News in brief: Rapid Covid tests to be offered to older pupils from next month
Health Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed that older children will be offered regular Covid tests as part of the next phase of restoring face-to-face learning for all pupils in Wales.
Yesterday, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said she was hoping to get all learners back in school by the middle of April.
From 15 March, twice weekly, Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) will be offered to all learners of upper secondary age, including students at all FE colleges and learners on work-based apprenticeship and traineeship programmes.
“There is still no evidence to suggest widespread transmission in our schools and colleges but there is no way of knowing where transmission may occur outside of the regulated classroom environment, Mr Gething said in a written statement.
“Learners of this age group are, on the whole, significantly less likely to become unwell from Covid-19, however symptomatic prevalence data suggests that this age group are more likely to test positive than younger teenagers and there is evidence to suggest that older secondary aged pupils may transmit the virus to the same level as adults.
“We will continue to be led by the latest scientific advice and so this testing offer will be regularly reviewed to ensure that we are including the right people in the offer in order to meet the intended outcomes.”
“It cannot be stressed enough that testing alone cannot eradicate the risks associated with contracting and transmitting Covid-19,” he added.
“No test is perfect and negative tests cannot be the only means of assurance that infection is not spread. Testing helps to mitigate the risk but anyone included in the testing offer should continue to adhere to other more effective infection prevention control measures such as appropriate social distancing and good hand hygiene measures.”
Earlier this month the government announced plans to make rapid testing at home available to staff working in all registered childcare settings including Flying Start settings, schools and further education settings, with the aim of quickly identifying those who are carrying the virus but not displaying any symptoms.
Four more cases of South African Covid variant detected in Wales
Public Health Wales has confirmed four additional cases of the South African variant of Coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of people infected with the strain to 21.
A single case in Flintshire was detected as part of routine genomic sequencing, with no known link to relevant contacts or travel history.
“The individual was self-isolating while symptomatic, and there is no evidence of wider community transmission. An investigation is ongoing,” Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said.
“We have identified an additional positive case of the South African variant in the Conwy local authority area. The case has a travel history, and the investigation is ongoing.
“We have identified two additional positive cases in West Wales with a link to relevant contacts. These cases are linked with the travel associated cases we confirmed on 17 February in West Wales.
“There remains no evidence of sustained community transmission of the South African variant in Wales. Anyone who is a contact of theses case will be contacted through the Test, Trace, Protect process and provided with additional advice for themselves, their household and other contacts.
“There is no evidence that the South African variant causes more serious illness, although there is some evidence that it can spread more easily, and that vaccines – although still effective – may not work quite as well against it,” he added.
Coronavirus deaths fall for fourth successive week
The number of deaths in Wales involving Covid-19 has fallen for the fourth week in a row, according to the latest figures from the Office for National statistics.
There were 216 deaths involving the virus in the seven days up to 12 February, accounting for 28.4% of all deaths in Wales, 98 fewer than the previous week.
The total number of registered deaths for the week was 31 higher than the five-year average but within the range of 2015 to 2019 deaths for same week.
The ONS estimates that since the start of the pandemic in March last year 7,228 people have died due to Covid-19, 19.8% percent of all deaths reported up to 12 February.
Deaths counted by the ONS are when Covid-19 is mentioned by doctors on the death certificate and which occur in all settings – including hospitals, care homes, hospices and people’s homes.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales only include the deaths of a hospital patients or care home resident where Covid-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death.
According to today’s figures from PHW a further four people have died due to coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking the total since last March to 5,250.
Two of the newly reported deaths occurred in the Hywel Dda health board area and Cwm Taf Morgannwg also reported two further deaths.
Cardiff accounted for 44 of the 317 new cases reported today and has now seen 389 cases in the last seven days as the case rate has climbed to 106 per 100,000 people, third highest in Wales behind Anglesey (114.2) and Flintshire (107.6).
The positive test proportion in the capital is now 9.9% per 100,000 test, the second worst rate in Wales, behind Flintshire’s 10.7%.
Covid outbreak affects 49 patients at Ysbyty Gwynedd
Ysbyty Gwynedd, in Bangor, has confirmed a Covid-19 outbreak affecting 49 patients.
The hospital’s medical director Dr Karen Mottart said testing had begun for staff and patients.
The infection rate in Gwynedd is currently 95.5 per 100,000 people, the fifth highest in Wales.
Meanwhile, neighbouring Anglesey has the highest case rate in Wales at 114.2 over the last seven days.
Yesterday Anglesey Council made the decision to delay the return of Foundation Phase pupils until at least next week due to the spike in cases.
Council Leader Llinos Medi said: “Parents, school staff and our communities are rightly concerned about the real threat posed by Coronavirus. Given the high infection rate here, we will continue to take all reasonable steps to protect the health of pupils, school staff and wider communities.”