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News in brief: World Health Organisation renames Covid variants to avoid stigma

01 Jun 2021 6 minutes Read
Microscopic image of a human cell being attacked by coronaviruses. Photo by sjrankin, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

The World Health Organisation has introduced new names for Covid variants of concern to replace the previous names which linked the mutations to where they were discovered.

The new system uses the Greek alphabet and reflects the order in which the variants were first detected.

The Kent mutation (B.1.1.7) was the first to be detected last summer and has now been renamed as the Alpha variant.

Three other variants of concern have also been given new names under the new WHO protocol.

The South Africa variant (B.1.351) is now Beta, Brazil (P.1) is Gamma and the India (B.1.617.2) currently the dominant variant in the UK, is Delta.

Discriminatory’

The WHO said the changes were implemented because calling variants by the places where they are detected “is stigmatising and discriminatory”.

“To avoid this and to simplify public communications, [the] WHO encourages national authorities, media outlets and others to adopt these new labels,” the organisation said in a statement.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed on Sunday there were less than 100 cases of the Delta variant in Wales, however, since the mutation was first identified last month infections have surged in England and Scotland and new data from the Wellcome Sanger Institutes has revealed the rapid advance of the Variant across England in recent weeks.

The Delta variant is believed to be 50% more transmissible than the Alpha variant that resulted in the second Covid wave last winter and early studies suggest vaccines are less effective, especially in people that have received just one jab.

The TAG group of scientist advising the Welsh government on the management of the pandemic, warns in its latest report “there is evidence of uncontrolled community transmission in several places in England,” where areas in the North West, East Midlands and London have seen a rapid increase in cases and advises “It will be important to carefully monitor the situation in England and prepare for reasonable worst-case scenarios in Wales.”

Meanwhile, todays figures from Public Health Wales have confirmed no new deaths due to Covid and 94 new cases of the virus over the 48 hours up to 9am on Sunday morning.

Four local authorities reported no new positive tests over the weekend and the highest number of new cases was 15 in Cardiff.

Bridgend currently has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 21.8 per 100,000 people, a fall from 28.6 on Friday and the positive test proportion at 1.9% is also the highest in the country.

The national case rate is down from 8.6 to 8.0 and the positive test proportion remains steady at 0.9%.

Mick Antoniw. Picture by the Welsh Assembly (CC BY 2.0)

Wales’ new Counsel General says protection devolution ‘will be crucial’

Mick Antoniw, MS, the Welsh Government’s new Counsel General, says he sees protecting devolution as a crucial part of his role.

The Counsel General is the government’s chief legal adviser and representative in the courts and was sworn into office at a ceremony at Cardiff Crown Court on Friday after his nomination was passed by the Senedd earlier in the week.

Mr Antoniw, who was a practising solicitor before his election to the Senedd in 2011, has also been appointed to the role of Minister for Constitution.

“It’s a privilege to have been sworn in as Counsel General,” he said.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of laws made in Wales to people’s everyday lives. Our laws are closely linked to our constitution and this Government will look to lead a national civic conversation about our constitutional future.

“Protecting devolution will be crucial as we look to build a greener, stronger, fairer nation.”

Photo by Alexandra Koch from Pixabay

Government to monitor school attendance numbers as 10% of pupils stay home

New government figures have revealed 10% of pupils have failed to return to school following last autumn’s lockdown.

Currently the government’s policy, introduced during the pandemic, is not to penalise parents who do not send their children to school, although attendance remains compulsory.

Figures from Public Health Wales last week confirmed just 55 cases of Covid linked with schools, however more than 200 pupils were isolating after 26 people from West Park Primary School in Porthcawl tested positive for the virus.

A Welsh Government spokesman told Wales Online: ”School attendance is compulsory but we recognise some families will have greater anxiety about children’s attendance at school around the risks of Covid-19.

“We would expect parents to discuss any concerns they have with the school to secure a full return to school at the earliest opportunity. This will help schools, settings and local authorities plan for, and understand any barriers to, learners returning to school and identify any further support needed.

“The Welsh Government will monitor the situation and continue to review its position.”

Rob McElhenney. Picture by Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 3.0).

Wrexham make key appointment in the search for a new manager

Wrexham have appointed Les Reed, the former technical director of the English FA, as an advisor to the club’s board.

The former Charlton Athletic manager’s last club role was director of football and vice-chairman at Southampton between 2010-2018.

Wrexham owners Rob McElhenney and Ryan Reynolds have appointed Reed to help find a replacement for boss Dean Keates, who was told his contract was not being renewed after the club failed to reach the National League playoffs at the weekend.

Reed was appointed assistant to Alan Curbishley at Charlton in 1995 and helped the South London club gain promotion to the FA Premier League via the playoffs in 1998.

The following year Reed replaced Howard Wilkinson as Director of Technical Development at the FA.

The 68-year-old said joining Wrexham “was an opportunity that was exceptionally interesting and a challenge I wanted”.

“It reminds me very much of when I first went to Southampton under new ownership in League One, where the objective was to return the club to the Premier League at the earliest opportunity, while creating a sustainable business model,” he added.

“As it was then, the recruitment of players for the first team will be key to join those in the current squad who will be retained, if financial terms can be agreed.

“I look forward to working with everyone at the club involved with the recruitment and development of players, and the new manager in particular.”

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