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Senedd roundup: “Too early to tell” if coronavirus rates are going up in Wales

22 May 2020 6 minute read
The masked Ivor Novello statue in Cardiff Bay. Photo Nation.Cymru

First Minister Mark Drakeford says it is too early to tell if the rate of transmission of Covid-19 has gone up after the lockdown in Wales was modestly eased two weeks ago.

Those changes allowed people to visit garden centres and leave the house more than once a day for exercise.

Mr Drakeford said the rate of transmission or R number was currently “around 0.8” in Wales.

The R (reproduction number) is a way of rating a disease’s ability to spread and calculates the average number of people that one infected person will pass the virus on to.

If the R figure moves above one, levels of infection rapidly increase.

The Minister, speaking at Friday’s coronavirus press conference said: “It is probably still just a bit too early to know whether those measures are yet feeding into an increase circulation of the virus in the community.”

With the current restrictions due to be reviewed by the government next week Mr Drakeford added: “The headroom we have to make changes across the United Kingdom is still very narrow, even at 0.8, but extra measures we might be able to take will be modest, and we’ll be careful.”

Looking ahead to the review he explained the government was being “careful and cautious” about what changes, if any, might be put in place and reiterated restrictions will only be eased when safe to do so.

He said he recognises that what people are missing most is contact with family and friends and confirmed: “Over the week leading up to the changes in regulations in Wales we are focusing very much on this issue, looking to see whether there are models that would allow people to be able to do more of that, provided it is done in the safest of conditions.”

Seven more deaths in Wales from Covid-19 have been confirmed. The total number of fatalities due to the virus now stands at 1,254. Public Health Wales also announced there were 138 new confirmed cases, bringing the total number to 12,984. Over the last 24 hours 1,794 test were conducted.


Parc y Scarlets. Picture by Scarlets Rugby on Twitter.

£166 million cost of field hospitals defended despite treating just 35 people 

The chief executive of the Welsh NHS has defended the construction of field hospitals across Wales despite the government confirming just 35 patients had been treated in them so far.

Dr Andrew Goodall revealed that since the start of the coronavirus outbreak in March 7,000 people have been admitted to hospital in Wales with coronavirus symptoms. More than 5,000 patients have been discharged while 464 had been treated in critical care.

Currently just 55 people are being treated in critical care with 60% of critical care beds currently empty and available.

Dr Goodall said the unit’s, built at a cost of £166 million, “have been a really fundamental and necessary part of our preparation in making sure the NHS was going to be able to respond to the peak we were expecting.”

He said the surge of cases during March and into April required the NHS had to respond rapidly to establish a level of bed capacity that Wales had never seen before.

Noting the costs of the field hospitals he said: “of course there are costs around the construction of those facilities as well as ongoing costs as we go forward.”

“But I would argue that those were investments in terms of saving lives and also protecting the Welsh population.

Dr Goodall also warned that despite the lack of patients using the field hospitals so far, they could have a significant role to play in the coming months: “I’m genuinely concerned that we still need to have the flexibility of capacity if we see a resurgence of this virus because over the course of the months to come there is absolute potential to see a second or third peak – and that could well be higher than what we were seeing during April.

“I would hope that isn’t the case. We prepared for April and we were able to demonstrate – working with the public – that we were able to reduce that peak.

“But the field hospitals have been an essential part of our preparations at this stage and will continue to be so over the forthcoming months.”

Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash.

Call for information on life in care homes during coronavirus pandemic

The Older People’s Commissioner for Wales, Heléna Herklots is asking people to share their experiences of life in care homes during the coronavirus crisis.

Yesterday the commissioner told BBC Wales she believed the human rights and right to life of care home residents had been breached due to delays in expanding testing, and called on the Equality and Human Rights Commission to investigate how older people have been treated throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

In a post on the commissioner’s website she said she wants to hear from care home residents, workers and visitors  and the information shared will help her to “scrutinise the response of the Welsh Government and other public bodies to the pandemic and hold them to account for the decisions they have made.”

Picture by grassrootsgroundswell (CC BY 2.0).

Major public transport investment announced

The Welsh Government is to invest £30 million improving public transport across Wales.

All 22 local authorities were invited to submit proposals to the Local Transport Grant funding to deliver projects which will:

  • support economic priorities for jobs and growth
  • reduce economic inactivity by delivering safe and affordable access to education, key services and employment, particularly for those living in disadvantaged or rural communities
  • connect communities
  • encourage active and sustainable travel
  • improve public transport reliability and reduce journey times

Following assessment of the applications, Transport Minister, Ken Skates announced that £22.6 million will be allocated to 21 projects across 15 local authorities which enable improvement in economic activity, improve access to employment, encourage healthier travel modes and connect communities.

An additional £3.531 million will be allocated to the North Wales Metro project to deliver 10 schemes across 4 local authorities.

£4.1 million will be allocated to support 17 schemes across 13 local authorities to ease bus congestion and delays on strategic public transport corridors.

Ken Skates said: ”The grants will see over £20 million being invested in improving integrated public transport. This includes £3.6 million to begin construction of the new bus interchange in Merthyr Tydfil, something I’m very keen to see progress.

In north Wales I am committing over £2.2 million to deliver a better, more efficient service for passengers by improving bus journey times and passenger facilities in Flintshire, and to that end a further £380,000 in the Conwy Council area.

Our flagship North Wales Metro project, a key part of this government’s programme to provide a more integrated and efficient transport system for the region, will also receive a £3.5 million boost.

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Angharad Shaw
Angharad Shaw
4 years ago

So R is around 0.8, but it’s too early to tell if R has changed. Am I missing something?

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
4 years ago
Reply to  Angharad Shaw

There has never been a firm value for R, it’s always quoted in a range simply because there is no accurate value for the numerator or the denominator i.e the figure to be divided and the figure by which it is divided ( in this case hopefully the greater of the two !). Increasingly looks like an intellectual construct designed to make the common herd think that the authority figures know what they are on about. Conceptually useful if government has a grip on control. Not much point long term in bawling on about R if you are not prepared… Read more »

Walter Hunt
Walter Hunt
4 years ago

Wales online 21.5.20 reported that Dr Andrew Goodall, Chief Executive of NHS Wales, said that number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms was just over 7,000. 464 of them had been treated in critical care. Only 464? Yet the number of confirmed deaths on that day was stated to have reached 1,247. It would be interesting to know what medical interventions were carried out on those 7000 and the rationale for making or not making those interventions, the outcomes of those interventions and what oversight there is in regards “clinical judgement’ and medical ethics.

E Williams
E Williams
4 years ago

When they say ‘Wales’ are they referring to the whole country or only the South East. corner. With the First Minister mentioning concerns over a 2nd peak when North Wales hasn’t even reached the 1st one yet, I’d say the latter clearly applies at Cardiff Bay.

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