News in Brief: Health officials report ‘significant’ jump in Delta variant cases
Public Health Wales has confirmed 131 new cases of the Delta variant of Covid-19 in the last four days, taking the total number of cases in Wales to 315.
PHW says this variant is now the dominant strain in Wales and warned case numbers are expected to rise further over the coming weeks.
The majority of new cases are not being connected to international travel and are due to localised community transmission of the variant.
“This is a significant development, but one we have predicted, as we know the Delta variant is easier to catch than the previously dominant Alpha variant,” Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Coronavirus response at Public Health Wales, said.
“It is thought that increased mixing is contributing to transmission and we are concerned at this rise in cases.”
Last week, Dr Shankar had warned, “I think we are on the cusp of moving from limited household close contact transmission to contained community transmission, but the concern is that could progress to become sustained community transmission.”
Meanwhile, the latest figures from PHW show cases are continuing to surge across north Wales in particular.
Four of the six local authorities served by Betsi Cadwaladr health board recorded the highest number of new infections over the 48 hours up to 9am yesterday.
A cluster linked with the Delta variant was identified last week in Conwy County, which currently has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 46.9 per 100,000 people, up from 42.7 in yesterday’s report after 28 new positive tests for the virus were confirmed.
Flintshire also recorded 28 new cases, followed by Denbighshire with 21 and Wrexham with 20.
The weekly case rate in Denbighshire is second highest in Wales at 39.7 and the positive test proportion is the highest at 3.1% per 100,000 tests.
Overall PHW recorded 247 new cases of Covid and no further deaths over the last 48 hours as the national case rate increased by 3.4 since yesterday, to 18.4, the highest it has been since the first week in April. The national test rate is also up, from 1.5% to 1.8%.
The Delta variant is 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that sparked the second wave of the pandemic late last year and is now dominant across the UK with over 42,000 cases detected so far.
The Welsh Conservatives have reiterated calls for a public inquiry into the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month the Welsh Government said it would support an independent inquiry into the four nations of the UK’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic and revealed “preliminary discussions” had taken place with the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove.
Writing in the Western Mail, Shadow Health Minister Russell George said: “Decisions made in Wales had a direct impact on lives here in Wales, and it is the Welsh Conservative view they should be put under the microscope of an independent public inquiry here in Wales, and not run the risk of being a footnote in the already announced UK inquiry.
“Tragically, nearly 8,000 people have died in Wales over the past 18 months – the highest rate of any nation in the UK – and we owe it to their families to ensure they have answers, and that Wales is fully prepared for any future pandemic.
“A Wales-specific pandemic inquiry will ensure we learn these vital lessons moving forward – and only Wales’ First Minister can commission it.
“For the families who’ve lost loved ones, Mark Drakeford should ensure his government’s decisions are given scrutiny here in Wales. It’s the very least they deserve.
Plaid Cyrmu is also pressing for a Wales-specific inquiry, with the party’s leader Adam Price saying an investigation should take place “whilst memories are still fresh and initial findings could be ready by as early as the start of autumn.”
“An independent Welsh inquiry, running parallel to the UK-wide inquiry, could provide a sharper focus on how well the Welsh government responded, the efficiency of its PPE procurement and test and trace systems, and crucially how we can better protect our citizens from future pandemics,” he added.
In May, Boris Johnson announced an independent public inquiry into the UK government’s Covid response would take place starting in Spring 2022.
Autumn rollout of booster vaccine proposed
Covid “booster” vaccinations could be rolled out across Wales by September to combat the threat of variants of the virus and extend the protection of those most at risk of infection.
By the end of today, every adult in Wales will have been offered a vaccine – six weeks ahead of schedule and vaccination clinics across Wales are now accelerating second doses amid growing concerns about the spread of the delta variant.
Details the long-term protection offered by the vaccines is unclear at present but experts suggest an annual jab will be required to deal with future mutations.
Dr Gillian Richardson, who oversees the mass vaccination programme in Wales, told BBC Radio Wales: “We know that the most vulnerable, those over 80, those in care homes, those in groups one to four, the most vulnerable, will be first in line because they were the first to have the vaccine. [There’s] a lot of planning and a lot of trying to tie this up particularly with the expanded flu campaign this season.
