Senedd roundup: New treatment for Covid-19 cleared for use in Wales

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Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething has given the green light for dexamethasone to be used for the treatment of coronavirus patients in Wales.

The move comes after the announcement by researchers at Oxford University earlier in the week that the anti-inflammatory drug significantly reduces mortality amongst patients who are hospitalised and require oxygen or ventilation because of infection with Covid-19.

According to the team that conducted the trials, one in three deaths could be prevented among patients on ventilators. For patients on oxygen, it could prevent one death in five.

The drug has been used in the UK since the early 1960s and can help treat various illnesses involving inflammation or swelling in the body, or conditions affecting the immune system.

Dexamethasone is regularly given to patients with autoimmune conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.

In a written statement Mr Gething noted: “The all-Wales hospital guideline for treatment of Covid-19 has been updated to take account of these findings and an alert has been issued to every NHS organisation and clinician working in Wales setting out the positive benefits of dexamethasone and advising them to consider it as a treatment option for hospitalised Covid-19 patients requiring oxygen or ventilation.”

Public Health Wales has reported five further deaths from coronavirus in Wales, taking the total to 1,471. A further 48 new cases have been confirmed. There have now been 14,970 confirmed cases of coronavirus.  Yesterday 2,271 tests were conducted across Wales.

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

Test, Trace and Protect service reporting 90% success rate

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed there are now 700 staff working in contact tracing teams across Wales as part of the NHS Wales Test, Trace and Protect service, and says plans are in place to rapidly increase this number should the situation require it.

Up until the 14 June 1,309 positive cases were referred to the teams for contact tracing, resulting in 1,752 follow-up contacts being identified, of which nearly 90% were successfully contacted and advised of what action to take.  So far fewer than 10 individuals who have tested positive have refused to share details of their contacts.

In a written statement the minister reported daily lab testing capacity in Wales currently stands at 12,374 with a new Mass Testing Centre (MTC) opening in Deeside on 11 June and plans for an additional MTC in Abergavenny being finalised.

Reflecting on what he described as very positive and successful start to the programme, Mr Gething wrote: “The early performance endorses the approach we have taken in Wales of working in partnership with local authorities and health boards to build our local contact tracing capacity.   All the signs are that the public are engaging positively with our contact tracing operation and our efforts are focused on ensuring this continues.”

At Thursday’s coronavirus press briefing it was also revealed that all residential care homes in Wales have now been offered coronavirus testing.

By the beginning of the week over 22,800 care home residents and 28,780 staff had been tested.

Of those tested 1,212 residents and 1,206 care workers have tested positive for Covid-19.

There are more than 1,200 residential care homes in Wales.

Approximately 30 care homes across Wales have not yet agreed and completed testing.

The minister said: “These are care homes where there has not been an outbreak of coronavirus.

“Understandably they have been reluctant to allow testing to take place because they are worried about the risk of coronavirus entering their homes, however small that risk may be.

“Health boards, Care Forum Wales and Care Inspectorate Wales are working with these homes to understand their reasons for not accepting the offer of testing and to encourage take up.”

Image by Colin Behrens from Pixabay

Cancer screening to restart by the end of June

The government has launched a new information campaign to highlight the importance of continuing to access essential cancer services across Wales during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Public Health Wales announced yesterday that cancer screening programmes in Wales will resume from the end of the month and invitations and reminders will be sent to people eligible for screening for cervical, breast and bowel cancer.

Cervical Screening Wales will be the first service to resume from the end of June. From July, Breast Test Wales plans to start to send out screening invitations to women at higher risk and Bowel Screening Wales will start sending out testing kits.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “We know that many people have been avoiding their GP surgery or hospital due to COVID but tests and treatment for cancer are available and I want those who need to seek care and treatment to continue to do so.

“Services will look different, with some appointments being done remotely and if you do need to be seen in person then clinicians may be wearing protective equipment. This is to reduce everyone’s risk of catching COVID when being investigated for cancer or receiving treatment for cancer.

“We have worked hard with the NHS to ensure cancer services can continue but the pandemic has had an impact on services. That doesn’t mean the NHS isn’t there for you but it does mean care and treatment has had to adapt to being delivered in a world with COVID. We will continue to do all that we can to ensure cancer services are there for you when you need them.”

North Wales Metro investment in Flintshire electric bus services

An investment of £450,000 is being made from the Welsh Government’s North Wales metro funding to provide electric buses and charging infrastructure for two Flintshire routes.

The investment will fund two electric bus vehicles which will serve routes to Buckley and Treuddyn, as well as the charging infrastructure to maintain them.

The routes are part of Flintshire’s aim to link rural routes to main hubs in the county.

The vehicles will be housed at the council’s facility in Buckley which includes a solar farm allowing the buses to be charged using a locally generated renewable energy source.

The new vehicles will be larger, to accommodate growing demand, and which will also allow social distancing should that be required.

Flintshire Council is providing £358,000 for the vehicles which is being match funded by the Welsh Government.

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