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LATEST NEWS, ADVICE AND GUIDANCE FROM WELSH GOVERNMENT AND PUBLIC HEALTH WALES

Information correct as of 13.10.2021

Wales introduces COVID Pass for events and nightclubs (11.10.2021)

People in Wales must show a COVID Pass or demonstrate their COVID-19 status to enter nightclubs and attend large events from today

The introduction of the COVID Pass builds on the measures in place to help to keep Wales safe and open during the pandemic.

Cases of coronavirus continue to be high across Wales, especially among younger adults.

The law is changing today so all adults over-18 will need to show an NHS COVID Pass or a negative COVID-19 test to enter certain premises:

  • nightclubs and similar venues
  • indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people
  • outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people
  • any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said:

Our fantastic vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength but the pandemic is not over. Cases of remain high across Wales and, unfortunately, families across the country are losing loved ones to this awful virus.

The clear advice from our scientific advisers is that we need to take early action now.

The COVID Pass is just one of a series of measures in place to help prevent people spreading and catching coronavirus while helping to keep the economy open. None of us want to see further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again.

Showing a COVID Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open, with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

Together, if we all continue to follow the clear guidelines we’re all used to by now, we’ll be doing everything we can to Keep Wales Safe.

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS COVID Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status. It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Only people attending these venues and events will need to show their COVID-19 status. Staff working or volunteering in these venues are encouraged to take lateral flow tests twice a week to check they do not have the virus. Workplaces are required by law to undertake COVID-19 risk assessments, and to put reasonable measures in place to ensure staff safety.

COVID-19 passes have been used successfully in many venues and events in Wales throughout the summer.

The First Minister confirmed last week that Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks. Plans are in place to respond to a challenging winter ahead with both coronavirus and seasonal flu both in circulation.

Ministers continue to encourage everyone to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus by continuing to work from home whenever possible, ensuring they take up the offer of a COVID-19 vaccine, keeping your distance, isolating and taking a PCR test if you have symptoms, and wearing a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport.

The Welsh Government will use the current enforcement regimes for monitoring compliance, this means businesses and events will need to ensure their proposed arrangements to comply with the COVID pass regulations are included in their risk assessments, and reasonable measures to ensure compliance.

Penalties for non-compliance will include:

  • a premises improvement notice or premises closure notice
  • a fixed penalty notice and a maximum fine for businesses of £10,000

In addition, it is now an offence for a person to provide false or misleading evidence of vaccination or testing status where that evidence is required as part of the requirement for holding a COVID pass.

Further information and guidance is available on the Welsh Government website: Use the NHS COVID Pass to attend large events and venues.


Written Statement: Review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (27.09.2021)

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 require that a review of the coronavirus restrictions is undertaken every three weeks.  The most recent review was undertaken on 16 September.

Draft amended Regulations have been laid today that will require people to show an NHS COVID pass to enter large events and high risk establishments, such as nightclubs, from 11 October. This will be debated by members of the Senedd on 5 October.

The COVID Pass has been used in Wales for some events over the summer and some premises already require the pass to be shown as a condition of entry. The pass allows people to prove they have either been fully vaccinated or to provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test.

We do not introduce such measures lightly: we want to support venues to stay open and enable events to continue taking place through a potentially difficult autumn and winter.

As we head into winter, it is vital we all work together to keep Wales safe and I urge members to support this on 5 October.


Written Statement: Review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (17.09.2021)

First Minister Mark Drakeford MS

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 require that a review of the coronavirus restrictions is undertaken every three weeks.  The most recent review was due by 16 September.  

Overall transmission of Covid-19 has increased across Wales since the last review as has the percentage of people testing positive. Evidence continues to indicate that the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths has been weakened by the vaccination programme. It has not been broken and the number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 has risen steadily over recent weeks, as wider pressures on our health and care system are also increasing.

The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) has indicated we are entering a period of uncertainty as schools and universities go back and more people return to the workplace. This is all happening at the same time when we are starting to see vaccine immunity beginning to wane.

We are able to remain at alert level zero but the rise in cases and the current uncertainty mean we will must all redouble our efforts to do the simple things which keep us all safe.

These include being fully vaccinated; getting tested and self-isolating if we have symptoms of coronavirus; meeting others outdoors wherever possible and keeping indoor areas well ventilated; keeping our distance when we can; washing our hands regularly; wearing a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport, and working from home whenever possible.

The autumn booster vaccination campaign started yesterday – frontline NHS staff in North Wales were the first to receive the booster vaccine. Tomorrow, care home residents and staff in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area will receive the booster and the roll out will be extended throughout Wales on Monday.

In line with the advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), all frontline health and care staff, everyone living and working in care homes, everyone over 50 and all those with underlying health conditions aged 16 and over will be eligible for a booster at least six months after they received their second dose. 

Letters will also start being delivered to 12 to 15-year-olds next week, inviting them to be vaccinated and we will redouble our efforts to encourage those who haven’t yet been vaccinated to take up the offer.

Vaccines remain our strongest defence from the virus.

We will be working with businesses and trade unions about the need to review their risk assessments and, if necessary, strengthen the reasonable measures they are taking to help reduce the risk of transmission. These might include, for example, more public announcements or better signage about the requirement to wear face coverings in retail or on public transport. We will also be highlighting the importance of continuing to permit staff to work from home where possible.

SAGE has advised that it is important to act early to slow down a growing epidemic. In addition to the areas set out above we will also amend the regulations to require people to show the NHS COVID Pass to enter the following venues and events from Monday 11 October:

Nightclubs and similar venues.

Indoor non-seated events for more than 500 people, where people are mixing closely for prolonged periods.

Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people, where people will be mixing closely for prolonged periods.

Any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.

The COVID Pass has been used in Wales for some events over the summer and some premises require the pass to be shown as a condition of entry. It allows people to prove they have either been fully vaccinated or to provide evidence of a negative lateral flow test.

We want to support venues to stay open and enable events to continue taking place, particularly as many have only recently reopened.

As we head into winter, let’s all work together to keep Wales safe. 


Written Statement: COVID-19 vaccination - JCVI advice on 12-15 year olds (03.09.2021)

Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.

Today, following months of discussion and consideration of evidence, the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) have issued advice on the vaccination of children and young people aged 12-15. 

They recommend an expansion of the list of specific underlying health conditions for children and young people aged 12 -15 years who are eligible for two doses of COVID-19 vaccine. In their advice, they detail the additional groups who will be eligible. Our NHS will work quickly to identify these children and young people and their Health Boards will automatically contact them. There is no need for patients to contact their health board or clinicians to check eligibility. Those children and young people already eligible under the JCVI’s advice of specific underlying health conditions will have already been offered appointments.

On children and young people aged 12-15 who do not have underlying health conditions, the JCVI have advised that the benefits from vaccination are marginally greater than the potential known harms but that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the magnitude of the potential harms. From an individual health benefit perspective, they feel the margin of benefit, is considered too small to support advice on a universal programme of vaccination of otherwise healthy 12-15-year-old children at this time. They do however acknowledge that there may be wider issues to consider which are outside the remit of the JCVI to evaluate, such as wider societal impacts, including educational benefits, where the CMO would be better placed to advise, with representation from JCVI.

I would like to thank the JCVI for fully considering the issue of vaccinating 12-15 year olds and for taking the care to form a balanced view. Alongside the other nations of the UK, I have asked my Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to provide guidance at the earliest opportunity on the clinical and wider health benefits of vaccinating this age group. Our intention, as it has been from the start of the pandemic, is to follow the clinical and scientific evidence. Decisions on the vaccination of all 12-15 year olds will be made on the basis of the CMO’s advice, in addition to the advice provided by the JCVI. In the meantime, our NHS has planned and stands ready to implement any further decisions taken.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.


CMO advice on 21 Day review of COVID-19 restrictions: 27 August 2021 (27.08.2021)

Advice presented to First Minister on 21 day review of COVID-19 restrictions.

I note the minor changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

Community transmission of COVID-19 in Wales appears to be increasing and is likely to increase further when school and university teaching resumes. The high vaccination rates have contributed to weakening the link between recorded infections and the serious effects of the disease, as evinced by comparatively low numbers of people admitted daily to hospital with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.  

However, there remains considerable uncertainty for the months ahead. The impact of relaxations during the summer, with increased social mixing at Alert level 0, are reflected in rising numbers of cases and test positivity in all areas of Wales, albeit at a slower pace compared to previous waves. We must continue to monitor the position very closely, not least given the broader pressures currently being experienced across the health and care system.  

Vaccination is one of the most effective ways we can protect our families, communities and ourselves against COVID-19. The vaccination programme is now focused on boosting take up of first and second doses for all adults and encouraging younger cohorts to come forward. In addition NHW Wales has begun vaccinating children aged 12-17 who are deemed clinically at risk, and planning continues for an autumn booster programme. 

Influenza vaccination is also an important priority to reduce morbidity and mortality associated with influenza and to reduce hospitalisations when the NHS and social care system may be managing winter outbreaks of COVID-19.

Now is not the time to be complacent. The virus is still circulating and there is always a risk of new variants emerging.  It is incumbent on all of us to practice the healthy behaviours which limit the spread of COVID-19:

  • being fully vaccinated 
  • self-isolating when symptomatic and getting tested
  • observing good hand and respiratory hygiene
  • limiting contacts and staying in outdoor settings where possible
  • keeping indoor environments well ventilated 
  • wearing a face covering in certain indoor public places and public transport
  • working from home whenever we can 

Dr Frank Atherton
Chief Medical Officer


No one left behind as Health Boards work to vaccinate all over-16s (18.08.2021)

Health Minister Eluned Morgan encourages everyone to take up their offer of a COVID vaccine, with confirmation that all 16 and 17 year olds in Wales will have received their offer of a COVID vaccine by the end of this week. 

This follows recent guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) on vaccinating over 16s.

