Senedd roundup: New figures confirm over 3,000 Covid deaths in Wales

Picture a merger of @LloydCymru’s coronavirus updates and an image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay.

Owen Donovan, Senedd Home

Latest figures from the Office for National Statistics have confirmed 3,050 death in Wales involving Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic.

In the week ending 6 November there were 166 deaths involving the virus, 20% of the overall total of all deaths, a third above the year-on-year average for the week and 45 more than the previous seven days.

Excess deaths, a comparison of the number of all registered deaths to previous years, shows there were 207 above the five-year average.

62 deaths were registered across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area involving coronavirus – including 53 in hospital. There were also 49 deaths in the Aneurin Bevan health board area, 24 in Swansea Bay, 12 in Betsi Cadwaladr and 12 in Cardiff and Vale.

Rhondda Cynon Taf has recorded 433 deaths since March, the highest in Wales and the third highest in Wales and England by population at 180 deaths per 100,000 people.

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.

Yesterday Health Minister Vaughan Gething reported there have been over 250 deaths due to coronavirus over the first two week of November.

Today’s figures from Public Health Wales have confirmed a further 34 people have died due to Covid-19 and 705 people have tested positive with the virus since yesterday.

Eighteen of the deaths were in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area and a further eight people died in the Cardiff and Vale area.

According to PHW’s figures 2,243 people have died in Wales since March but unlike the ONS they only include deaths occurring in individuals who were laboratory confirmed with Covid-19 and the majority of deaths reported occurred in hospital settings or care homes.

Rhondda Cynon Taf saw the highest number of new cases in the last 24 hours, with 89, followed by Swansea with 79 and Caerphilly with 66.

Blaenau Gwent has recorded 239 cases in the last week and has the highest infection rate in the country at 342.1 per 100,000 of the population and Neath Port Talbot has the highest proportion of positive tests for the virus over the last seven days at 20.3% per 100,000 tests.

Photo by HM Treasury and licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Minister reveals 167 patients were moved to care homes after positive coronavirus tests

Fifty-three people were discharged from hospital into Welsh care homes within 15 days of a positive Covid test at the start of the pandemic, figures released to the Welsh Conservatives show.

In a response to a written question from Welsh Conservative health spokesperson Andrew RT Davies, Labour’s Health Minister Vaughan Gething revealed that 167 patients were discharged to a care home after a positive test between 1 March and 31 May.

Just under a third of those were discharged within two weeks of the positive test and were among 1,729 transferred in March, April, and May.

“At the start of the pandemic more than a thousand patients were discharged from Welsh hospitals without a test, and this latest information now shows 167 people who were known to have tested positive for coronavirus, were also sent to Welsh care homes,” Mr Davies said.

“A troubling third of these people were transferred within 15 days after a positive test, potentially introducing the virus into one of the most vulnerable settings in Welsh society on a widespread scale.

“These numbers sadly show that the Welsh Labour-led Government was unaware of the devastating impact such a decision might have, and it’s important that the future inquiry fully examines the reasons why this took place and brings justice for the families of those who may have tragically lost loved ones.

“Significant concerns remain regarding the Labour administration’s approach to care homes and we again repeat our call for those most vulnerable in our society to be protected with scaled-up, targeted interventions such as regular screening of patient-facing staff.”

Blast Furnace located at the Port Talbot steelworks

Government wants to avoid the distraction of alternative plans for the steel industry

First Minister’s Questions

In light of recent news over Tata’s future, Adam Price MS (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr), said the possible reduction in primary steelmaking and its replacement with electric arc furnaces for the sake of reaching carbon emission targets was short-sighted.

With Wales unable to rely on Westminster to prioritise the Welsh economy, he called for the Welsh Government to develop alternative proposals, including possible part or full nationalisation ( an argument which was made in 2016), a steel cooperative based on Mondragon and research on hydrogen-based steel production.

The First Minister warned against speaking as though all is lost; Tata still has customers and an order book to fulfil. The solution could only be found through proper discussions between the UK Government and Tata which haven’t been forthcoming.

The Welsh Government would “use its powers of persuasion”, not to make a counter-proposal but to work with Tata on the plans they themselves want to bring forward. There was no doubt of his desire to see a carbon-neutral steel industry and that’s why the steel research institute with Swansea University is so important.

More discussions would take place with the Basque Government over the potential of mutuals, but it was important not to get distracted by alternatives.

Elsewhere, the Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS (Con, Preseli Pembs.), welcomed the backdating of £500 payments for people self-isolating in Wales to October but this would leave people disadvantaged compared to those in the same position Scotland and England.

Additionally, a Mind Cymru survey revealed a third of adults and a quarter of young people are failing to get mental health support.

The First Minister warned of a need for certainty that people were eligible for the money for reasons of fraud protection. He agreed that getting help with mental health problems during this period of strain was very important – though people haven’t failed to get the help that they asked for, they simply haven’t looked for it.

Photo by Elien Dumon on Unsplash

Minister hints at new approach to care home testing

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has rejected claims that slow turnaround times for Covid-19 tests in care homes are costing lives but says the government is considering a “different approach” to speed up results in future.

According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales only 20% of test results from the UK-wide Lighthouse lab tests, responsible for the majority of tests carried out in care homes, are processed within 24 hours and 82% come back within 48 hours.

“We know there are challenges in the turnaround times for testing in care homes. We’ve been clear and upfront about that. We’re now starting to see an improving picture when it comes to Lighthouse lab turnaround,” he said.

“I think it’d be wrong to see this just in terms of one particular issue in one area without seeing the broader picture on how we utilise all the tests are available to us.”.

“And that’s where I want to get to – to have that broader settled picture which will definitely include the potential for a different deal on visiting in care homes.

“But the work isn’t finished just yet, when it is I’ll make that clear in public, and I’m sure there’ll be lots of people who will be looking forward to any decision we make there but I think the clarity and the whole picture is really important.”

The minister also confirmed a review on transmission within health care settings would report within the next few days and he will reveal further details later this week.

“We’ll be clear if there is any further action to be taken to help provide people with the assurances, I know they’re looking for,” he added.

Lecture hall. Photo by Wokandapix from Pixabay

Plans set out for Christmas travel for university students

Education Minister, Kirsty Williams (Lib Dem, Brecon & Radnor), has published the Welsh Government’s plans to enable university students living on-campus to return home during the Christmas period.

The plans mean that:

  • Students are asked to travel home no later than 9th December 2020. Students will also need to minimise social contact in the run-up to Christmas.
  • Students will be asked to get a Covid-19 test at least 24 hours before they intend to travel home. Testing facilities will be provided in the coming weeks.
  • The majority of in-person lessons will end on the week beginning 8th December 2020, with remaining lessons being conducted virtually. This will allow any students who test positive for Covid-19 to self-isolate before returning home.

The Minister said: “We are working with our universities to roll out the asymptomatic mass testing pilot before the end of term. I would encourage students to sign up for the testing pilot to make returning home at the end of term easier.

“I have been determined that students in Wales are able to spend the holidays where they most want to, in a safe way, and these arrangements will allow that to happen.”

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