News in brief: Officials frustrated at lack of cooperation from Rhondda Covid cases as Caerphilly spike continues

Caerphilly Castle. Photo by Michel Curi, licensed under CC BY 2.0

Public Health Wales has confirmed 51 new cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours as there continues to be concern at the recent spike of infections in Caerphilly, where 16 people have tested positive for the virus since yesterday.

PHW officials have also expressed frustration that a small number of people linked to a Covid-19 cluster in Rhondda Cynon Taff are refusing to disclose details of their contacts.

Caerphilly has recorded 56 new cases in the last seven days, the highest in Wales and the number of cases per 100,000 people in the area has risen to 30.9, almost double that of Cardiff, the next highest with 15 per 100,000.

Dr Robin Howe, Incident Director for the Coronavirus outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “There has been a significant rise in positive coronavirus cases in Caerphilly in the past week, and our investigations indicate that a lack of social distancing by a small group of people of all age groups, in a range of different locations has resulted in the spread of the virus to other parts of the population.

“It appears that as lockdown restrictions have eased, people have taken advantage of the greater possibilities for activities, but they seem to have forgotten the importance of social distancing – resulting in possible transmission in the wider community.

“It is clear that the virus spreads more easily in indoor settings, and people should take extra care to socially distance in these cases to keep themselves and their friends and families as safe as possible.”

Dr Howe also highlighted a smaller cluster of cases in Porth and Penygraig in Rhondda Cynon Taff and indicated that efforts to trace contacts were being hindered by some of those who have tested positive refusing to cooperate with health officials. There were 14 new cases reported in the area today, taking the total number up to 30 for the last week.

“Test Trace Protect teams are working with those affected and contacting those people who have been in contact with a person who has tested positive.  A proportion of the positive cases in this incident are from the young adult age group and disappointingly, some have been reluctant to share details of where they have been and who they have been in contact with,” he said.

“By not giving the Test Trace Protect teams accurate information, these people are placing their own family members and friends at risk. We are urging them to think about other members of their communities, put simply, they are risking other people’s health and other people’s lives, especially if they are symptomatic, not staying at home and mixing in the local community.”

The total number of confirmed infections in Wales since the start of the pandemic now stands at 18,206. There were no further deaths reported today, meaning the total dating back to March remains 1,596.

There were 6,831 tests carried out yesterday, with 492 of those in Caerphilly where a walk-in testing facility is to be set up in a leisure centre.

TUI Airways Boeing 737
TUI Airways Boeing 737. Photo by HawkeyeUK, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Minister hits back at criticism of new Welsh travel restrictions

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has defended the Welsh Government’s decision to introduce new quarantine measures for travellers from the Greek islands and Portugal following criticism from UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

Yesterday evening Mr Gething announced that Greek islands Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros and Antiparos and Crete along with Portugal were being added to the quarantine list and said the measures were being taken due to a large number of cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales from tourists returning from the Greek islands, in particular.

At least 16 people tested positive following a TUI flight from Zante to Cardiff Airport last week.

“Seeing a rising tide of infections coming in from that list of islands, having that direct experience in Wales and very clear advice about the higher risk to UK public health from the JBC (Joint Biosecurity Centre) I did not feel that there was any course of action other than taking some form of action, Mr Gething told the BBC.

“It’s not for me to explain why others haven’t done that, but I’m very clear that we’re following that advice and keeping Wales safe.”

Speaking on the BBC Today programme earlier Mr Shapps had said different rules around the UK created confusion for holidaymakers and claimed the health minister had misinterpreted the JBC report.

He said Mr Gething appeared to have based the decision imposing restrictions on travel from Portugal on the infection rate of 23 cases per 100,000 people, which is above the threshold of 20, the point at which the UK government usually triggers quarantine conditions but said the health minister, “had not perhaps noticed or seen – because we didn’t end up in the same meeting – a second figure within that, which is the number of cases which test positive [out of those tested], which is really, really important because clearly what we don’t want to do is exclude countries for doing the right thing and carrying out a lot of tests”.

Image by 272447 from Pixabay

Tories back calls for ‘Covid-light’ hospitals

The Welsh Conservatives are backing calls from a leading surgeon to create “Covid-light” hospitals to clear the backlog of operations caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the lockdown was introduced in March thousands of patients waiting for non-emergency medical treatment have had their treatments postponed.

Richard Johnson, a consultant breast surgeon and director in Wales of the Royal College of Surgeons, has proposed measures that would include patients being screened before admission to make sure they are clear of the virus, and where staff will be screened weekly, or even twice weekly to speed up waiting times.

Andrew RT Davies MS, Shadow Health Minister, said: “In Wales between March and April 2020, there were almost 21,200 fewer surgical and midwifery admissions, and 16,000 fewer urgent referrals for suspected cancer since the start of lockdown compared to the same time last year.

“We are in a pandemic, a pandemic of delayed diagnoses and postponed operations, which will cost lives. Also, for the non-life threatening conditions such as hip operations, people have been suffering for months.

“At the moment, it is down to individual health boards to plan how they go about making elective operations safe. However, we are calling for the Welsh Labour-led Government to get a grip of the situation, and carry out demand and capacity planning across the seven health boards to identify potential Covid-light hospitals and their capacities, and pathways to treatment within them.”

Photo by Andrew_Writer is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Plaid Cymru proposes employment guarantee scheme for 18-24-year-olds

Plaid Cymru is proposing the introduction of a scheme which would guarantee a work opportunity for every 18-24-year-old in Wales.

Research from the Resolution Foundation shows 18-24-years-old will be hit hardest from the coronavirus crisis with an additional 600,000 18-24-year-olds in the UK being pushed into unemployment over the next year, bringing the total to an estimated 1 million.

Helen Mary Jones MS, Plaid’s Shadow Economy Minister, says an employment guarantee scheme would stop this age group being disproportionately affected and act as a more effective intervention than the government’s current focus on upskilling the Welsh workforce.

“The coronavirus crisis has highlighted social inequalities and the vulnerabilities of day to day living for many people in Wales – and young people are in many ways hardest hit,” she said.

“It is young people who predominantly work in some of the hardest hit sectors like hospitality and they are losing jobs. There is a real risk that school leavers and University graduates will face unemployment when they join the post-COVID jobs market, which will cause long term damage to their job prospects unless major new support is provided.

 “The fully costed Employment Guarantee proposed by Plaid Cymru would provide work opportunity for every 18-24-year-old at the earliest opportunity, going above and beyond even the EU Youth Guarantee.

 “Upskilling a workforce is of course important, but it isn’t enough on its own. What Wales needs right now is job prospects for those leaving full time education and for young people who have lost their jobs. A Plaid Cymru Government would make this a priority.”

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