Walk-in clinics are open throughout Wales, offering the opportunity for those to get the Covid jab at their convenience, and Health Boards in Wales are continuing to use every opportunity to vaccinate the population.

This week, a mobile vaccination unit will be at the Pembrokeshire Show, offering the opportunity for those attending to receive their dose of the COVID vaccine if they have not yet taken up the offer. Although the Pembrokeshire Show is only open to participants this year, organisers are expecting footfall of around 10,000, making this a good opportunity to offer the vaccine to any residents who would like to take up the offer.

This follows examples by Health Boards across Wales who continue to respond to needs and opportunities within their areas through running mobile clinics, engaging with large employees, working with partner organisations to give information on the vaccine, setting up transport to vaccination clinics and working with vulnerable people on a one-to-one basis.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said:

Our vaccination programme is world-leading, but we know that there are still some people who have yet to take up the offer of a vaccine. We are particularly keen to ensure that young people, including those over 16s who are now eligible for the vaccine, take up the offer so that they are at lower risk of the effects of coronavirus now that they are able to socialise more.

The vaccine is our best possible protection against coronavirus, and we want to ensure that there is no one left behind in getting their dose which is why it’s so important that we make it as easy and convenient for people to access a vaccine. 

It’s not too late to get your vaccine. Please come forward to take up your offer or attend a walk-in clinic to help protect yourselves and your loved ones and to Keep Wales Safe.


Wales moves to alert level zero (05.08.2021)

First Minister Mark Drakeford will urge everyone to continue to help prevent the spread of coronavirus as he confirms Wales will move to the new alert level zero on Saturday [August 7].

At alert level zero, all restrictions on meeting with others will be removed and all businesses will be able to open. But some important protections will continue to be in place to give everyone the confidence to enjoy the summer ahead.

These include:

Everyone must continue to isolate for 10 days if they have Covid-19 symptoms or if they have a positive test result.

Face coverings will continue to be required in most indoor public places in Wales, including on public transport, in shops and in healthcare settings. There will be exemptions for people who cannot wear them, as there are currently.

All those responsible for premises open to the public and workplaces must carry out a Covid risk assessment and continue to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus.   

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

Moving to alert level zero is another significant step forward for us all. For the first time since the pandemic started, all businesses will be able to open and all legal limits on meeting people in indoor private spaces will be removed.

Alert level zero does not mean the end of restrictions and a free-for-all. But it does mean we can all enjoy more freedoms with the confidence there are still important protections in place to make sure our public health is being safeguarded while we are out and about. 

Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over yet and we all need to work together to do everything we can to keep this virus under control – at alert level zero, everything we do will have an impact on this virus.

Even if you have been fully vaccinated, meeting outside is safer than inside; let fresh air into indoor spaces, get tested even for mild symptoms, and self-isolate when you are required to do so.

Continue to keep our distance when we are out and work from home whenever we can. Wear a face mask, especially in crowded places, on public transport, in shops and in health and social care settings.
“Taking responsibility and working together means we can all do the things we’ve missed the most. We’ve all got a reason to keep Wales safe.

Wales will move to alert level zero at 6am on 7 August, following the latest review of the coronavirus regulations in Wales. At alert level zero:

There will be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events.

Businesses which were required to be closed will be able to re-open. This includes nightclubs.

Premises which are open to the public and workplaces will have more flexibility about which reasonable measures they take to minimise the risk of coronavirus. But these should be tailored to their risk assessment and their specific circumstances.

Face coverings will not be a legal requirement in hospitality settings where food and drink is served, but will continue to be required in most indoor public places.

Also on 7 August (from 00.01), adults who are fully vaccinated and children and young people under 18, will no longer need to isolate if they are identified as close contacts of someone who has coronavirus.


Written Statement: Changes to self-isolation for people who are fully vaccinated (29.08.2021)

Our Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) service has been highly effective in reducing transmission of the virus. Self-isolation on symptoms or a positive test result continues to be a powerful measure in helping to break the chains of transmission and stop the spread of the virus.

In responding to the pandemic, we have always tried to balance Covid and non-Covid harms. In light of our successful vaccine programme and the evidence the vaccine is weakening the link between infections, serious illness, hospitalisations and death from Covid-19, we have reviewed whether the current approach to self-isolation remains appropriate and proportionate.

The First Minister announced, at the last review of the coronavirus regulations, on 14 July, that we would remove the requirement for people who have been fully vaccinated – after 14 days has elapsed – to isolate if they are identified as a close contact.

This change will take effect from 7 August. I can also confirm that following discussions with stakeholders, we will remove the requirement for under 18s to self-isolate if they are identified as contacts.

Anyone who has symptoms should isolate and book a test and anyone who tests positive must continue to isolate for 10 days.

Tracers will, after 7 August, provide a ‘warn and inform’ service for fully-vaccinated individuals if they are identified as close contacts. This will include reinforcing key messages about the risk to others from Covid-19 and what can be done to minimise this risk, for example, by remaining vigilant for new symptoms, having a low threshold for seeking a test, even with mild symptoms and avoiding contact with vulnerable family and friends in the short-term – for example, elderly relatives or those who are at higher risk of severe Covid-19 infection). 

We continue to recommend everyone identified as a close contact, whether they have been vaccinated or not, undertakes a PCR test on day two and day eight following their exposure to a positive case.

We have given special consideration to health and social care staff who work with vulnerable people. A risk assessment will determine whether it is appropriate for them to return to work, and if additional measures are needed, such as PCR testing and daily lateral flow tests.

The NHS Covid-19 App continues to support our TTP system and will be updated with information for users to alert them to the changes in Wales.

The Protect strand of TTP is being enhanced to continue to provide long-term support. This includes making the financial help more generous and accessible for those who need to self-isolate, providing targeted support to eliminate concerns around finance, fuel poverty and access to food.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.


Changes to keep schools safe and learners learning (09.07.2021)

Education Minister Jeremy Miles has today written to all headteachers and principals in Wales to provide more clarity on how schools and colleges can continue to operate safely when they return in September.

As we continue to monitor covid case rates across Wales, and how they relate to hospital admissions, the success of our vaccine programme gives us cause to be optimistic about the future. As restrictions are eased across wider society, so too should educational settings see a similar pattern.

Three main changes are being proposed to bring some normality back to education ahead of the new autumn term. They are:

face coverings will no longer be routinely recommended in classrooms

contact groups will no longer be required for school pupils or full-time learners in colleges. We will use our TTP system in order to identify close contacts of learners who have tested positive

normal session times will resume

The Minister said:

By the end of September all adults in Wales will have been offered both vaccinations, providing greater protection for our education workforce. A growing body of evidence also shows that children and young people are more at harm from missing school than from covid.

Lots of young people I have spoken to have said that they don’t believe the current system is proportionate. They just want to be treated the same as everyone else – and that sounds fair to me.

We will publish 'The Local Covid-19 Infection Control Decision Framework' at the start of the autumn term so that schools have time to embed new systems during the weeks that follow. The framework will enable schools and colleges to tailor some of the interventions to reflect the level of risk identified locally. They will be supported by public health officials and local authorities to ensure measures are appropriate to their circumstances.

The Minister also said,

Before you embark on a well-earned break this summer, I want to take this opportunity to express my gratitude for all your hard work and effort over the last academic year. I hope the break will offer you, and your staff, a chance to look back over the last year with immense pride – you have shown immeasurable determination and resilience in supporting learning and keeping education settings as covid-secure as possible.


Written Statement: COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy Update (07.06.21)

Eluned Morgan MS, Minister for Health and Social Services

Today, I am publishing an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy which sets out achievements to date and our intentions as we move forward into the next phase.  I will also be publishing the COVID-19 vaccination programme weekly update tomorrow.

Since the last update, we have marked a number of significant achievements; in particular, we have delivered 2,183,455 first doses and 1,249,268 second doses, with 86.5% of adults in Wales now having received their first dose. This is excellent news, and goes to show the incredible pace of our vaccine rollout. I am confident that early next week we will have offered a first dose to all our over 18s. At this rate, and subject to supply, I am also confident that we will be about a month early in achieving milestone 3 (to have offered all adults their first dose with at least a 75% uptake in each age group) by the end of July. In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

As we continue to sprint towards this milestone and to the end of this phase of the vaccination programme, we are already looking to the rolling out of the second vaccination dose. Our aim is for everybody who has had a first dose to also take up their second dose, across all the age ranges. Subject to vaccine supply or further JCVI advice we are confident the delivery of second doses will continue to be as swift and successful as first doses. We expect all those who have come forward for their first dose to be offered a second dose by the end of September. Health boards continue to have local discretion and flexibility to interpret the guidance, based on what would work operationally locally or hyper-locally, which includes bringing forward second doses. We are also planning for reoffering the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. Our NHS continue to work to make sure that no one is left behind. 

The strategy update also sets out the action we are taking now to prepare for what comes next with the potential for a booster and a vaccine for children. There are a number of clinical trials underway to understand more about booster vaccinations and the vaccination of children The JCVI will be considering all the evidence and providing advice on the way forward in the coming weeks. 

To underpin delivery, we will be establishing an online booking system in the Autumn to allow people to amend and book appointments which are convenient for them. This could be used for other vaccines moving forward.

I am determined this next phase in our fight against the Coronavirus is as successful as our previous phases in helping keep Wales safe.

Finally, once again, I would like to thank all those involved in the vaccine rollout, as well as the more than 2 million individuals who have taken up their offer of vaccination. For those who have not yet taken up the offer, it is never too late and I urge you to arrange an appointment through your local health board.


Written Statement: Review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (23.04.2021)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 require a review of the coronavirus restrictions is undertaken every three weeks.  The most recent review was due by 22 April.   

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wales have fallen to under 15 cases per 100,000 people and are the lowest in the UK.  Alongside this our vaccine rollout continues to be very successful with Wales having the third highest vaccination rate globally.  Over two thirds of adults in Wales have had their first dose with 1 in 5 having had both doses. We have already vaccinated  2/3 of 40-49 yr olds and 32% of our 30-39 yr olds.  

