News in brief: New study heightens concern at long-term impact of Covid-19
Doctors are calling for increased monitoring of former coronavirus patients to detect signs of organ damage and other long-term complications caused by the virus.
The move comes after new research revealed close to 30% of those hospitalised due to Covid-19 are readmitted within four months of being discharged, and one in eight of those dies over that period of time.
The study revealed discharged patients had a six times higher chance of developing respiratory disease, a three times greater risk of major cardiovascular disease and chronic liver disease, twice the possibility of suffering chronic kidney disease and a heightened risk of diabetes.
The chances of developing complications following infection were higher in those under 70 and in non-white individuals.
Another recent study showed that more than half of patients with Covid-19 had “long Covid” symptoms three months after discharge from hospital, with worse outcomes among those under 50, women, and those with higher pre-Covid fitness levels.
Authors of the report on the research, which tracked the medical records of nearly 48,000 people who had had hospital treatment for the virus and been discharged by 31 August 2020, said: “The increase in risk was not confined to the elderly and was not uniform across ethnicities. The diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of post-Covid syndrome requires integrated rather than organ or disease specific approaches, and urgent research is needed to establish the risk factors.”
Since the start of the pandemic 210,000 people have tested positive for the virus in Wales and the Welsh Government estimates that up to 1 in 10 of those could go on to develop “long Covid”.
In January Health Minister Vaughan Gething announced the launch of a bilingual app, developed by the NHS Wales respiratory health group to offer people “a bespoke tool and personal coach to help them on their road to recovery”.
Covid case rates fall to levels last recorded in early September
Public Health Wales has reported two further deaths due to coronavirus and 95 new cases of the virus in today’s report.
Due to the Easter break, there were no figures released yesterday and there will not be a further update until Monday lunchtime. PHW is warning it is likely that the reported case numbers produced on Monday and Tuesday next week will be around double the usual 24-hour figure.
Both the newly reported deaths were in the Hywel Dda health board area.
Cardiff (13) recorded the highest number of new cases in today’s report, followed by Gwynedd (11) and Swansea (10).
There were no new positive tests reported in Anglesey, Blaenau Gwent and Bridgend.
Anglesey has highest weekly case rate in Wales at 82.8 per 100,000 people, followed by Merthyr Tydfil on 66.3.
The national case rate has fallen from 35 to 31. 3 since Thursday’s report, the lowest since the first week in September last year and the positive tests proportion is down from 2.5% per 100,000 tests to 2.4.
“Over the Easter weekend we remind the general public that that Coronavirus has not gone away, and that there is still a large number of people who have not been vaccinated, Dr Chris Williams, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said.
“It is therefore vital that we all maintain constant vigilance, by keeping 2m apart from people that you don’t live with, practising hand hygiene, and wearing a mask in indoor environments.
“Welsh Government restrictions state that you should not go into any other household or mix indoors with other people who you don’t live with.”
DVLA staff confirm strike action next week
Staff at the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Swansea are to strike for four days next week due to Covid health and safety concerns.
One member of staff has died and 500 more have tested positive for the disease since September and a coronavirus outbreak was declared at the agency’s headquarters in December.
Just 250 of 6,000 staff were working from the office at the beginning of the pandemic, but that number has since increased to over 2,000.
Members of the Public and Commercial Services union voted for strike action by 71.6% on a turnout of 50% last month.
Following the vote, the union’s general secretary Mark Serwotka said members were balloted about strike action because of the “cruel indifference” shown by DVLA management to the fears expressed by staff.
“It is a scandal that DVLA have insisted over 2,000 staff members come into work every day, despite having the biggest outbreak of Covid in an office workplace within the UK,” he added.
Last month First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed that one member of DVLA staff was so “acutely distressed” about working conditions at the office that she phoned him.
PCS said it had been in “intensive talks” with the DVLA to try and address its members’ health and safety concerns and avoid strike action but would now be asking members to take action from 6 April.
The DVLA said: “There is currently not a single member of staff in the 10-day isolation period, out of a workforce of more than 6,000.”
More than 6,000 people work at the centre in the Clase area of Swansea.
Council agrees more than £1.3 million a year funding for leisure trust
Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
Torfaen’s Leisure Trust, which runs facilities such as Cwmbran Stadium and Pontypool Ski Centre, will continue to receive more than £1.3 million a year from the county borough council.
Torfaen council’s cabinet has agreed to extend the current funding arrangements of £1.36 million a year for an additional five years until March 2027.
The cabinet has also agreed to freeze the existing annual 4.67 per cent decrease in funding until at least March 2023 “to enable the Trust to recover from the business impact of the Covid-19 pandemic”.
The current funding agreement between the council and the Trust expires at the end of September.
The Trust is responsible for a number of former council leisure facilities including Cwmbran Stadium, Pontypool Active Living Centre, Fairwater Leisure Centre, Bowden Active Living Centre and Pontypool Ski Centre.
The Trust was formed in July 2013, at which point funding of £1.9 million was agreed between the Trust and the council.
It was agreed at this point the funding would reduce each year “as business built up”.
Over the first six years the funding has reduced by 4.67 per cent a year, but this was paused in 2017 after a request from the former chief executive of the Trust. The reductions restarted again in 2018/2019.
Funding will be maintained at the 2020/21 level for the next five years.