News in brief: New study reveals younger people in Wales remain sceptical of Covid risks
A new survey commissioned by Public Health Wales has revealed that younger people continue to have a low perception of the risks posed to them by Covid-19.
Over 60% of 18-34-year-olds questioned, disagreed that they were at higher risk of catching Covid compared to other age groups and 28% disagreed that they could get seriously ill if they caught the virus.
In recent days, case rates across Wales have surged to levels last seen in January at the peak of the second wave of the pandemic and over 40% of the 13,000 new cases reported this week are people under the age of 30.
“With increasing numbers of young people testing positive for Coronavirus, it is of concern that so many still believe that their risk of catching or becoming seriously ill with Coronavirus is low, when we know this not to be the case,” Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant for health Protection at Public Health Wales said.
“While the younger a person is the lower their overall risk from coronavirus, young adults can still get long Covid – which is when symptoms of the disease persist for an extended period. We would strongly urge anyone, whatever the age, if offered the Covid-19 vaccine, to accept it. This way we can limit the spread of the virus and protect the population. “
“The more people who are vaccinated, the better equipped we are to deal with the virus,” she added.
The new study also revealed that over half of adults who have been offered but declined a jab, say their reason for doing so was because they believe the vaccines were developed too quickly (54%). This is closely followed by feeling worried about experiencing side effects such as blood clotting (52%).
Just over two thirds of adult respondents to the survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of PHW also said they would happily accept a flu and Covid-19 vaccine at the same time this year, with 89% also happy to accept a booster jab, if offered.
New figures confirm Wales has lowest Covid infection rates in the UK
The latest figures published by the Office for National Statistics have confirmed Wales currently has the lowest rate of Covid infections in the UK, despite an increase in the number of cases since last week’s survey.
The ONS estimate that 28,100 people in Wales had the virus in the week ending 28 August, up from 25,200 the week before, equating to around 1 in 110 people or 0.92%.
Northern Ireland currently has the highest rates of infection in the UK, with 1.56% of the population (28,700 people) infected, down from 43,300 the previous week, but Scotland has seen cases rise by 89% in the latest study, from 36,700 to 69,500, 1.32% of the community population.
Infections in England showed a small increase from 756,900 to 766,100 equating to around 1 in 70 people or 1.41%.
Meanwhile, Public Health Wales has reported six further deaths due to the virus and 2,391 new cases in its latest bulletin.
Hywel Dda and Swansea Bay health board areas each recorded two of the newly recorded deaths and Aneurin Bevan and Cwm Taf Morgannwg each reported one. The total number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic in March last year has now risen to 5,688.
In the Seven days up to 29 August just over 13,000 people have tested positive for the virus, raising the weekly case rate to 415.3 per 100,000 people from 411.4 in yesterday’s report.
Three local authorities currently have weekly rate over 600, Swansea (651), Merthyr Tydfil (623.3) and Neath Port Talbot (616.8). Merthyr has the highest positive test rate in Wales at 24.3% per 100,000 tests.
Plaid raises concern over soaring Covid case numbers as schools and colleges reopen
Plaid Cymru’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has expressed concern over the recent surge in the number of Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions due to the virus as schools and colleges reopen after the summer break.
Data from Public Health Wales has shown that positive test results are approaching the levels recorded at the height of the pandemic’s second wave last winter and hospital admissions due to Covid are rising across all health boards.
Infection rates are expected to accelerate still further as children and young people return for the start of the new term.
“Our learners are returning to schools, colleges and universities at a time when community transmission and hospital admissions are rising, and far higher than at the same point in 2020,” Mr ap Iorwerth said.
“In 2020, the return to school was a factor in community cases rising even higher, and we cannot ignore that this might happen again.
“Children and young people remain largely unvaccinated, so have little protection against catching the virus, and nothing to stop them passing it on to family and the wider community.
“Of additional concern is the harm that can be caused by long-COVID, and a recent study shows 1 in 7 children with COVID will still show symptoms after 15 weeks.
“Schools are crying out for clearer guidance on how to keep children and staff safe from harm: Some of whom are clinically vulnerable and will be anxious to find out about government plans for a third vaccine dose.