My Written Statement on 20 April indicated changes to the regulations were being brought forward to allow any six people (not including children under 11 years of age or carers) to meet outdoors from Saturday 24 April. 

The statement also confirmed outdoor hospitality, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants, will be allowed to reopen from Monday 26th April.

I can also confirm other amendments to the regulations from 26 April will mean:

  • Outdoor swimming pools and outdoor visitor attractions, including funfairs, amusement parks and theme parks can reopen.
  • Organised outdoor activities for adults for up to 30 people can again take place.
  • Weddings receptions for up to 30 people can take place outdoors at regulated premises.

Guidance on care home visits has been amended to provide for the number of designated indoor visitors to be increased from one to two and to give more flexibility around visits from young children from 26 April.

Changes have already been signalled for 3 May, subject to conditions remaining favourable. Continued improvements in the public health context and the success of the vaccination programme has meant we can bring forward all remaining elements to complete our move to alert level three during this review cycle.

This would mean, from 3 May:

  • Gyms, fitness facilities, leisure centres and swimming pools can reopen 
  • Extended households will be possible, allowing two households to come together to form an exclusive bubble who can meet and have contact indoors
  • Children’s indoor activities can recommence
  • Organised indoor activities for adults can recommence for up to 15 people, including group exercise classes
  • Community Centres can reopen

If the improvements we have seen in the public health situation are sustained beyond this date it will be possible for an incoming Government to consider moving between the alert levels provided for in the updated Coronavirus Control Plan in single steps.

On this basis, preparations will be made enabling an incoming Government after the Senedd elections to move to alert level two on Monday 17 May. This will be subject to the public health conditions closer to the time.  

Alert level two includes the following changes:

  • Indoor hospitality can reopen 
  • Remainder of holiday accommodation can open (e.g. campsites with shared facilities) to members of single households or extended households
  • •    Entertainment venues can open, including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor play centres and areas, casinos, and amusement arcades
  • Indoor visitor attractions can open, including museums, galleries, educational and heritage attractions, and heritage sites such as stately homes
  • The rule of four applies for gatherings in regulated premises like a café (up to 4 people from 4 households) or a single household if more than 4 people.
  • The rule of six continues outdoors. Meeting indoors in private homes will still be limited to the extended household only (exclusive bubble).
  • The limits on organised activities increases to 30 indoors and 50 outdoors.
  • Wedding receptions can take place indoors in regulated premises for up to 30 people.

Changes to the regulations today will also provide from 26 April for a reasonable excuse to protest at alert levels one two and three, but require protests to be organised by a responsible body with appropriate mitigations, including undertaking a risk assessment.

The regulations are also being amended from this date to permit all working in other peoples’ homes at alert levels one, two and three.

Coronavirus has not disappeared from Wales, and new variants continue to emerge across the globe. The cautious, step-by-step approach we have taken remains the best way to keep Wales safe. 


Written Statement: Amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (09.04.2021)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 have today been amended in a number of areas.   

Following my Written Statement on 1 April, the regulations now provide for a number of restrictions to be lifted from 12 April.  These are alongside the welcome return of all children and students to face-to-face learning on the same day.  

From Monday 12 April:

  • All non-essential retail can reopen.
  • All close contact services can resume, including mobile services (other than a small number of high-risk procedures as identified in the guidance).
  • Travel restrictions within the UK and Common Travel Area will be lifted. People will still not be allowed to travel internationally without a reasonable excuse.
  • Restrictions on political canvassing are removed, subject to canvassers doing so safely.
  • Wedding ‘show-arounds’ by appointment are allowed.

My Written Statement on 1 April also set out my intention to provide for further easements during the next review cycle from 22 April.  Because community rates of coronavirus across Wales continue to decrease and hospital pressures are easing, I am able to bring forward some of our plans by a week, subject to the public health situation remaining favourable. These changes remain consistent with the cautious and phased approach set out in the updated Coronavirus Control Plan: Revised Alert Levels in Wales (March 2021). 

From Monday 26 April:

  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen.
  • Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants.  Indoor hospitality will remain closed except for takeaways.
  • Organised outdoor activities for adults for up to 30 people can again take place.
  • Weddings receptions can take place outdoors, but will also be limited to 30 people

From Monday 3 May:

  • Gyms, fitness facilities, leisure centres and swimming pools can reopen.  This will include individual or one-to-one training, but not group exercise classes.
  • Extended households will be permitted (an exclusive bubble of two households which can meet and have contact indoors.)

Written Statement: COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy Update (23.03.2021)

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services

Today I have published the second update to our National Vaccination Strategy. We published our Strategy on 11 January and an update to it on 26 February.  We’re now 15 weeks into our vaccination programme and it has continued to go from strength to strength.

Since publishing the first update last month we have marked some key achievements. We hit the 1 million doses mark at the beginning of the month and we hit the 1.5 million doses mark last week. Data published today shows that our incredible vaccination teams have now administered 1,288,250 first doses and 353,347 second doses, so have administered a total of 1,641,597 vaccinations.

I really cannot thank our fantastic vaccination teams enough.  The pressure under which NHS Wales has operated over the past year has been unprecedented and immense. Yet NHS staff, supported by amazing local partners and volunteers, continue to step up to the plate to protect us as we try to navigate our way out of the public health crisis.

I said in my written statement last Thursday, following the news of a delay in vaccine deliveries into the UK, that supply is the limiting factor in our programme. If we had more vaccine, our teams could vaccinate more people more quickly. Despite this set-back, due to the excellent planning happening within our programme we remain in a strong position and remain on-track to meet our mid-April milestone to have offered a vaccine to all those in priority groups 1-9.

As we close in on the second milestone in our National Strategy, plans for milestone 3 are being finalised and implemented. The update to our Strategy sets out more detail on these plans, which are framed by three key considerations:

  • Maintaining high take up – which may become more difficult as we begin to target our younger and healthier population but is absolutely critical to vaccination being a route out of the pandemic;
  • Equality and equity of access – building on the approach we have taken so far to reach out to and into communities to ensure access to vaccination and that no individual or community is left behind;
  • Delivery model resilience – taking stock ahead of the next phase to ensure our model is both safeguarded and fit for purpose in terms of the groups now being targeted.

To support our drive for equality and equity of access, I am also publishing a Vaccine Equity Strategy today. This will sit under our National Strategy and will frame our activity to ensure all people in Wales have a fair and equal opportunity to take up their offer of vaccination. A new Vaccine Equity Committee has been formed to oversee this priority.

I want to end with a further thanks to the over 1.2 million people who have now taken up their offer of vaccination. Evidence on the efficiency of vaccination is growing all the time, with the latest study coming from the USA just yesterday. I was also really pleased with the conclusive nature of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency’s support for the safety of the vaccines last week. I was happy to have my first dose of the vaccine last week and I am looking forward to the longer term protection my second dose will offer. I urge everyone else to follow the lead of the 1.2 million and take up their offer when it comes; and then ensure to go back for their second dose. Every vaccine really does count and is one step closer for us all in moving towards a brighter future.  


Stay local – Wales takes first steps out of lockdown (12.03.2021)

The stay-at-home restrictions will be replaced by a new interim stay local rule in Wales from tomorrow (Saturday 13 March) as part of a package of measures, beginning the process of unlocking the strict coronavirus regulations, First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced.

The return of children to face-to-face learning in school will continue to be prioritised but there will also be a gradual and phased approach to relaxing restrictions in other parts of society.

The new stay local rule will mean people can leave their homes and travel within their local area – usually within 5 miles. Local outdoor sports facilities will also be opened.

The 5-mile rule of thumb will be set out in guidance – people living in some parts of Wales, especially rural areas, may need to travel further than 5 miles to access shops and other public services.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

Thanks to the fantastic efforts everyone has made, we can make some changes to the current restrictions, which will be phased in over the coming weeks.

The number of cases of coronavirus continues to fall overall; the pressure on our NHS is easing and our vaccine programme continues to go from strength to strength.

But the very clear advice we have is that the virus has not gone away – the highly infectious Kent variant is the dominant strain in Wales and as soon as we start to mix again, the virus will come too.

With every step we take to return to a more normal life, we are responsible for what happens next. While we will welcome more freedom to move around locally and meet with family and friends, we cannot afford to let down our guard.

From Saturday 13 March:

  • No more than 4 people from 2 households will be able to meet in their local area outdoors, including in gardens. Children under 11 and carers do not count towards this limit. There must be no indoors mixing and social distancing should be followed.
  • Outdoor sports facilities can reopen, including tennis courts, golf courses and bowling greens. A maximum of 4 people from 2 households can take part in activities using local sports facilities.
  • Indoor care home visits can resume for one designated visitor, with the permission of the care home.

From Monday 15 March:

  • All primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring in year 10 and 12 pupils, to support them to progress to the next stage of their learning, and more learners will return to colleges. There will also be flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils. All learners will return after the Easter break.
  • Hairdressers and barbers can reopen by appointment only.

From Monday 22 March:

  • The first steps to re-open non-essential retail will begin. Restrictions on the sale of non-essential items will be lifted for those shops, which are currently open.
  • Garden centres will also reopen.

An additional £150 million will be available to support businesses to the end of March, which are not yet able to open.

The extra funding will see businesses in the hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail sectors that pay non-domestic rates qualify for an additional payment of up to £5,000.

During the third week of the review period, we will take stock of the latest evidence before confirming changes for the Easter holidays. If the public health conditions continue to be favourable, from 27 March:

  • The stay local restrictions will be lifted to allow people to travel within Wales.
  • Self-contained holiday accommodation will re-open for one household.
  • Organised children’s activities outdoors will restart.
  • Libraries will reopen.

The review on 1st April will consider whether all remaining shops and close contact services can reopen on the 12th April. This is in line with planned re-opening in England.

