NHS Wales chief executive Andrew Goodall described an improving outlook across Wales at Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing, as ministers prepared to review lockdown measures ahead of an announcement on any easing of restrictions tomorrow.
Pointing out the number of new cases has been declining steadily since the beginning of April, despite more tests being carried out, he said many local authority areas were now reporting fewer than five new coronavirus cases a day and the number of people dying from coronavirus has also been falling since the middle of April.
Dr Goodall said: “I think this has been a really important two or three weeks that we can see has genuinely contributed to an ongoing reduction of community transmission, and also an ongoing reduction of patients in our critical care beds and in hospital beds.”
Echoing comments from both First Minister Mark Drakeford and Health Minister Vaughan Gething, he indicated the approach to easing restrictions would be cautious, adding: “I think we just would like to maintain some focus on making sure that this virus is not able to get hold again in Wales over the forthcoming weeks.”
Following the announcement yesterday that from next Monday the government intends to implement population contact tracing for coronavirus across Wales, Dr Goodall also confirmed 600 people have been employed to work as contact tracers.
Eventually that will rise to 1,000 but that number will not be needed immediately as tracing is being introduced on a phased basis, with the focus initially on those in receipt of a positive covid-19 test result.
Indicating it was unlikely there will be penalties for people who don’t comply with contact tracing from the start of the programme he said: “We want to work alongside the public so they understand the reasons and the rationale.”
The latest figures released by Public Health Wales have confirmed 14 more deaths from coronavirus. The total number of deaths in Wales is now 1,307.
The overall number of people that have tested positive for the virus is 13,725 after 72 new cases were reported.
There were 1,555 tests conducted across Wales yesterday.
Calls for “rebuild” after health board incorrectly discharged 1,700 patients
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS has called for an immediate “rebuild” of mental health services in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board after it was confirmed that nearly 1,700 patients were wrongly discharged from its mental health services due to the coronavirus pandemic.
After giving initial estimates of 200-300 patients affected, the health board apologised, saying it should not have happened. Now that the real scale has been revealed, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, has questioned how this could happen.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board says it was down to a misinterpretation of Welsh Government guidance, and says it intends to contact them all wrongly discharged patients in the coming days for them to be reinstated.
Mr ap Iorwerth said: “One patient being discharged before time is one patient too many. To now learn that 1,694 patients were discharged early, while they still needed support from mental health services, is a deeply distressing.
“I welcome the assurance that all 1,694 patients will be contacted in the coming days to be reinstated to this vital service, but the question remains as to how such a decision could have happened right across the health board area, and how there could have been such widespread ‘misinterpretation’ of guidance. I should have been pretty clear that this would be unacceptable.
“I think it’s clear that immediate investment is needed in rebuilding mental health services.”
50,000th essential food box delivered
The Welsh Government says it has arranged the delivery of its 50,000th food box for those most at risk from coronavirus.
The direct delivery food scheme was launched at the beginning of April to help those shielding from the virus who are not able to call on help from family, friends, or neighbours.
The Welsh Government made £15 million available to fund the scheme which enables people to apply for the food packages from their local authority.
Each box provides one week’s supply for one person and typically contain staples such as long-life milk, tinned produce, pasta, toilet roll, breakfast cereal, some fruit and vegetables and bread.
Initially Chief Medical Officer Frank Atherton sent letters instructing 88,000 people to shield. A further 12,000 GP referrals were added to the list before the government advised a further 21 thousand people to shield at the start of May.
This took the total number advised to shield in Wales to approximately 121,000.