“They could start quite early. The working hypothesis is September, but it could be before if JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) rules and if supply allows it. But this will be a four nations decision and one the health ministers are working on.”
Welsh sites shortlisted for experimental fusion power plant
Two sites in Wales have been shortlisted as potential locations for the UK’s first prototype fusion power plant.
The sites at Aberthaw and Pembroke were put forward by Vale of Glamorgan and Pembrokeshire County Council and join 13 other sites under consideration by the UK Atomic Energy Agency.
The UKAEA has been provided with £200 million of initial funding from the UK Government to create a plant that will harness electricity from fusion and wrote to councils last year to encourage bids, suggesting ‘billions’ of pounds will be invested in the project with an aim to help deliver nuclear fusion within the next 30 years.
Fusion technology is still in its infancy and no fusion reactor has ever created more power than it consumes. But scientists say it could be cleaner and safer than fission, the nuclear technology currently used to generate electricity.
The sites, from north to south across the UK, are:
- Dounreay – (Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership)
- East Airdrie – (Fusion Forward (East Airdrie) Consortium )
- Poneil – (Fusion Forward (Poneil) Consortium)
- Ardeer – (Fusion Forward (Ardeer) Consortium)
- Chapelcross – (South of Scotland Enterprise)
- Moorside – (Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, in partnership with Copeland Borough Council)
- Bay Fusion (Heysham) – (Collaboration between industry, Lancaster City Council, Lancashire County Council and Lancaster University)
- Goole – (East Riding of Yorkshire Council)
- West Burton – (Nottinghamshire County Council)
- Ratcliffe on Soar – (Nottinghamshire County Council)
- Pembroke – (Pembrokeshire County Council)
- Severn Edge (Oldbury/Berkeley) – (Western Gateway)
- Aberthaw – (Vale of Glamorgan Council)
- Bridgwater Bay – (Heart of the South West Local Enterprise Partnership)
- Bradwell(Essex) – (Belport Ltd)
All the sites selected have met the procedural entry criteria and the decision on the final site is expected by the end of next year.
Plans filed for next stage of major development in Cardiff
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
The next stage is set for the housing development Plasdŵr as plans have been filed for another 337 houses.
Housing developer Taylor Wimpey is joining the work, alongside Redrow, Bellway and Lewis Homes.
Plasdŵr is a giant development of 7,000 new homes in northwest Cardiff set to be built over the next two decades.
Taylor Wimpey has now filed plans for 337 houses south of Pentrebane Road, near Fairwater and St Fagans.
Richard Price, land and planning director at Taylor Wimpey south Wales, said: “We always strive to create places which will be enjoyed by generations of people. Plasdŵr is an excellent site with huge potential, so we’re delighted to be coming on board.”
This development will be called Gwêl y Garth, meaning ‘view of the Garth’, the large hill visible to the north of Plasdŵr. Comprising houses with two, three and four bedrooms, 30 per cent will be classed as ‘affordable’.
The 20-acre neighbourhood borders ancient woodland. Developers said they would build a cycle route through the site, linking to the Ely Trail, as well as a new bus route to the city centre.
Mr Price added: “As a responsible housebuilder, we’re committed to creating a greener, healthier future for future residents of Plasdŵr, as well as the local community.
“We expect works will start on site later this year and those interested in finding out more can call the local sales team on 02922 743 695 or send an email.”
Plasdŵr has already seen its first residents moving in, as houses are quickly shooting up. Redrow is building about half of the total houses. 40 per cent of the ‘garden city’ will be made up of parks, play areas and woodlands.
Robert Evans, associate director of land agents Cooke and Arkwright, said: “Welcoming a new developer on board to build at Plasdŵr always represents an exciting step forward in the development of Cardiff’s garden city.
“Taylor Wimpey is an established developer with a reputation for building quality, sustainable homes. We’re looking forward to seeing them break ground at Plasdŵr and to seeing this new, sustainable community in northwest Cardiff continue to grow and flourish.”
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