First Minister Mark Drakeford added:

We need everyone’s help as we start to unlock these restrictions. We all need to follow the rules, maintain social distancing, good hand hygiene and to wear face coverings in indoor public places.

We all want to see Wales re-open and the return of a more normal life. This is within sight – but only if we can keep the virus under control. No one wants us to have to reintroduce strict restrictions, to retreat from the progress we have made. Only by working together, can we help keep Wales safe.

The changes follow the regular statutory review of the coronavirus regulations by Welsh Ministers, using the latest scientific and medical evidence from the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) and the advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.


Written Statement: Amendment to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (26.02.2021)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 provide for a system of alert levels in Wales, as set out in the Welsh Government’s updated Coronavirus Control Plan.

Wales remains at Alert Level 4, at which the strictest restrictions apply. This means people are generally unable to form extended households.  Currently the only exception is for adults living alone or living alone with children, who can form a “support bubble” with one other household.

It has always been the case that households needing contact on compassionate grounds, or to assist with child care, have been able to do so in Wales.

However, the regulations are now being amended so that, with effect from tomorrow, 27 February, households with one or more children under the age of 1 can form a support bubble with one other household for any purpose.  This seeks to ensure new parents can receive support from friends or family during the crucial first year of a baby’s life. This will also help the baby’s development.

In addition 16 or 17 year olds living alone or with others of the same age but no adult in their household, can also now form a support bubble with one other household.

If someone in a support bubble develops symptoms or tests positive for coronavirus, all members of the bubble must self-isolate.


Written Statement: COVID-19 Workplace Testing (24.02.2021)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services

Testing continues to play a pivotal role in our overall approach to preventing the transmission of COVID-19 across Wales alongside other measures including the impact of safe and effective vaccines. I want to take the opportunity to inform Members of our plans under our ‘Test to Maintain’ priority in our refreshed Testing Strategy to support workplace testing. 

Regular testing of staff in the workplace increases surveillance to identify asymptomatic cases faster. Testing can support other critical measures (such as social distancing) to help reduce the spread of the virus and maintain services. We have started the roll out of regular testing of the health and social care workforce and for staff working with the more vulnerable including settings such as special schools. This involves around 160,000 staff having access to twice weekly lateral flow tests. We are also under out ‘Test to Maintain’ priority extending lateral flow testing to staff working in childcare settings, schools and further education in addition to higher education. This involves a further 95,000 staff having access to regular testing.  

We are also working with UK Government on extending workplace testing to other public and private organisations with over 50 employees to set up workplace test sites and deliver more workforce testing. 

I am today publishing a workplace testing framework that sets out the criteria and support available. The framework also sets out ground rules that we have worked up with our National Health and Safety Forum and I am grateful for their input. It is essential that  testing is used responsibly and that public health officials,  trade unions and workers are fully involved in any roll-out of workplace testing. 

The framework focuses on regular testing of employees to find and isolate positive cases quickly, that usually includes the workforce being tested once or twice a week in workplaces that have:

  • higher exposure to risk;
  • involve close proximity to others;
  • over 50  employees that cannot work from home; and
  • deliver and maintain key services for the public.

We are still evaluating and reviewing the pilots in TATA and South Wales Police that involved Daily Contact Testing (previously referred to as serial testing). This involves testing contacts of positive cases on a daily basis for 7 days as an alternative to self-isolation.  Following review of the findings including evaluation of pilots operating in England we will consider our position on agreeing further schemes in Wales. In the meantime, I have agreed that Welsh residents who cross the border for work and attend an institution in England should be able to participate in any pilot Daily Contact Testing schemes offered by the institution provided these are agreed by the Welsh Government in line with the self-isolation regulations. This will include us being more involved in the evaluation process for these pilots including cross border issues. 

I am also aware employers have also introduced their own internal testing programmes outside of the Testing Programme schemes supported by UK and Welsh Governments.  Whilst it is a voluntary decision for employers to run testing programmes for their staff, it is essential that employers must make sure that the test kit they or their provider is procuring is legal in the UK, either through having the CE mark or an exemption. 

Test kits in the UK are regulated by the MHRA, which is responsible for administering and enforcing the law on medical devices in the UK. It has a range of investigatory and enforcement powers to ensure their safety and quality.   In order for NHS Test, Trace, Protect to undertake contact tracing, anyone with covid-19 symptoms and/or a positive lateral flow test result from an internal testing programme is asked to book a test here https://gov.wales/getting-tested-coronavirus-covid-19 and required to self-isolate. I have asked officials to further develop guidance and consider if changes are required in regulations in relation to reporting of private testing, especially in the context of the development of new technology and tests. 

The framework is available here https://gov.wales/covid-19-workplace-testing-framework

and private of public organisations interested in workplace testing can contact them at: Covid19.WorkplaceTesting@gov.wales


Written Statement: COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy Milestone One (12.02.2021)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services

Last month I published our national COVID-19 vaccination strategy, which set out three key milestones:

  • By mid-February – all care home residents and staff; frontline health and social care staff; everyone over 70 and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will have been offered vaccination.
  • By the Spring – vaccination will have been offered to all the other phase one priority groups. This is everyone over 50 and everyone who is at-risk because they have an underlying health condition.
  • By the Autumn – vaccination will have been offered to all other eligible adults in Wales, in line with any guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI). 

I am delighted that we have achieved our first milestone of offering everyone in the first four priority groups vaccination by mid-February as planned. The NHS has confirmed everyone in the first four groups has been contacted to be offered a vaccination appointment. 

So far, NHS Wales has vaccinated more than;

  • 48,000 residents of older people’s care homes and their staff carers;
  • 161,000 over-80s;
  • 118,000 NHS frontline workers; and
  • 260,000 over-70s.

This is an amazing achievement and an important moment to reflect on the success of our Programme so far. I am incredibly proud of everyone who has made this possible, including all our NHS Wales colleagues, wider partners, volunteers, and everyone that has taken up the offer of this life saving vaccination. 

There will, of course, be reasons why some individuals were unable to take up their offer of the vaccine and there will be some that could not be reached.  We have implemented a ‘no one left behind’ policy and are actively following up individuals that have not yet had their vaccine.  We are also asking anyone in groups 1-4 that has not heard about their appointment to contact their health board.  Full details are available on the Welsh Government’s website.

Over the next couple of weeks we are expecting a slight reduction in the amount of vaccines received into the UK.  This is a planned and expected change in supply that will affect the whole of the UK.  We have factored this into our plans and it will not affect appointments or delay when individuals are due to receive their second dose. Following this expected reduction, supply is due to ramp up significantly from the beginning of March. Our infrastructure and capacity will flex over the coming weeks to respond to the amount of supply available; and will be ready to respond again to the increase in March.

Over 715,000 people have received their first dose of the vaccine in Wales. Every vaccine given to someone is a small victory against the virus and we are already looking ahead to meeting our next milestone.  The hard work has only just begun but, as NHS Wales has shown, we are up to the challenge.


60 days and over 500,000 doses delivered (05.02.2021)

Today is the 60th day since COVID-19 vaccinations began in Wales and also marks the day when more than half a million people received their first COVID-19 vaccination.

As the total vaccinated exceeds more than 523,000 today, this now means almost one in every six adults have had their first dose of this life-protecting vaccine. 

As Wales’ plans to protect the nation continue to grow, here are the latest stats: [as of Friday 5 February]

  • more than half a million people across Wales have received their first dose - this will rise to 600,000 within a matter of days
  • that’s the same as filling the Principality Stadium in Cardiff seven times or the Eirias Stadium in Colwyn Bay 86 times
  • …or someone every four seconds
  • of the top 4 priority groups, Wales has vaccinated:
  1. 83% of over 80s
  2. 62% of 75 to 79 year olds
  3. 34% of 70 to 74 year olds
  • and more than 112,400 frontline health and social care workers
  • Wales is on track to have offered vaccinations to those eligible people in the top four priority groups by mid-February, if supplies continue at their current rate
  • around one third of everyone in the top 9 priority groups have been vaccinated too
  • last week, Wales vaccinated more people per population than any other UK nation
  • weekends are the busiest time, especially for primary care vaccinators. This means it can take a few days for data from these days to be uploaded
  • there are at least 34 mass vaccination centres open across Wales at any one time and most are open seven days a week
  • six more mass vaccination centres are due to open in the coming weeks
  • we have more than 400 GP-led clinics – the original target was 250 by the end of January
  • More than 17 hospital sites are also providing vaccines
  • very little vaccine has gone to waste, less than 1% has not been used. This is exceptionally low, and thanks to the committed workforce delivering this precious resource

Once someone has had the vaccine, we ask everyone to follow the same steps to keep themselves and Wales safe; wear a mask, keep a 2m distance, wash your hands regularly and keep rooms as well ventilated as possible.

We are still learning about how the vaccine affects transmission of the virus.

And please remember, you will be invited to for an appointment when it is your turn – do not call your local health services, unless you are asked to do so, as this will add to their already pressured workloads.


Written Statement: New variants of concern in Wales (03.02.2021)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services

The South African variant is one of three new variant strains of concern, which have emerged in recent months. The other two are the Kent variant and the Brazil variant.

We are tracking these closely because they are more contagious and fast moving than the original strain of coronavirus, which we have been dealing with throughout most of the pandemic.

The four governments in the UK have suspended the travel corridors scheme, which means that all arrivals to the UK are now required to quarantine for 10 days. Enhanced quarantine and testing requirements have also been introduced for people returning to the UK from certain countries, where these overseas variants of concern have been identified or are believe to be a risk.

We have argued for these requirements to apply to people returning from all international destinations and for an approach to quarantine and border control, which involves the Republic of Ireland.

To help us detect and contain cases of overseas variants of concern, everyone returning to Wales from certain countries around the world where these variants are confirmed or suspected to be present must quarantine, together with members of their household. The requirement for household contacts to quarantine is an additional precaution to prevent any possible spread.

