Officials issue warning of respiratory infection risk as schools return
Wales’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Chris Jones, has issued a warning of the risk of respiratory infections as schools return after the summer break.
The warning follows the announcement earlier this week by Health Minister Eluned Morgan that the autumn flu and Covid-19 vaccine programme in Wales is to start earlier than planned this year.
The move follows advice from health officials after a new variant of the virus which causes Covid-19 was detected in the UK earlier this month.
The variant, known as BA.2.86, is being described by scientists as the most concerning new variant since Omicron first emerged.
It is not currently classified as a “variant of concern”, but officials have said it carries a high number of mutations.
Dr Jones said:” “Respiratory infections spread easily between people at this time of year. It is important to be aware of symptoms so you can take action to reduce the risk of spreading your infection to other people.
“We should all take sensible precautionary measures to protect ourselves and others from COVID-19 and other respiratory viruses. If you’re feeling unwell you should avoid contact with others and tell people you have recently been in contact with, so they can be aware of signs or symptoms.
“Frequent hand washing and covering your mouth and nose with a disposable tissue when coughing and sneezing are also encouraged.
“If you live with or are visiting someone with a chronic health condition or a weakened immune system, consider wearing a face mask and avoid visiting hospitals and care settings if you have symptoms.
“Vaccination remains our key defence for flu and COVID-19. So if your eligible please take up your offer of a vaccine.”
The autumn vaccination programme for Wales will commence this year on 11 September.
Vaccinations are to be rolled out to over 65s, at risk groups and those working or living with vulnerable people for flu and COVID-19.
Dr Christopher Johnson, Deputy Director of Health Protection and Head of Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme at Public Health Wales, said: “While Covid-19 may not be at the forefront of everyone’s minds, or may even be something that people would rather forget, it is important to remember that the virus is still with us.
“There are simple but important steps that everyone can take to protect themselves, their loved ones, and the NHS, especially as we see increased social mixing as schools return, and an increase in numbers.
“If you feel unwell, stay home and avoid contact with others, as you would to avoid spreading any other respiratory infection, like flu.
“When you cough or sneeze, do so into a handkerchief, and wash your hands frequently to avoid passing on germs. Special care should be taken around vulnerable or elderly people, so avoid contact with these if you are ill.
“And of course, please take up the offer of a Covid-19 and flu vaccine if you are offered them. These are the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus and protect yourself, your family, and to help the NHS.”
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.