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News in brief: Scientists consider changes to face mask rules in Welsh schools

11 May 2021 6 minutes Read
Image by Alexandra_Koch from Pixabay

Wales’ Technical Advisory Cell, which provides scientific and technical advice to support the Welsh Government is considering changes to the rules which require secondary school pupils to wear masks at school.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed yesterday that face masks will no longer be required in schools from 17 May.

The current rule in Wales, introduced last November, are that face coverings should be worn in all areas, including the classroom.

“This issue is under active consideration in Wales and colleagues are collating all evidence, including the input of Public Health Wales,” Dr Giri Shankar, from Public Health Wales (PHW), told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

“Therefore, we’ll be able to make an informed assessment of whether we can move to non-use of face coverings in schools straight away or so we need more evidence.”

Risk

“The school-age population have still not been vaccinated and are at risk of catching and spreading coronavirus, and we have to consider all possible measures that can still remain in place that can protect such cohorts of people,” he added.

Secondary school pupils in England will no longer be advised to wear masks in classrooms, the education secretary has said, despite pleas by teaching unions and others for the guidance to remain in place.

Last week a group of scientists, public health experts, parents and teaching unions wrote to the UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warning that vaccination rates were not sufficient to fully mitigate the impact of transmission among children on infection rates in the community if the wearing of face masks in schools was scrapped.

However, the government’s guidance in England continues to recommend that secondary pupils should wear masks in corridors and other areas inside schools where social distancing is not practical.

Rapid Covid test. Photo UK Government

Covid deaths in Wales fall for ninth straight week

Sixteen of 22 Welsh local authorities recorded no new Covid deaths in the seven days covered by the latest study from the Office for National Statistics as deaths from all causes remained below the five-year average for the ninth week in succession.

In the week ending 30 April 2021 582 deaths were registered in Wales, 34 fewer deaths than in the previous week and 12.1% below the five-year average (80 deaths fewer).

Just seven deaths were registered involving Covid, a 50% decrease compared with the week ending the 23 April. Of all deaths registered in in Wales just 1.2% mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.

Since the start of the pandemic In Wales in March last year, the total number of deaths from all causes is 43,626 and of these, 7,867 deaths (18.0%) mentioned Covid-19. This was 5,565 deaths above the five-year average.

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, there has been one further death in the last 24 hours, taking the total number since the start of the pandemic to 5,557.

The newly recorded death was in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area.

A further 30 people have also tested positive for the virus.

Newport continues to have the weekly case highest rate in Wales with 25.2 cases per 100,000 people. Blaenau Gwent currently has the lowest case rate at 1.4.

The national case rate has climbed from 7.5 to 8.8 since yesterday and the positive test rate remains unchanged at 0.9% per 100,000 tests.

The Senedd during Covid-19 restrictions

New Senedd to meet for the first time tomorrowAs the dust settles after last week’s Senedd election, it has been confirmed that the first Plenary meeting of the Sixth Senedd will take place at 3.00pm tomorrow.

The first order of business for the newly elected Members of the Senedd will be to elect a Presiding Officer (Llywydd) and Deputy Presiding Officer, followed by nominations for a First Minister if the Senedd resolves to do so.

The meeting will be held in a hybrid format. In line with current Coronavirus regulations, 20 Members can be present in the Siambr, with the remaining 40 Members joining online from their offices in Ty Hywel.

The secret ballots for electing the Presiding Officer and Deputy will be paper ballots. Voting will take place in the Senedd building, in a socially distanced manner.

A full meeting agenda will be published on the Senedd website and the meeting will be broadcast live on Senedd TV.

Russell George AM. Picture by the National Assembly

Tories call for consistency over Covid restrictions

Welsh Conservative economy spokesperson, Russell George MS is a calling for the newly re-elected Welsh Government to correct inconsistencies within the Covid restrictions to help businesses recover from the worst ravages of the pandemic.

With a new mandate from the electorate following last weeks comfortable victory for the Labour administration, Mr George said: “With the election out of the way, it’s important Labour ministers iron out some of the impracticalities with the current Covid rules and regulations.

“The Welsh Government’s approach to date was endorsed by the public but ministers can make some tweaks around the edges to ensure Welsh businesses are supported and jobs are protected.

“Adopting some uniformity to the rules impacting on industry and providing backdated financial support for those firms closed throughout the month of April should now be a priority for ministers.

“Welsh Conservatives will support measures that protect jobs and businesses and ensures the Welsh economy gets on the road to recovery.”

At the end of the week the government is expected to give the green light for pubs, restaurants and cafes to can open indoors and cinemas, theatres and museums are also expected to be allowed to open their door.

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