News in brief: Health chief hails vaccine rollout as Covid cases continue to fall
Wales’s deputy chief medical officer, Dr Chris Jones, has saluted the success of the nation’s Covid vaccination programme and says there has been “a steady and consistent fall” in the weekly number of new cases of coronavirus across the whole country.
The weekly case rate in Wales is 80 per 100,000 people, according to the latest figures, the lowest since the last week in September last years and 19 of 22 local authorities currently have an infection rate below 100 cases per 100,000 people.
“We’ve fallen back from the peak of over 600 cases per 100,000 people back in December to around 80 cases today,” he told today’s government press briefing.
“This is significantly lower than at previous points when schools and colleges were fully open.
“This is a national figure, but I am pleased to note that we are seeing significant decreases in the north east.
“Just in the last three weeks, Wrexham for example, has fallen from 300 cases per 100,000 to around 80 today.”
As today’s figures confirmed more than 860,000 people have had their first dose of the vaccine since the rollout began on 8 December, Dr Jones added: This means over 25% of Wales’ population has had their first dose vaccination.”
“We continue to vaccinate more people as a percentage of our population than any of the other UK nations.
“We are still on track to reach the next milestone of offering vaccination to everyone in priority groups five to nine by the end of April, provided vaccine supplies remain on course.”
Meanwhile, a further nine people have died with Covid-19 and 319 people have tested positive for the virus, according to the latest figures released by Public Health Wales.
Five of the of the newly recorded deaths were in the Hywel Dda health board area. Cardiff and Vale and Cwm Taf Morgannwg both reported two further deaths.
Cardiff (43) reported the highest number of new tests yesterday, followed by Caerphilly (26) and Flintshire (25).
The weekly case rate in Wales has declined to 80 per 100,000 people and the positive test proportion is 7.4% per 100,000 tests.
An increase of cases over recent days has seen Anglesey record the highest case rate in Wales at 112.8, while Flintshire (11%) is the only local authority to record a positive test rate in double figures.
Overall, 862,248 people have had a first dose of Covid vaccine. Second doses have been given to 42,752 people.
Health chief calls for help from parents as schools begin phased reopening
A leading health official has called for support from parents to help control the spread of coronavirus in Wales, as children aged three to seven started a phased return to school on Monday, along with some students on college courses.
At Monday’s government press briefing Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams said that if conditions continue to improve over the next three weeks then all primary school children could start to return to classrooms from 15 March.
Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Covid 19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, praised parents for their perseverance during the winter” and said: “We need your continued support to control the spread of Coronavirus, so please do not send your child to school if they are unwell, even if you are not sure if they have Coronavirus. Please continue to work from home if at all possible.
“When you take your child to school, always keep your distance from other parents, wear a face covering, and don’t stay around and chat. Please don’t invite other children or their parents to your home to play or stay, even outdoors, and even if they are in the same bubble at school.
“Make sure your child understands the importance of washing their hands regularly,” he added.
Tories call for extension of business rate relief holiday
Welsh Conservatives have called on the government to extend the business rate relief holiday to help businesses struggling with the impact of the Covid pandemic.
Last week the Scottish Government announced the business rates holiday there is to be extended for a further 12 months for the retail, hospitality, leisure and aviation sectors until March 31, 2022.
The UK Government has yet to announce a decision on the rate relief holiday in England, which would see extra consequential funding being made available.
However, a further £665m in Barnett funding has been made available as a consequence of additional spending in England.
The current rate relief holiday in Wales is due to expire at the end of March.
“After a tough year, the last thing Welsh businesses need at the start of the recovery is a huge hike in their operating costs, “Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for the Economy, Russell George MS said.
“That’s why the Welsh Labour Government must use the extra £665m in funding it has just received from the UK Government to hold off businesses rates for as many businesses as possible – whilst our highstreets and local businesses recover.
“Labour ministers have no excuses. The money is there sitting in Cardiff Bay coffers and they just need to some show leadership and allocate it to hard-pressed businesses so we can save Welsh jobs.”