News in brief: Wales to hit one million vaccine target by tomorrow
Wales’ chief medical officer says that more than a million vaccinations will have been administered across the nation by tomorrow.
According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales, the total number of people in Wales who have received their first dose of coronavirus vaccine since the start of the rollout on 8 December climbed to 902,334 yesterday and over 80,062 people have also received a second dose.
Dr Frank Atherton told the Welsh Government press briefing: “By tomorrow, our remarkable vaccination teams will have administered over one million vaccines – a truly phenomenal performance and a success story that is bringing everyone hope and a path out of this crisis.”
“We are working hard to reach everyone in groups 1-9 by mid-April and all adults by the end of July, subject to vaccine supply matching our ambition.”
Dr Atherton also ruled out the possibility of people being prioritised for vaccinations based on their occupation over the next phase of the rollout.
“I, along with the UK’s other three chief medical officers support the JCVI (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) advice, and the four UK Governments have agreed to implement it.
“This means the UK’s vaccine programmes remains aligned as we all work towards one shared goal.
“This is the simplest, quickest and fairest approach. And it means we can remain on track to meet our ambitious vaccination targets.
“The JCVI has also noted the importance of other factors – specifically ethnicity and socio-economic status – and these factors will be addressed in the vaccine deployment and in communications.”
Dr Atherton acknowledged there had been “many calls for people from specific occupations to be prioritised for the next phase of the vaccine roll-out”.
“The JCVI did consider this,” he added.
“However, it found there wasn’t sufficient evidence to set specific occupations apart from the general population.
“It also advised that the complexity of delivering this approach would slow down the pace of the vaccination rollout”.
Meanwhile, a further 16 people have died with coronavirus and 308 new cases of the virus have been confirmed in the latest update from PHW.
The total number of Covid-related deaths reported by PHW since the start of the pandemic just over a year ago, now stands at 5,300.
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.
The Office for National Statistics estimates that since the start of the pandemic in March last year 7,228 people have died due to Covid-19.
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.
Of the new deaths, five were reported by Cardiff and Vale health board, Betsi Cadwaladr, Swansea Bay and Cwm Taf Morgannwg, reported three and one death was reported by both Hywel Dda, and Aneurin Bevan.
The local authority with the highest weekly case rate is Anglesey, where 108.5 people per 100,000 of the population have tested positive for the virus in the past seven days.
Across Wales the case rate has dropped from 75.7 to 75.2 since yesterday and the weekly positive test proportion has fallen to 6.8% per 100,000 tests from 6.85% since yesterday’s report.
Report reveals care home staff more likely to catch Covid than residents
Jez Hemming, local democracy reporter
A council official has warned being vaccinated “does not mean we are totally immune to Covid” after it emerged dozens of care home staff tested positive in the last month.
Conwy Council officer Mark Bowler revealed the figure during a presentation to members of Conwy county council’s social care and health scrutiny committee.
His report looked at the effects of coronavirus on the authority’s social care provision since lockdown began.
He revealed that the peak of the crisis had occurred in early February when more than 30 care homes had been designated “red”, meaning there was at least one confirmed case of Covid on the premises.
During the same month, 90 care home staff had tested positive for the coronavirus in Conwy county alone.
Mr Bowler said positive results “rose substantially in January” where there were “a large number of residents” infected “in a small number of homes”.
However rather than residents bearing the brunt of infections, staff were found to be most likely to catch the virus.
He added: “In general we have managed to see fewer residents catching Covid than in that first stage of the pandemic.
“Conwy is not out of this. Hopefully we are coming out of our peak (of infections) but only just.
“The numbers in our care sector are still high. It’s still very, very busy and it’s important we still get infection control right.
“Having the vaccine does not mean we are totally immune from Covid.
“We are not over it on Conwy yet and we still have some real outbreaks ongoing.”
Cllr Andrew Hinchliff (Bryn ward) asked whether the council knew what the take-up of the vaccine was among care staff, as he claimed he’d heard of staff being sacked in London for refusing it.
Claire Lister, the county’s head of integrated and adults services, said: “We are not able to keep data on individuals who refuse the vaccine for data protection reasons.
“We’ve had a number of discussions about it and that was under the advice of HR.
“We certainly wouldn’t be taking disciplinary action against anyone who hadn’t – we would be taking a much more encouraging approach.”
Mr Bowler’s report revealed more than half of the county’s 58 care homes had at least one confirmed case of Covid during week commencing January 24.
More than 50 care home residents contracted Covid-19 between January 24 and February 20 in what he described as “the peak of infections”.
Mr Bowler said: “What we have found during the second peak of infections is where it has caught it’s spread very, very quickly throughout the home.”
Between April 5 and July 5 last year there were 126 infections in the county’s care homes and 35 deaths due to coronavirus.
In the second wave five residents had died since December 20 last year.
Up to two weeks ago 1,165 care home residents had been vaccinated against the infection – representing 95% of the target group.
Mr Bowler praised the work of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board in rolling out the vaccine.
The department had also been distributing PPE from Conwy county council’s unit on Mochdre Commerce Park, which has not been needed as a temporary morgue.
So far 3.5m boxes of gloves, 1.6m boxes of masks and 1.5m rolls of plastic aprons had been distributed from the makeshift depot.
Care homes in the county have also been handed £500,000 to cover additional costs associated with the pandemic and had also supported day centre services even though they didn’t qualify for the Welsh Government support.
More than 3,000 care staff in the county had received a £500 Welsh Government special payment in recognition of their work.
Labour criticised after ‘green revolution pledge’
Plaid Cymru has criticised Welsh Labour’s record on combating climate change, following the pledge from First Minister Mark Drakeford to launch a ‘green revolution’ in Wales if the party wins May’s Senedd election.
“We are so lucky, in our country, to have all the natural resources we need to put Wales at the forefront of the global energy revolution which the world will need,” Mr Drakeford said in a pre-recorded speech to Welsh Labour’s virtual spring conference,
“Wind, water and wave – the next Welsh Labour Government will make those assets work to create the jobs of the future and, in doing so, make our contribution to securing the future of our beautiful but fragile planet.”
Responding to Mr Drakeford’s pledge, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for the Environment, Llŷr Gruffydd MS said the announcement should “come with an apology, not a fanfare” and complained “the current devolution settlement is holding Wales back.”
“Labour Welsh Government action so far on tackling the climate and biodiversity crisis has been woefully inadequate. From failing to introduce stronger rules on energy efficiency in homes to only now grasping the huge renewable energy potential we have in Wales, this announcement should come with an apology, not a fanfare,” Mr Gruffydd said.
“The current devolution arrangement is holding Wales back, because powers over certain aspects of policy are shared by Welsh Government and Westminster. Plaid Cymru believes that responsibility for all of Wales’ natural resources should be in the hands of the people of Wales, through our democratically elected Senedd.
“Welsh Labour’s assertation that this can be delivered via ‘home rule’ through devolution is problematic – they do not support Welsh independence, and all the while UK Labour looks unlikely to gain power, this is tantamount to saying Wales is best served by a destructive Tory Westminster government.”