All travellers are offered a test to check for the variant. If the tests are positive, the person’s household contacts will also be tested. All positive tests are sent for genomic sequencing.

In addition to this quarantine and testing system, we also have a well-established surveillance system in place in Wales. A proportion of all tests undertaken in Wales are genomically sequenced. More than 25,000 sequences were generated by the end of last year – one of the highest rates in the world.

Thirteen cases of the South African variant have been identified in Wales to date. This is an increase of three from last week.

Ten of these cases have clear links to either South Africa or to international travel. In the other three cases, there is currently no clear evidence of how they may have caught the virus.

Two of these cases are in North Wales – in Anglesey and in Conwy. They have the same genetic sequence and they were tested on the same day. The third case is in Neath Port Talbot.

Public Health Wales is carrying out a detailed and forensic investigation into each of these cases to discover when and how each person became infected with the South African variant strain and whether there is any evidence of wider community spread.

In each case, we will draw on the skills of our successful contact tracing teams to look back at where each case has been and who they have been in close contact with. We will use the skills of Public Health Wales’ epidemiologists and we will also use targeted testing to identify any further spread.

The emergence of all these new strains – initially the Kent strain, which has quickly become the dominant form of coronavirus in Wales, and now the South African and Brazilian variant – mean it is more important than ever that we all follow the rules to keep us all safe, especially the basics.

This means keeping our distance from others; washing our hands regularly; wearing a face covering when we’re in indoor public spaces; ensuring good ventilation indoors and staying at home as soon as we have symptoms and arranging to get a test.

I will continue to keep members updated.


Written Statement: Review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restriction) (No.5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (29.01.2021)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 provide for a system of alert levels in Wales, as set out in the Welsh Government’s updated Coronavirus Control Plan. They require a review of restrictions is undertaken every three weeks. 

The most recent review was completed on 28 January and concluded the whole of Wales should remain at Alert Level 4. This means everyone must stay at home and work from home wherever possible. All non-essential retail, hospitality venues, licensed premises and leisure facilities must remain closed.

Cases of coronavirus are falling in all parts of Wales but they remain too high to consider a relaxation of the restrictions. The number of people testing positive is high and the intense pressure on our NHS remains.  We can all be proud of excellent progress of the vaccination programme in Wales, but there is still a considerable way to go.  We must not let the virus re-establish itself by moving to a lower alert level too soon. 

At the last review of the restrictions, I said that unless there was a significant reduction in cases of coronavirus before today’s review, schools and colleges would continue to provide remote learning until February half term.  As a result of the people of Wales adhering to current restrictions, there are positive signs that collectively we are helping to drive down transmission in our communities.  However, in light of the wider NHS indicators such as ICU bed occupancy, a cautious approach is still required so there will be no further opening up of education this side of half term and current arrangements remain in place.

Opening up education remains a top priority. If we continue to see numbers fall over the next month then our intention would be to see primary school pupils return in a phased and flexible way from 22 February. This recognises that our youngest learners find it more difficult to learn remotely; the evidence of the long-term impact, particularly for our youngest learners and the scientific evidence on transmission in younger children.

If there is sufficient headroom, we will bring back small numbers of secondary and college learners at the same time. We are working with schools, post-16 providers and unions to determine how that would be best achieved.  Our priority will be vocational learners, including apprentices, who need access to training or workplace environments in order to undertake practical qualifications.

In the meantime, we will continue to work closely with unions and local authorities to discuss what further measures we can all take to ensure education settings are Covid secure environments. These discussions will be informed by health and science advice.

Education provision will continue after half term for vulnerable learners, children of critical workers, and learners undertaking essential exams or assessments and special schools and PRUs will continue to remain open where possible.

The restrictions currently provide for support bubbles to be formed to help single people and single parents. I recognise people’s relationships and circumstances may change over time and we will amend regulations and guidance to allow for a support bubble to be changed provided both households do not see any other household for a period of 10 days before forming the new support bubble. This should be a last resort as it is safest if we do not change any support bubble we are in.

The restrictions will also be amended in Wales to allow a maximum of two people from two different households to exercise together, although they should make every effort to maintain social distancing. People must still start and finish exercise from their home unless a person needs to travel for health reasons. This means that, for now, if two people are meeting they will need to live nearby each other as travel for exercise is generally not allowed.

Finally, automatic car washes will be listed alongside petrol stations and garages as allowed to open to provide legal clarity.


Written Statement: COVID-19 Vaccine supplies and deployment (21.01.2021)

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services

Since we took first delivery of COVID-19 vaccine supplies at the start of December last year, our priority has been the need to ensure as many people are vaccinated as quickly as possible.  Our Vaccination Plan made clear my intention to see all those in the four priority groups identified by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), offered a first dose of vaccine by mid-February.  As set out in my written statement of 19 January, we are making good progress and over 175,000 people have now been vaccinated.

In the Plan, we were clear; achieving our aspirations depends largely on the supply of vaccines in fair volumes and in fair time.  This statement clarifies the position on supply received to date, how the vaccine is being distributed to NHS Wales and the dependency we have on future vaccine being supplied to the UK.

On Friday 15 January, Pfizer confirmed production at its European manufacturing plant in Belgium was being suspended temporarily.  This will result in reduced vaccine supplies to Europe and the UK between now and March.  In the last week we have also seen a delay to the release of an expected batch of AstraZeneca’s vaccine, reducing anticipated supplies to Wales and delaying our plans to substantially expand our vaccination programme by harnessing the expertise of GPs, nurses and pharmacists in primary care.  The vaccine supply chain is complex and our plans are adapting constantly to changes to delivery volumes and schedules, all of which have the potential to impact on achieving the milestones in our Strategy.

Since 7 January, 138,300 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine have been made available to Wales and delivered directly to vaccination centres, hospitals, and GPs for immediate use.  I know many doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other primary care professionals remain eager to contribute to the programme. I am confident they will all play a key role as supplies of the AstraZeneca vaccine increase.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has posed very different logistic challenges.  Wales has expertise in the storage and distribution of products requiring handling at ultra-low temperatures.  Unlike other parts of the UK, we are holding and managing our share of vaccine delivered to the UK, at specialist NHS facilities here in Wales.  When distributed to vaccination centres all vaccine must be used within 5 days.  Any vaccine not used by this time must be discarded.  We must make every effort to ensure no dose is wasted.  This is why health boards are supplied vaccine in quantities to meet their vaccination centre capacity and the number of booked appointments. 

I set out in my written statement of 19 January the blended delivery model in place.  This is aimed at:

providing a mix of sites in order to maximise speed of roll out;

ensuring safety,

meeting the needs of the characteristics of the vaccines,

being as conveniently located as possible and,

importantly, making sure we give equitable access across the country and to all communities.

The number and the capacity of vaccination centres in Wales is increasing and supplies are being increased in response.  We now have capacity to administer over 60,000 doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccine every week.  From the week commencing 8 February our plans rely on further supply of the vaccine coming into the UK.

The roll out of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been an unprecedented challenge but one the NHS has overcome admirably.  It is not only that the vaccine has unique storage and transport requirements; deliveries have been periodic, the most recent delivery of over 90,000 doses arriving only on 23 December, and until 31 December, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) made it a condition of authorisation that 50% of doses received were kept in reserve.  This was to ensure second doses were available for everyone vaccinated.   Whilst we are now prioritising first doses, those vaccinated already, rightly expect us to take steps to ensure supplies are available for their second doses.  Significant numbers of second doses are scheduled for week commencing 22 February.

Since the beginning of January, our plans have adapted to the MHRA’s revised position allowing us to maximise first dose coverage amongst priority groups.  By the end of this week, all AstraZeneca supply, over 60% of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine received already, and three quarters of the total vaccine doses supplied to Wales, will have been deployed to vaccination centres, hospitals and GPs. 

Our plans to vaccinate priority groups remain on track; but as I have said they are and will remain dependent on security of vaccine supply.


First Minister: “Stay home to save lives” (08.01.2021)

First Minister Mark Drakeford today said everyone must stay at home to save lives as he confirmed the alert level four coronavirus restrictions in Wales will continue.

The lockdown restrictions will be strengthened in some key areas to prevent the new, highly-infectious strain of the virus spreading from person to person in those shops and workplaces which remain open.

And unless there is a significant reduction in cases of coronavirus before 29 January – the date of the next three-week review of the regulations – school and college students will continue to learn online until the February half term.

Cases of coronavirus remain very high in Wales and the new variant strain of the virus – first identified in parts of Wales, London and South East England before Christmas – now has a firm foothold in North Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

The coronavirus  pandemic has reached a significant point. Cases in Wales remain very high and our NHS is under real and sustained pressure.

“The alert level four restrictions we introduced before Christmas must remain in place to keep us all safe. To slow the spread of the virus, we all must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

“These feel like dark times but the new Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out across Wales, giving us a path out of this pandemic.

“It will take a huge effort to vaccinate everyone and, despite the end of this pandemic being in sight, it is more important than ever that we follow the rules and stay at home. We have made so many sacrifices together and we mustn’t stop now.

Following a formal review of the alert level four lockdown restrictions, which were introduced at midnight on 19 December, all the measures will remain in place.

This means non-essential retail, hospitality venues, licensed premises and leisure facilities will remain closed.

The measures will be strengthened to close all showrooms. They will still be able to operate click and collect arrangements.

The Welsh Government is also reviewing whether major supermarkets and retailers need to put additional measures in place to protect people in store and what else employers need to do to protect people in the workplace and support people to work from home.

The First Minister is reminding people that in the current lockdown people must:

Stay at home.

  • Work from home if you can.
  • Keep a 2m distance from others.
  • Wear a face covering in all indoor public places.
  • Not meet anyone outside your immediate household or support bubble.

The First Minister added:

This new strain adds a new and unwelcome dimension to the pandemic.