“Welsh Government must always show how it’s responding to the ever-changing situation in order to try to allay fears, and this is why I’ll be writing to the Health Minister to express the concerns and to seek clarity on the approach she will adopt.”
Over 13,000 people have tested positive for Covid in Wales over the last seven days and the number of positive tests for coronavirus recorded is close to the peak around the Christmas holiday last year.
According to the latest figures, 33 Covid patients were admitted to critical care wards last week, taking the total number to 163. Last year there were just two admissions to critical care in the week schools and colleges returned after the summer break.
Green leadership hopefuls target first Senedd seats in election manifesto
Green Party leadership candidates Amelia Womack and Tamsin Omond have pledged to put the party on track have 10 MPs by 2030 and secures seats in the Senedd for the first time in the party’s history.
The pair, who are standing on a co-leadership ticket, made the pledges in their Election Manifesto published earlier this week.
Ms Womack, who grew up in Newport, is currently the deputy leader of the Green Party of England and Wales and was the Greens candidate in South Wales East at the Senedd election last May, failing to secure a seat in the Senedd by just over 5,000 votes.
“This is a huge moment for the Green Party. We’re at a tipping point for the climate, and the public have never been more aware of the ecological crisis we’re facing,” Omond said as the manifesto was launched.
“There are people out there just waiting for a knock on their door from their local Green Party – and as co-leaders, Amelia and I will support local parties to reach every potential Green voter.
“Now is the time to aim high: we want to set the party on track for ten MPs by 2030, as well as representation in the Welsh Senedd. Between us, Amelia and I have the skills, experience and passion to deliver this, and I can’t wait to get stuck in, working with amazing Greens across the country to make it happen.”
The Wales Green Party, which is a semi-autonomous political party within the Green Party of England and Wales voted to back Welsh independence at its last party conference and Ms Womack, describe independence as offering “endless” opportunities in the run up to May’s election.
Swansea climate change charter fails to attract support
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
No organisations have signed a climate change charter since it was approved by Swansea councillors last December.
The charter was endorsed in tandem with a suite of measures aimed at making the council a net zero organisation by 2030.
The charter – officially launched earlier this year – asks participating companies and organisations in Swansea to work towards net zero by 2030 by committing to a series of actions.
These include reviewing existing methods of working and identifying new ones to become greener and help halt the decline in biodiversity.
The charter also asks signatories to publicly report their carbon emissions and how they match up to their commitments.
Council chiefs said they were working to get the climate change charter message out there with the help of a voluntary group called Swansea Environmental Forum (SEF).
Cllr Andrea Lewis, cabinet member for climate change and service transformation, said: “The SEF is a key strategic partnership for all aspects of the natural environment in Swansea so it’s right that we work with its members along with others on this important step.
“They and our partners share our aim to work together to initiate, develop and co-ordinate environmental action across our communities – and our charter will help as we move towards our net zero targets.
“With their influence we will reach a wide range of influential organisations, their staff and associates.”
The council said political groups and departments within the council are committed to the net zero carbon goal. Net zero, or carbon neutral, means reducing carbon emissions as much as possible and offsetting the remainder by, for example, building solar farms.
Swansea councillors unanimously backed a climate emergency motion in June 2019 which set out the carbon neutral pledge.
That led to officers reviewing more than 100 council policies. In 2020 cabinet agreed to focus on 10 key actions to reduce and to offset emissions.
The actions included a rollout of greener council vehicles, less business travel among staff, and planting more trees. It also pledged support for the Dragon Energy Island proposal, which could one day deliver a Swansea Bay tidal energy lagoon, floating solar farm, and floating houses.
The council has also pledged to double the amount of greenery in the city centre within 10 years.
The Welsh Government has committed to a 2050 net zero carbon date but wants to get there sooner.
At a global level countries’ current carbon reduction commitments are estimated to lead to around 2.7C of warming by the end of the century, according to the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
This would exceed the warming target which nations previously signed up to stay within.
New climate action plans will be submitted by countries at a summit in Glasgow in November.
The IPCC’s latest report this month was described as “a code red for humanity” by UN secretary general Antonio Guterres.