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Wales’ tourist population boom putting strain on health service and Delta variant spread warn health chiefs

23 Jul 2021 4 minutes Read
Picture by Llywelyn 2000 (CC BY-SA 4.0).

Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter

Health chiefs have admitted that higher than usual visitor numbers to the north of Wales are already putting a strain on local infrastructure and likely to result in further spread of the Delta strain of Covid-19.

In a vaccination update earlier this week, the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board cited a recent survey showing the region as the most popular destination for people in the UK looking to holiday in the UK this summer.

But the move has prompted calls for assurances that public services in the north of Wales are being offered adequate support to deal with such an influx described as “far in excess” of previous years.

Sykes Holiday Cottages’ annual poll showed that 62% of British people intend to spend their main summer break in the UK this year, up from 50% in 2019, mainly due to ongoing uncertainty over foreign travel due to Covid-19.

While such a population boom is welcome news for many businesses dependant on tourism, following a difficult 18 months for hospitality and several other sectors, there are fears in some quarters that public services will struggle to cope.

Gill Harris, the health board’s Executive Director of Nursing and Midwifery, noted that such an influx was also “highly likely” to lead to an increase in cases of the highly transmittable Delta variant, first discovered in India.

She wrote: “This week marks the start of the summer holidays and with news that north Wales is the UK’s most popular destination for holidaymakers, we expect the number of visitors to the region to be far in excess of that seen in previous years.

“This is already placing significant additional pressure on our services and it is highly likely to lead to a marked increase in cases of the Delta variant.”

‘Emergency plan’

The comments have prompted one MS to write to the First Minister,  seeking assurances that extra support would be available for GPs, hospitals and other agencies such as the police, in light of such an unprecedented, albeit temporary, population boom.

The Welsh Government pointed out that the 111 non-emergency freephone service was recently extended to cover the region, in a bid to try and direct patients to the most appropriate health services.

But Sian Gwenllian, the MS for Arfon, said said she was “very concerned” about the wording used.

“I wish to know urgently what exactly the Welsh Government has planned to deal with this situation,” she added.

“Is there an emergency plan in place that brings together all the relevant partners?

“What additional support is available to GPs, Hospitals, Public Services of all kinds, the Police and the many other agencies that will have to cope with these unprecedented pressures?

“And what additional support (financial and in terms of workforce) will be available to them over the summer/autumn?

“My constituents need reassurance that everything is being done to protect them from the adverse effects of the massive population surge happening in our communities.”

Sian Gwenllian MS at Ysbyty Gwynedd. Handout photo.

‘Pressures’

The Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board was approached to comment but said they had nothing to add to what already noted in the vaccination update.

In response, however, a Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The NHS has plans in place to respond to increases in pressures throughout the year.

“We have made more funding available to help manage urgent and emergency care and the 111 service has been rolled out across north Wales to provide advice over-the-phone to people with non-emergency care needs.

“Despite a rise in coronavirus cases in the community, thanks to the success of the vaccination programme, the link with serious illness and hospitalisations has been weakened.

“But we need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control and if you need healthcare, please think about using the right health service for your condition.”

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hdavies15
hdavies15
3 months ago

Tourist presenting with Covid symptoms ? Simple solution – determine home address, and tell him/her to buzz off back there and report to G.P. No access to local G.P at holiday location and no access to hospital services unless victim of accident. What’s difficult about that ?

Mac Reading
Mac Reading
3 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

What’s difficult?

Well the fact that NHS policy and medical ethics aren’t formulated by the same five or six people on a small niche comments section.

That and the fact that I don’t believe that Royal Liverpool Hospital sends home drunken North Waleians on a Saturday night…or that Alder Hey would ever deprive a Welsh child of care.

The Welsh are on holiday as well, remember. Obviously on multilingual shared oppression fact finders in Britanny, Sardinia, Corsia, Catalunya and the Basque Region I grant you.
But you have all the nasty lines and no ideas on here.

Royston Jones
3 months ago
Reply to  Mac Reading

The relative numbers involved, especially when weighed against available resources, make this a spurious response.

Bruce
Bruce
3 months ago
Reply to  Royston Jones

You can’t turn people away for treatment just because they aren’t from the area. It would be like an RNLI lifeboat refusing to rescue the crew of a sinking ship on the grounds that they aren’t locals.

