News in brief: Surge of Delta variant cases in the north linked to cross border travel
Health officials have linked the high number of cases of the Delta Covid variant in the north of Wales to travel across the porous border with the North-West of England.
The Delta variant is currently responsible for over 80% of all new Covid cases in Wales and is linked the surge of cases in Flintshire, Conwy, Denbighshire and Wrexham.
Figures released by Public Health Wales yesterday revealed a further 209 cases of the variant have been detected in Wales since Monday, taking the total number of people that have tested positive for the mutation to 788.
“We are seeing cases increase all over Wales but particularly in north east Wales where travel to and from England for work and leisure purposes is commonplace,” PHW incident director Dr Eleri Davies, said.
“Please be Covid aware when you travel. We are all very familiar with social distancing by now but by remaining at least two metres away from everyone else, washing our hands regularly, and wearing a face covering we can keep ourselves and our friends and family safe.”
“Take up your offer of a vaccination when you receive it as the latest evidence shows that Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are both effective against the Delta variant after two doses, she added.
According to today’s figures from PHW, four of the six local authorities in the north have weekly case rates over 50 per 100,000 people and the test positivity rate is also climbing.
Flintshire has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 110. 8, up from 99.9 yesterday and the worst positivity rate at 7.2% per 100,000 tests. Conway (81.1) has the next highest case rate, followed by Denbighshire (72.1) and Wrexham (54.4).
So far 15 people had been admitted to hospital after contracting the Delta variant in Wales.
Public Health England reports 111,157 confirmed and probable cases of the variant across the UK, up 46%, on the previous week. Of those cases, 102,019 have been in England, 7,738 in Scotland and 612 in Northern Ireland.
Hospital admissions due to Covid have also increased significantly in the last week from 806 to 1320, a jump of 64%.
The areas in England that have been worst affected by the Delta variant, according to Public Health England, are:
- Bedford (112.5)
- Birmingham City (131.9)
- Blackburn with Darwen (519.7)
- Blackpool (298.3)
- Cheshire East (141.9)
- Cheshire West and Chester (163.2)
- Greater Manchester: Bolton (251.4), Bury (344.5), Manchester (377.5), Oldham (228.2), Rochdale (243.7), Salford (333.4), Stockport (199.7), Tameside (221.6), Trafford (259.9), Wigan (304.6)
- Kirklees (118.7)
- Lancashire: Burnley (391.4), Chorley (350.2), Fylde (156.0), Hyndburn (464.0), Lancaster (126.0), Pendle (323.5), Preston (299.7), Ribble Valley (407.3), Rossendale (330.2), South Ribble (286.1), West Lancashire (130.4), Wyre (176.6)
- Leicester City (121.4)
- Liverpool City Region: Halton (149.1), Knowsley (177.0), Liverpool (230.9), Sefton (189.6), St Helens (147.9), Wirral (151.2)
- North Tyneside (250.6)
- Warrington (197.6)
Minister weighs up changes to travel restrictions
The Welsh Government has yet to decide if it will follow England in easing Covid travel restrictions for people that are fully vaccinated.
The UK government is proposing that fully vaccinated people will be allowed unrestricted travel to all countries, except those with the highest Covid-19 infection levels and UK Transport Minister Grant Shapps revealed in a tweet yesterday that full details of the move will be confirmed next month.
Thanks to our successful vaccination programme, our intention is that later in the summer ☀️ UK residents who are fully vaccinated will not have to isolate when travelling from amber list countries 🟠
We’ll set out further details next month.
— Rt Hon Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) June 24, 2021
Countries on the amber list currently include France, Portugal and Germany and under the current guidelines, only essential travel is permitted.
Following the latest review of the Covid travel restrictions by the Welsh Government, Health Minister Eluned Morgan said the advice continues to be “not to travel overseas unless it is essential because of the risk of contracting coronavirus, especially new and emerging variants of concern.
“We are aware of the UK Government’s proposals for easing restrictions for travellers who have received two vaccinations returning from amber list countries to England. We will weigh up all the available evidence and make a decision for Wales, she added.
“Our message is clear – this is the year to holiday at home. We’re calling on people to only travel overseas for essential reasons. We have all sacrificed so much to control the pandemic in Wales, we do not want to see the virus re-imported – or new variants come into the country – as a result of overseas travel.”
The minister also confirmed that following the review and in line with the rest of the UK,
Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Balearic Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Madeira, Malta Montserrat, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands have been moved to the green list.
Israel has been added to the green watch list as it is at risk of moving from green to amber and the Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda have been moved to the red list.
All changes to the lists will come into effect at 4am on Tuesday 30 June.
Our message is clear – this is the year to holiday at home. We’re calling on people to only travel overseas for essential reasons. We have all sacrificed so much to control the pandemic in Wales, we do not want to see the virus re-imported – or new variants come into the country – as a result of overseas travel.
New flood defenses planned for village swamped by Storm Ciara
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A village swamped by Storm Ciara last February will see flood defences strengthened if Natural Resources Wales gets the go-ahead to start work.
The environment watchdog wants a certificate of lawful development to strengthen mitigation against flooding in Llanfairtalhaiarn, Conwy.
The village was hammered by the storm in February last year as up to 93mph winds whipped up torrential rain and high river levels.
It turned the main street into a river, after storm drains were overrun by debris.
Wrought iron railings were wrenched from their fixings near the Water Street culvert, such was the force of the water, and heartbroken homeowners were left bailing out their properties.
The devastation in the tiny community was bad enough for First Minister Mark Drakeford to arrange a visit to see the damage for himself, after a plea from local county councillor Ifor Glyn Lloyd.
Now, almost a year and a half later, Natural Resources Wales has asked Conwy county council planners for permission to improve the defences.
The application relates to land at the inlet of the Water Street culvert on the Nant Barrog, under Phase 2 of the flood management scheme in Llanfairtalhaiarn.
In a letter to planners NRW said Phase 1 of the works, completed in 2018, had increased the defences to 1.33% above the annual exceedance probability (AEP) for a one in 75 year rainfall event.
The latest works will give the defences a 1% AEP for a one in 100 year rainfall event and were selected from three different designs.
They chosen design is:
- A new reinforced u-shaped concrete channel to repace 25m long masonry walls on either side of the Nant Barrog immediately upstream of the culvert inlet – 600mm above existing ground levels – with 600mm high ornamental railings on top of the new walls on both banks
- The trash screen at the inlet of the Water street culvert will be replaced with the new one having bars spaced 450mm apart – which it hopes will stop smaller debris clogging up the screen as happened during Storm Ciara
- The existing parapet wall at the Water Street culvert will be reduced from 1.4m to 800mm with a double hinged gate in the 600mm ornamental railings, to allow JCB backhoe access to maintain the trash screen
- A new Rootlok vegetated wall will replace the 25m masonry wall on the left bank of the Nant Barrog where it goes through a 90 degree turn, all the way up to the vehicle bridge – with 1.8m high ornamental railing on the same bank up to the vehicle bridge
It is hoped work will start as soon as permission is granted, and before the worst of the winter weather hits the region.