“Wherever there’s mixing; wherever people come together, the new strain is spreading – it is highly transmissible and spreads very quickly from person to person.

“We all must stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives. Together, we will keep Wales safe.


Written Statement: Care homes: visiting family and friends at Christmas (17.12.2020)

Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services.

Between 23 and 27 December two households – plus a single-person household – can join together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble. Further details about these arrangements are set out at: https://gov.wales/making-christmas-bubble-friends-and-family

However, whenever people come together there is always a risk that coronavirus will spread because this is a virus, which thrives on human contact. We urge everyone making plans for the festive period to think carefully about how they can reduce their risk of catching – and spreading – coronavirus and keeping their loved ones safe, especially more vulnerable members of their family.

Some people have made the difficult decision to have a small Christmas this year, preferring to wait for next year and the hope of vaccination and a relaxation of restrictions before seeing other family members.

This year has been particularly difficult for people living in care homes and their families – they have been separated from each other for many months. I do not underestimate just how difficult this has been and the lasting impact this has had on all.

I know many people with close family and loved ones living in care homes will be hoping to spend time with them this Christmas – either in their home or the care home.

As the current coronavirus situation remains serious in Wales, I would urge everyone in this position to discuss this with the care home provider. However careful we all are, none of us wants to risk coronavirus entering our care homes.

The need to balance people’s rights and support their well-being with the need to protect people living in care homes from the risk of infection remains very challenging. The public health advice is that indoor visits and overnight stays by care home residents with their families over Christmas, will present a risk of infection with coronavirus to both them and the wider care home residents.

These risks should be considered and evaluated by the person, their family and the care home provider when considering visits out of the care home. Care home providers and families can take steps to mitigate the risks of a visit out of the care home but it cannot be removed completely.

Any decision to spend time away from the care home during the five-day Christmas period when the UK-wide common arrangements are in force – between 23 and 27 December – should be informed by a dynamic risk assessment, which upholds rights and choice and involves the care home provider, the care home resident and their family. 

Unfortunately, in the current circumstances adults will need to self-isolate for 14 days on their return to the care home. I appreciate that this will be disappointing.  

We will be publishing FAQs to support families. These will be available at: https://gov.wales/visits-care-homes-guidance-providers.

Care homes across Wales, supported by the Welsh Government, have been working hard to facilitate indoor visits and to help people maintain contact with their families and friends when routine visits have not been possible. They are making plans to ensure the next few weeks are as festive as possible.

Care home providers and their staff have worked exceptionally hard and I applaud those efforts and their innovation because they make a huge difference.


Higher-level restrictions to come into force to control coronavirus (16.12.2020)

Higher-level restrictions will come into force to control rapidly accelerating coronavirus rates across Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford said today (16 December).

The First Minister today confirmed the current conditions mean Wales has met the criteria in the new traffic-light Coronavirus Control Plan to move to alert level four.

The new restrictions will apply to all of Wales.

  • All non-essential retail, including close contact services and all leisure and fitness centres will close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve.
  • All hospitality premises will close from 6pm on Christmas Day.
  • Tighter restrictions on household mixing, staying-at-home, holiday accommodation and travel will apply from December 28, after the five-day Christmas period.

The First Minister urged everyone who can to work from home, saying it is one of the most important contributions we can all make to controlling the spread of coronavirus and saving lives.

Mark Drakeford said:

"We are seeing levels of coronavirus in some parts of the country that we haven’t experienced at any point before in this pandemic. This pandemic is putting our NHS under intense and sustained strain."
“There are more than 2,100 people with coronavirus symptoms in our hospitals – equivalent to five general hospitals fully occupied by people with coronavirus."

This has been such a long and difficult year. We need to take this action to save lives and control the spread of this awful virus.

"The four UK governments met today to confirm the common arrangements for the five-day Christmas period. Joint advice will be published later today. In Wales, the position will be that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during that period."

The First Minister added:

"A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas. The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus. 

"None of us wants to be ill this Christmas. And we don’t want to give coronavirus to our close family or friends. The alert level four restrictions for household mixing, staying-at-home, holiday accommodation and travel will come into force after the five-day Christmas period on December 28."


Written Statement: Covid-19 testing of staff and pupils (14.12.2020)

 

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services, Kirsty Williams MS, Minister for Education.

 

We recognise that it has not been easy for pupils and staff who have been required to self-isolate as a result of having been identified as a close contact of somebody who has tested positive for Coronavirus and the impact this has had on face to face learning.

On 9 December 2020 we announced the reduction in the period of time for which a person needs to self-isolate from 14 days to 10 days. We are committed to taking further steps to reduce asymptomatic transmission and to ensuring education continues with minimal disruption.

One of the new technologies developed through the UK mass testing programme is lateral flow tests (LFTs). Lateral flow testing detects the presence of the Covid-19 viral antigen from a swab sample. LFTs are handheld devices which produce results within 20 to 30 minutes, with the potential to be self-administered.

While LFTs are not as sensitive as lab-based RT-PCR tests, scientific advice has indicated that by testing more frequently with LFTs, their accuracy is on a par with RT-PCR tests.

Following discussions with Public Health Wales and the Children and Schools Technical Advisory Cell, we are planning to introduce a serial testing programme in schools and further education settings from January 2021. 

The lessons we have learnt from using LFTs in pilots in higher education institutions across Wales and secondary schools in Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf will help inform how we can successfully deliver lateral flow testing in schools and other education settings in the future. 

From January 2021, schools and further education settings will be offered the ability to perform serial testing (using LFTs) of close contacts to replace the need to self-isolate for those within that setting. This means pupils and staff identified as close contacts would be asked to either self-isolate as normal OR to take a lateral flow test (LFT) at the start of the school day for the duration of the self-isolation period.

Those who test negative may continue with their normal activities; those who test positive must self-isolate and book a confirmatory test. Each setting will be offered support, equipment and training, and we are engaging with the sector on the specific logistical requirements.

 It is our intention that all schools and further education settings, including primary and childcare staff, should have access to serial testing. However, in order to ensure there is a model that works and is safe, we will phase the roll out starting with secondary schools and further education settings.

All staff working in special schools will be offered weekly testing.

We will keep this serial testing under review to capture any lessons and to inform future use of serial testing. 

It is vital everyone understands that testing alone cannot eradicate the risks associated with contracting and transmitting Covid-19. 

Testing helps to mitigate the risk but it needs to be taken alongside other infection prevention control measures, including appropriate social distancing and hand hygiene measures. We are grateful to everyone in the sector who has worked hard to make sure these measures are in place.


Coronavirus self-isolation and quarantine reduced to 10 days in Wales (09.12.2020)

As of Thursday 10 December the time people have to self-isolate for coronavirus will be reduced from 14 days to 10 in Wales.

Reducing the isolation period to 10 days is endorsed by The Chief Medical Officer for Wales Officer, Dr Frank Atherton and is based on the current available evidence around likelihood of being infectious as a contact after 10 days.

Following this advice the Minister for Health and Social Services has approved the amendment to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 4) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

Travellers returning from non-exempt countries will now only have to quarantine for 10 days instead of 14 as part of changes to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Wales) Regulations 2020).

At present, individuals who are contacts of people who have coronavirus and returning travellers from non-exempt countries, are required by law to self-isolate for a period of 14 days - unless they subsequently test positive and are then required to isolate for a period of 10 days from the date of the positive test. 

The new self-isolation and quarantine advice will apply to: 

  • people who have received a positive test result for COVID-19
  • people with symptoms of COVID-19 who are waiting for a test result, or who have not been tested and do not require hospital treatment, who must remain at home for the appropriate self-isolation period
  • people living in households with someone who shows symptoms that may be caused by COVID-19 or who has received a positive test result for COVID-19
  • close contacts of positive cases of COVID-19
  • travellers returning from non-exempt country

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:

"We know that self-isolating is hard for people and we believe families, communities and business will welcome the announcement today to safely reduce the days in which people have to isolate. Self-isolation and quarantine play a key role in stopping the spread of the coronavirus and I want to thank everyone who continues to follow the rules and play their role in Keeping Wales Safe."


Written Statement: Covid-19 testing of healthcare workers and hospice staff (04.12.2020)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services. 

Protecting our NHS and our most vulnerable citizens in Wales remains at the heart of our Covid-19 response, and one of the priorities of our testing strategy is to enable health and social care workers to continue providing care to people in hospitals and primary care and community care settings.

Asymptomatic testing of health and social care workers in Wales to date has assisted with outbreak control and been targeted at those working in clinical areas with vulnerable patients and those working in care homes. 

As we enter the winter months, we are taking further steps to assist with infection control and reduce transmission of Covid-19 in the Welsh NHS and social care settings by utilising lateral flow tests (LFTs), one of the new technologies developed through the UK mass testing programme, to test frontline health and social care workers on a rapid and regular basis.

Lateral flow testing detects the presence of the Covid-19 viral antigen from a swab sample. 

LFTs are handheld devices which produce results within 20 to 30 minutes, with the potential to be self-administered. They are being piloted for use in schools and universities, for people visiting care homes and in the current mass testing programme in Merthyr.

Following scientific validation of testing using LFTs, we are introducing a programme of regular, twice per week, asymptomatic testing of patient-facing health and social care workers in hospitals and primary care and community care settings, and others who have contact with people in those settings.

This testing programme will include testing of staff delivering domiciliary care services and professionals visiting care homes and other social care settings. 

It is vital everyone understands that testing alone cannot eradicate the risks associated with contracting and transmitting Covid-19.  Testing is a risk mitigation step that needs to be taken alongside other infection prevention control measures, the effective use of personal protective equipment and appropriate social distancing and hand hygiene measures. 

While LFTs are not as sensitive as lab-based RT-PCR tests, scientific advice has indicated that by testing more frequently with LFTs, such as twice per week, their accuracy is on a par with RT-PCR tests. 