It may be the case that the numbers are putting the local resources under strain but this is the fault of the Westminster government lifting restrictions too early.

Mac Reading
Mac Reading
3 months ago
Reply to  Mac Reading

Given that the article is pure conjecture at this point and that it gives no numbers of people besieging Betsi Cadwallader’s Hospital’s or – from which nation they choose to identify for their provenance – Idon’t feel that. Given that the best anyone could suggest was that sworn Doctors should tell them to do one – I still don’t feel that. Covid tests work on a two week incubation. Are we suggesting people are coming down ill already hoping to do a bit of time in hospital by the sea? I know it probably isn’t your bag, but the majority… Read more »

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
3 months ago
Reply to  Mac Reading

It’s still a question of unsupportable numbers. Bearing in mind the relative success of Covid-19 public health policy in Cymru, and the train wreck that is Boris Johnson’s equivalent for England, it’s inevitable that there will be a correlation between tourism and pressure on the Welsh NHS. The relatively low infection rate emanating from and within Wales itself makes it necessary to consider how visitor numbers from outside Wales can be controlled at a safe level. This, of course, is a unique situation relating specifically to the pandemic, but might be considered as an element in the general raft of… Read more »

Mac Reading
Mac Reading
3 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Wales is a country of three million people against fifty five million.

Wales had chronic problems with the spread of Covid in certain communities which I know you have commented on elsewhere.

And it remains to be seen how it pans out for everyone going forward.

Bruce
Bruce
3 months ago
Reply to  Wrexhamian

Then send the bill to Westminster or transfer the patient back to their own locality as soon as it is medically safe to do so, but I’ll say it again YOU CAN’T TURN DOWN SOMEONE FOR MEDICAL TREATMENT JUST BECAUSE THEY AREN’T LOCALS. IT WOULD BE INHUMANE AND UNETHICAL TO DO SO. Apologies for the shouting but I really needed to make the point. Those of you who are suggesting we should turn away English tourists for medical treatment need to take a step back and think through the implications of what you are saying. Remember, they are human beings… Read more »

Chris
Chris
3 months ago
Reply to  Mac Reading

Are you upset Mac?

Chris
Chris
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

I wonder what a “sworn doctor” is.
But we are not looking at doctors refusing to treat people. That is just specious drivel.
It is not uncommon in the overworked NHS that patients are moved to where there is capacity.
If a plague vector selfishly decides to go on hols whilst infectious and contracts the virus, it is reasonable that the hospital registrar will instruct said vector to return to their point of origin and get treated there.
There is no Welsh variant. We’d like to keep it that way

Mac Reading
Mac Reading
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

A doctors takes the hippocratic path which doesn’t include taking online advice and telling them to do one.

Wales has its badly behaved tourists as well.

You have a slight difference in Covid rules. That’s all.

Chris
Chris
3 months ago
Reply to  Mac Reading

Difference is that the Cymry on holiday tend to respect the laws and customs of their hosts and, if ill and requested to return to their homeland would not wail like big whiny babies and insult everything about the host country. This is Wales. We are not England. We have our own laws and identity. Oh and it is a reasonable standard NHS procedure for hospitals to send patients closer to their homes to be treated, especially if they themselves are overwhelmed. And you don’t think Alder Hey would turn away patients? You need to have a bit of a… Read more »

Last edited 3 months ago by Chris
Vaughan
Vaughan
3 months ago
Reply to  Chris

“the Cymry respect the laws etc”
Evidence for such a remarkable assertion?

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Vaughan

Yes. There is. You should look at it if it interests you.

Bruce
Bruce
3 months ago
Reply to  Mac Reading

I agree Mac, you can’t just turn people away from medical treatment just because they aren’t from the area. You don’t even need medical ethics to say that that would be wrong, simple humanity is enough.

j humphrys
j humphrys
3 months ago
Reply to  Bruce

Do they not ask for a Soc.Sec. number, and send an invoice onward?
Well, you can expect that to change very soon.

Vaughan
Vaughan
3 months ago
Reply to  hdavies15

A fatuous posting.

Chris
Chris
2 months ago
Reply to  Vaughan

Did you buy a job lot of that word Vaughan? You use it a lot and are getting tedious. Mix it up a bit. Your posts are inane

Chris
Chris
3 months ago

Should have closed the borders soon as Freedumbageddon began

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