the Richard Price Centre in Llangeinor.
Residents in Bridgend county borough can also access walk-through appointments at a testing centre based in the Bowls Hall car park off Bridgend Life Centre (CF31 4AH). Bookings are essential and available from 8am to 8pm.
Appointments can be made via the Welsh Government website or by calling 119. People with hearing or speech difficulties can book tests by calling 18001119.
The case rate in Bridgend is currently 15.6 per 100,000 people, the third lowest in Wales and just 23 people have tested positive for the virus from the 1,430 tests conducted in the last week.
Bird flu lockdown lifted
The compulsory housing measures for poultry and captive birds, which were introduced in December as part of restrictions put in place to stop the spread of avian influenza, have been lifted today.
The Welsh Government has confirmed the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone remains in place for the whole of Wales and keepers are required to maintain enhanced biosecurity practices until further notice.
Guidance has been issued to those who intend to allow their birds outside from today and keepers must ensure birds are kept in fenced or enclosed outdoor areas whilst feed and water must be provided under cover where wild birds cannot gain access.
All poultry and captive bird keepers will also be required to keep taking extra precautions, such as cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.
Public health advice is that the risk to human health from the H5N8 virus strain is low and from the H5N2, H5N5 and H5N1 virus strains is very low. Food standards bodies advise that avian influenza poses a very low food safety risk for UK consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products including eggs.
In a joint statement, the Chief Veterinary Officers for Wales, England and Scotland said:” Whilst the lifting of the compulsory housing order is welcome news, rigorous biosecurity remains the most important thing bird keepers can do keep their birds safe.
“It is thanks to the hard work of all bird keepers, who have played their part and kept their flocks safe this winter, which has allowed us to take this action today. However, the recent cases of avian influenza show that it’s more important than ever for bird keepers to remain vigilant for signs of disease and maintain stringent standards of biosecurity.
“All bird keepers (whether they have pet birds, a commercial sized or a backyard flock) must be diligent in continuing to take effective and precautionary biosecurity measures including cleaning and disinfecting equipment, clothing and vehicles, limiting access to non-essential people on their sites, and workers changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures.”