News in brief: Local lockdowns remain part of government’s winter protection plans
Further local lockdowns remain part of the government’s plans to deal with flareups of coronavirus over the winter according to First Minister Mark Drakeford.
Speaking at Monday’s press briefing, Mr Drakeford also suggested that Covid rates could be starting to decline across the country, reflecting the impact the national lockdown, which ended yesterday, has had.
The 17-day firebreak had replaced a series of local lockdowns that placed extra restrictions on close to 2 million people in 17 areas across Wales.
The First Minister said the government had “never ruled out” the possibility of more targeted local action and that a “repertoire” of action which was part of the winter protection plan, would be ready to be put in place if required.
“We will have our national set of rules which will come in today and they will be in place everywhere in Wales,” he said.
“If there are local flare-ups, then we will draw on that repertoire, work with local players, local authority leaders, local public health teams and so on, and then calibrate the local action to the nature of the problem that’s being faced.”
Highlighting a recent decline in the infection rate in Merthyr Tydfil, which has been one of the worst affected areas in the UK over the last month, the first minister added: “It’s always important to give a bit of a health check with Merthyr figures, because it’s the smallest local authority in Wales and relatively small raw numbers drive large percentage and incidence changes.”
“But the path that we are following in that part of Wales is showing the advantages of the firebreak period that we have just completed.”
Monday’s update from Public Health Wales has confirmed eight further deaths due to coronavirus and 931 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Seven of the deaths were in the Aneurin Bevan University Health Board and the other was reported by Swansea Bay University Health Board.
Rhondda Cynon Taf (146) had the highest number of new positive tests from Covid-19, followed by Cardiff (121) and Swansea (100).
The infection rate in Merthyr remains the highest in Wales at 505.6 per 100,000 of the population but the rate has declined from 741 last Wednesday.
RCT has the highest positive test rate in Wales at 25.8% per 100,000 tests.
Tories criticise Covid focus in Welsh NHS.
The Welsh Conservatives have blasted Health Minister Vaughan Gething following reports that as many as 2,000 people could die because of Covid-related delays in diagnosing and treating cancer patients in the Welsh NHS.
Prof Tom Crosby, of the Wales Cancer Network told BBC Wales he fears cancer cases missed in the first lockdown may now be harder to treat and added: “We have done some modelling work with England, and it has suggested that between 200 and 2,000 excess deaths will occur as a result of undiagnosed or untreated cancer in Wales.”
Overall, surgical procedures in Wales dropped by close to 80% at the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April in April.
Mr Gething defended the decision to prioritise dealing with the pandemic but acknowledged the negative impact it will have had on non-Covid patients.
“Because of the choices we’ve made, it’s undoubtedly the case we’ll see poor outcomes and that does mean more people having avoidable disability, more people potentially losing their lives with non-Covid care,” he said.
“Not acting would have meant that not only would the health service have been overwhelmed with very poor care of Covid and non-Covid patients, but it also would have been disastrous for our staff. We need to get to the end of the pandemic with more certainty. We don’t yet know what will happen through the rest of the winter. To try to have a nailed-down plan for what June might look like next year would be foolish.”
Responding to those comments Welsh Conservative health spokesperson Andrew RT Davies MS said: “Vaughan Gething is the minister for health in Wales, not just Coronavirus, and instead of organising a system to cope, he’s given up and admitted he’s putting one condition over others. That’s a national scandal that puts thousands of lives at risk.
“Leading cancer experts are warning of as many as 2,000 deaths due to Covid-related delays, yet the Health Minister believes it’s ‘foolish’ to have a plan for backlogs before the pandemic is over.
“I’m sorry, but it’s his job to have a plan in place to tackle a wide variety of conditions, not just throw his hands up in the air.
“Lives are now dependent on him putting a plan in place and this should start by commissioning an urgent inquiry into hospital-acquired infections, targeted testing at the hot-spot areas in our healthcare system, the roll-out of rapid diagnostic centres across Wales, whilst activating Covid-light hospitals and Nightingale facilities.
“Welsh Conservatives have been calling for the implementation of these measures since the summer as we believe the cure cannot be worse than the disease. The Health Minister must get on top of this situation immediately.”
Staff and residents test positive for Covid-19 at Ceredigion care home
An incident has been declared at an independent care home in Ceredigion after an undisclosed number of staff and residents tested positive for Covid-19.
The cases were revealed during routine fortnightly testing at MHA Hafan y Waun Care Home in Waunfawr, Aberystwyth.
Ceredigion County Council said it was working with the care home, Hywel Dda University Health Board and Public Health Wales to contain the virus.
In a statement the local authority said: “Looking after our care home residents is of paramount importance to Ceredigion County Council.”
“Visits to care homes in Ceredigion remain suspended and residents are being supported to keep in touch with family and friends via telephone and video conferencing / skype calls.
“We are extremely grateful for the co-operation shown by staff, care home residents, their families and members of the public as we take every step to keep Ceredigion’s residents safe and well.”
Welsh Lib Dems call for more electric vehicle charging points
Welsh Liberal Democrats have this week called on both the Welsh Government and local councils to work together along with industry to ensure Wales is not left behind in the roll-out of electric vehicle charging points.
Sales of electric vehicles grew by over 130% in the year to May 2020, with sales expected to grow further in the coming years.
Consultancy Capital Economics last year estimated that the UK will need 25.3m charge points by 2050 if we are to hit the legislated target of net zero carbon emissions.
This news coupled with a report from the Senedd’s Economy Infrastructure and Skills Committee could indicate that Wales has the potential to fall behind in the bid to become carbon neutral by 2050.
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said: “The lack of charging points is clearly as issue for people all over Wales.
“Many homes, especially those in built up urban areas where on road parking is common, will be unable or reluctant to consider an electric vehicle as home charging is not practical.
“Similarly, there are large swathes of rural mid Wales where there are no charging points, which will limit the appeal of these vehicles if they can only be charged at home.
“I want the Welsh Government to work constructively with local councils and industry in the years ahead to plan and deliver a network of charging points to truly enable Wales to embrace the electric vehicle revolution.”