The testing programme for health and social care workers using LFTs will be available for:

  • Clinical health care workers, including doctors, nurses and allied health professionals.
  • Non-clinical workers, including hospital porters, cleaning staff, catering staff and volunteers.
  • Social care workers, including domiciliary care workers, social workers and inspectors visiting care homes and other social care settings.

We will begin rolling out the programme for these groups on an incremental basis from 14 December, initially by testing those working in health and social care services with high risks of Covid-19 transmission, and we plan to introduce testing in lower risk settings in the week of 11 January 2021. 

We are engaging with the health and social care sectors on the specific logistical requirements for each of these different groups to ensure testing is undertaken effectively and rapidly. 

The safety and protection of the most vulnerable people in our communities is central to our response to Covid-19. 

Another step we are taking is to introduce regular asymptomatic testing of staff working in hospice in-patient units and those delivering hospice at home services.  Arrangements are being finalised with hospices across Wales and we expect to begin rolling out testing from 14 December.


£340m support for Welsh businesses as new coronavirus rules announced (30.11.2020)

A set of new targeted restrictions in the hospitality and leisure sectors, together with a £340m support package, has been announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The new measures are being introduced as cases of coronavirus accelerate in Wales once again, eroding the gains achieved during the recent firebreak period.

From Friday, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services.

Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions must also close.

First Minister Mark Drakeford, said:

"Unfortunately, the virus is moving incredibly quickly across Wales and is eroding the gains we made during the firebreak period. We now need to take further steps together as a nation to protect people’s health and slow the spread of coronavirus." 

"This virus – and this pandemic – continues to be full of unpleasant surprises. It thrives on our normal human behaviour and all those places and opportunities where we come together." 

"It underlines why we need to take further, targeted action now. We will focus these changes on places where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on recent evidence from the UK SAGE group of experts about what interventions have had the biggest impact on the virus." 

The Welsh Government is making a further £340m available through the Economic Resilience Fund to support businesses affected by the new changes to the regulations. It will include a specific fund to support hospitality and tourism businesses. 

The new Welsh Government support is split into two funds: a £160m Restrictions Business Fund and a £180m sector-specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme. 

The Restrictions Business Fund will enable eligible businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors which pay non-domestic rates (NDR) to access grants of up to £5,000. 

It is estimated around 60,000 businesses, with a rateable value of under £150,000 will receive this support.

Businesses not on the NDR system, will be able to continue to apply to local authorities for the Lockdown Discretionary Grant of up to £2,000.

In addition, hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses will be able to access a sector specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme. 

Small and medium sized businesses meeting the criteria could receive up to £100k. Larger Welsh-based businesses could receive up to a maximum of £150k. 

This part of the package is expected to support up to 8,000 businesses in these sectors and a further 2,000 in the related supply chains.

More information about the funding and how it can be accessed will be published on the Business Wales website in the coming days. 

Economy Minister Ken Skates said:

"These are incredibly difficult days for businesses and these decisions have not been taken lightly." 

"We expect today’s £340m announcement to support tens of thousands of businesses and help protect many more jobs and livelihoods. It must also be remembered that UK Government support is also available to businesses." 

"We will continue to do everything we can to support our firms and our people through these challenging times."


New guidelines for hospital visiting during Coronavirus outbreak (30.11.2020)

New revised NHS Wales hospital visiting guidance during the coronavirus outbreak will be published on Monday 30 November 2020. This supersedes previously published guidance.

The revised guidance sets out the baseline for visiting in Wales during the pandemic, but allows health boards, trusts and hospices to have more flexibility to depart from the guidance.

This flexibility is due to the changing picture of coronavirus transmission across Wales, with significant variations in community transmission across different parts of the country and differences in the rate of nosocomial transmission. 

The new guidelines allow health care providers to asses local factors and work with local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales when agreeing visiting arrangements.

Healthcare providers may depart from the guidance in response to:

  • rising levels of COVID-19 transmission in their localities, including levels which result in a national lockdown and/or evidence of nosocomial transmission in a particular setting; or
  • falling levels of transmission in their local area

In addition to allowing for this flexibility the revised guidance has been amended for maternity services after listening to feedback from women and families and consulting with Heads of Midwifery and Sonography/Radiography Services. Visiting in maternity services will now be based on a risk assessment approach by health boards.

This will take into consideration local environmental factors such as room sizes, ability to socially distance  and infection prevention and control risks in enabling partners to safely accompany pregnant women and new mothers.

This risk assessed approach should be taken in collaboration with relevant health professionals, local infection prevention and control teams and Public Health Wales.

All women will be supported to have at least one partner with them during active labour, birth and for the period immediately after the birth, except in an extremely limited number of circumstances.

The updated guidelines also recognise that some people may require an essential support assistant for specific additional support eg a support worker or interpreter. Essential support assistants will not to be classed as visitors, in some circumstances, where people receive care and support from a family member or partner, they may nominate this person as their essential support assistant.

Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething, said:

"We recognise that the restrictions on visiting has a huge impact on patients, their families and loves ones. We have announced further changes to the guidelines today to provide health boards, trusts and hospices with flexibility to depart from the guidelines in response to local levels of COVID-19 transmission."

"It is important to remember that the virus has not gone away and the health, safety and wellbeing of patients, communities and NHS staff remains an absolute priority for both the Welsh Government and health care providers. Tough choices will still need to be made but we hope the revised guidelines will allow more flexibility for health care providers."


Written Statement: Review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions): update by Welsh Government (20.11.2020)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 4) (Wales) Regulations 2020 place a series of restrictions on gatherings, the movement of people, and the operation of businesses. They are designed to protect people from the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).

Welsh Ministers were required to review the restrictions by 19 November. They must then be reviewed every two weeks up to 17 December, after which they must be reviewed every three weeks, as prior to the firebreak.

I have always been clear, we will not see the full impact of the firebreak measures until a few weeks after they ended on 9 November.

Whilst there are encouraging signs the short, sharp intervention has broken chains of transmission, leading to falling numbers of positive cases, the situation in Wales remains very serious.

Last week we sadly passed the sombre milestone of 3,000 deaths in Wales involving COVID19.

I therefore consider it is too early to ease any of the restrictions. This is in keeping with the careful and gradual approach we have always taken.

The package was designed to strike the right balance between protecting people’s health and providing as much freedom as possible.

Overall, the regulations are designed to be clear, stable and simple to understand. For this reason I am seeking to avoid making substantial changes. Fundamentally our approach relies on all of us taking precautions and limiting our interactions with others.

I am very aware of the challenges and distress many people in Wales continue to experience as a result of the restrictions, particularly about meeting family and loved ones.

As we approach the December holiday period, families and loved ones will naturally wish to be together.

The Welsh Government is engaging with other UK administrations on a joined up approach to planning for the winter holiday period, considering what we might be possible across the four-nations during this important time of the year.

I remain very grateful to people for their continued efforts to Keep Wales Safe.


Written Statement: ‘Long COVID' Longer Term Impacts of COVID-19 (25.10.2020)

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health & Social Services.

The Welsh Government took prompt action as the evidence began to emerge in the spring identifying the likely need for rehabilitation for people recovering from COVID-19, which is now popularly referred to as ‘Long COVID’, and for those people indirectly affected by the lockdown measures.  Long COVID is especially but not exclusively used as a term for people with long standing health impacts from COVID-19 that may not have required hospital treatment. Working with stakeholders, we published a National Framework for Rehabilitation in May.

This Framework identified four population groups: those who are recovering from COVID-19; those whose usual care for a health condition has been paused, those who have delayed approaching health services during the pandemic period for whatever reason and those whose health may have been affected by reduced activity, or contact with others as a result of restrictions, shielding and self-isolating.

Over the summer, we published a suite of guidance and resources to support health boards and their partners to model their population needs and to plan and develop their local rehabilitation services.

We have emphasised the importance of developing rehabilitation services in our Winter Protection Plan and planning guidance to the NHS.

Our approach to people recovering from COVID-19 is focused on providing care and support as close to home as possible, tailored to meet an individual’s specific needs.

We believe this can be best achieved by providing integrated rehabilitation services for the range of longer term effects of COVID-19, such as fatigue, breathlessness, heart, physical or psychological impacts, whether as a result of COVID-19 or other pre-existing conditions. The majority of people can access the rehabilitation support they need from the multi professional health and care services in the community and, only where necessary, from inpatient rehabilitation services.

We are continuing to learn about COVID-19. Wales is working in a number of areas to ensure our response is based on the latest evidence and research. We are participating in the development by NICE of a clinical definition of Long COVID and subsequent guidance on diagnosis and care.

Wales is participating in the UK Post-Hospitalisation COVID-19 Study (PHOSP-COVID), funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and MRC UK Research and Innovation. This world leading study has been established to assess the long-term effects of COVID-19 on patient health and recovery in 10,000 participants with the aim of informing the development of care pathways to help patients recover as fully as possible after having experienced the disease.

The Welsh Government has and will continue to take action to support people with Long COVID. I will issue further updates as more information is available.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.


Waste water signals local COVID spikes (25.10.2020)

A pilot programme monitoring coronavirus in Wales’ sewage systems is finding that virus spikes in the community can be detected in local waste water.

The programme, launched in June, is now monitoring 20 sites across Wales and covers 80% of the Welsh population.

Researchers from Welsh universities were the first to start the national surveillance of COVID-19 in major urban centres in the UK, and the technology to do this was first developed in Wales also.

They have been measuring the presence of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in waste water as the presence of this in human waste is common in almost all confirmed coronavirus cases.

The amount of virus in wastewater has already been used to monitor the success of the first lockdown period and the data is shared with the Welsh Test Trace Protect system to inform where new outbreaks may be.

There is no evidence however that coronavirus is spread via sewage systems, says the World Health Organisation.

The Welsh Government awarded almost £500,000 of funding to a consortium led by Bangor University, working with Cardiff University, Public Health Wales and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water.

The Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:

"To halt the spread of the coronavirus we needed a way to measure it within our communities and monitor any changes. This pilot programme has allowed us to develop an independent system capable of providing an early warning notification and to provide signals on the levels of coronavirus infections in our communities. This project is already complementing our wider public health programmes, including our successful Test Trace Protect programme."

This programme has already proved to be yet another opportunity to strengthen the existing partnerships we have in Wales in our environmental sciences, disease surveillance and pathogen genomics."

Professor of Soil and Environmental Science at Bangor University, Davey Jones, said:

"We have been monitoring viruses like Norovirus and Hepatitis in human sewage for the last decade, as part of a programme to evaluate levels of these viruses in the community. We added COVID-19 to the surveillance list in March this year."

"We showed that viral levels in wastewater mapped really well onto the success of lockdown measures in the first COVID-19 wave and to the emergence of the second wave. We are now using it to track the emergence and control of COVID-19 cases and working on new pilots to map the virus at both the local and the regional scale."

Professor at Cardiff University’s Organisms and Environment Division, Andrew Weightman, said:

"By monitoring the SARS-CoV-2 virus signal in wastewater to map the occurrence of COVID-19 across Wales, we are demonstrating the substantial benefits of wastewater surveillance for public health in our nation. The Welsh Government funding for this project has provided us with the resources rapidly to build the research infrastructure and linkages for a dynamic consortium involving Cardiff and Bangor Universities, Public Health Wales and Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water. This is allowing us to generate, analyse and communicate data that will be used to help track the spread of the virus during the present COVID-19 emergency."

"The project is helping us to understand more about the pandemic, and inform others: researchers, healthcare professionals, government and policy makers, and the public."

In addition to monitoring for coronavirus, the systems established will also be able to determine whether other types of respiratory viruses, noroviruses and hepatitis, which will help with public health surveillance.
A second waste water project is underway at Swansea University, who are developing a fully integrated sampling and reporting device to predict the outbreak of Covid-19 infections, funded by the Welsh Government.


National coronavirus fire-break to be introduced in Wales on Friday (19.10.2020)

A short, sharp “fire-break” will be introduced across Wales at the end of this week to help regain control of coronavirus, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced today. 

The fortnight-long action is needed to save lives and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. 

Speaking to the people of Wales, the First Minister said:

This is the moment to come together; to play our part in a common endeavour to protect the NHS and save lives. This will not be easy, but we will do it together." 

The fire-break will start at 6pm on Friday 23 October and end on Monday 9 November. It will apply to everyone living in Wales and will replace the local restrictions which are in force in some parts of the country.

The Welsh Government will provide a package of almost £300 million to support businesses, which will complement wage-support schemes available from the UK government.

Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the virus has woken up for winter. While the national and local measures put in place across Wales have helped to keep the spread of the virus in check, there is a growing consensus that additional action is now needed. 

Between October 9 and 15, there were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results but the real level of infections will be much higher. The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing daily and sadly so too are the number of people dying with coronavirus.

The R number is currently between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning continued exponential growth in the number of cases and the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales stands at more than 130 cases per 100,000 population.

The fire-break will be short but sharp to have a maximum impact on the virus. 

  • People must stay at home, except for very limited purposes, such as for exercise.
  • People must work from home wherever possible;
  • People must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with either indoors and outdoors
  • No gatherings will be allowed outdoors, such as Halloween or fireworks/Bonfire night or other organised activities
  • All non-food retail, hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants and pubs (unless they provide take-away or delivery services), close contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, and events and tourism businesses, such as hotels must close
  • Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will be required to close
  • Face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces, which remain open, including on public transport and in taxis.

During this time: 

  • Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support
  • Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half-term
  • Secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in years seven and eight and most vulnerable children. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams but other pupils will continue their learning from home for an extra week.
  • Universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning
  • NHS and health services will continue to operate
  • Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.

Following the end of the fire-break, a new set of national rules will be introduced, covering how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses operate. 

Businesses affected by the firebreak will be supported with a new £300 million fund, which will open next week:

  • Every business covered by the small business rates relief will receive a £1,000 payment.
  • Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
  • There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses, which are struggling.
  • The £80 million fund announced last week to help businesses develop in the longer term, will be increased to £100 million, which includes £20 million ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality.

Businesses will also be able to access the support available through the existing Job Retention Scheme or the new expanded Job Support Scheme. 

The First Minister has written to the Chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday. The Welsh Government has offered to pay the extra costs to the UK government scheme to ensure businesses can retain staff.

 First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“It is with a heavy heart that I once again ask everyone to stay at home and businesses to shut. We are all tired of coronavirus and the many rules and regulations we all have to live with. We all want to see an end to this pandemic and our lives returned to us. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a vaccine, which will allow us to do that." 

"This fire-break is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much-longer – and damaging – national lockdown. We have a small window of opportunity to act."

"To be successful, we need everyone’s help. Wales has shown throughout this pandemic that we can come together and take the actions to keep our families and our communities safe. We must come together once again to stay ahead of this virus and to save lives." 

 

Coronavirus circuit break: frequently asked questions

This guidance regards the rules that will come into force at 6:00pm on Friday 23 October.

Link here (takes you the Welsh Government website): https://gov.wales/coronavirus-circuit-break-frequently-asked-questions


Local coronavirus restrictions introduced to control outbreak in Bangor (10/10/1996)

New coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in Bangor following a sharp rise in cases, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed. 

New coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in Bangor following a sharp rise in cases, First Minister Mark Drakeford tonight confirmed. 

The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Saturday October 10 to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus

 

The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in eight wards, which make up the city of Bangor. 

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
  • People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households, with the exception of temporary bubbles for single people and single parents.

 

The restrictions are in addition to the rules that apply everywhere in Wales, including:

  • All licensed premises must stop selling alcohol at 10pm
  • Everyone over 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public areas. 

 

The targeted local health protection area in Bangor is being created in response to a significant cluster of cases, which has developed in the city – the incident rate stands at around 400 cases per 100,000 people. Cases appear to be closely associated with young people and the student population. 

In the wider Gwynedd local authority area, there is evidence of transmission of coronavirus throughout the county but the incidence rate varies from 152 cases per 100,000 in Arfon, which includes Bangor, to 55 cases per 100,000 people in Dwyfor and 18 cases per 100,000 people in Meirionydd.

The Welsh Government has held extensive discussions with the local authority, Bangor University, the NHS, North Wales Police and public health experts about the situation in Gwynedd about the need for local restrictions in Bangor. 

Further discussions will be held with the local authority and the incident management team about the wider situation in Gwynedd on Saturday. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

"Unfortunately, we have seen a large number of cases in Bangor, which is largely linked to people socialising. We have worked closely with the local authority, the police in North Wales and public health experts to assess the need for local restrictions. We all agree about the need to take targeted action in Bangor."

"We want to discuss the wider situation in Gwynedd in more detail tomorrow to decide whether we need to extend local restrictions more widely across the county area. While large parts of Wales are now subject to local restrictions, I want to be clear – this is not a national lockdown. These are a series of local restrictions to respond to rises in cases in individual areas."

"It’s always difficult to make the decision to impose restrictions but we hope that these measures will make help to control the spread of the virus. It is important we all work together and support each other. This isn’t just about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting each other."

The new local restrictions will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police.

 

Keep Wales safe by:

  • Always keeping your distance
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Working from home wherever you can
  • Following any local restrictions
  • Thinking carefully about who you are meeting and where you are going – the more places you go the greater the chance to come into contact with coronavirus.
  • Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms

 

The eight ward areas in Bangor to be covered by the local restrictions are:

  • Garth
  • Hirael
  • Menai
  • Deiniol
  • Marchog
  • Glyder
  • Hendre
  • Dewi

See a map of the Bangor area


New rules for people living alone in local lockdown areas (02.10.2020)

First Minister Mark Drakeford will today amend the local lockdown rules in recognition of the emotional toll coronavirus is having on people who live alone.

Adults living alone, including single parents, in areas under local restrictions will be able to form a temporary bubble with another household in their local area under the new rules coming into force tomorrow (3 October).

The change is designed to help protect people living alone from the risk of experiencing loneliness and isolation and will enable to them to meet other people indoors – something, which is ordinarily not allowed unless someone has a reasonable excuse anywhere across Wales.

The rule of six will apply to these new single people household bubbles.

The First Minister will also indicate today that the Welsh Government will act to strengthen enforcement powers for local authorities to fine people who organise house parties and to simplify the process to introduce restrictions on drinking alcohol in public.

He said:

"The coronavirus pandemic has taken a huge toll on all of us – we’ve all been through so much this year already. We are once again seeing cases of coronavirus rising across Wales and the reintroduction of restrictions in many parts of the country to protect people’s health and control its spread."

"Many people will have the support of their family at this time but large numbers of people – young and old – live alone. None of us should have to face coronavirus on our own. Creating temporary bubbles for single people and single parents in local lockdown areas will make sure they have the emotional support they need during this time."

The Welsh Government has carried out the latest 21-day review of the coronavirus regulations but will not be making any major changes to the national rules because of the overall rise in cases across Wales.

The local restrictions introduced across a number of South Wales local authority areas over the last 10 days will also be retained.

In Caerphilly borough, where cases have fallen, the restrictions will remain in place for at least a further 7 days and they will also continue in Rhondda Cynon Taf, where the growth in cases has slowed.

First Minister Mark Drakeford will today urge people throughout Wales to follow 5 simple steps to help prevent the spread of coronavirus:

Keep our distance from others

Wash our hands often

Work from home wherever possible

Wear a face covering in indoor public places

Think carefully about where we’re going and who we’re meeting because the more places we travel and the more people we meet, the more chances there are to catch coronavirus.

He added:

"I know these restrictions are difficult on all of us who want to see our family and friends but they are needed to keep Wales safe. We appreciate everyone’s efforts in following the rules and helping to prevent the spread of this virus."


Written Statement: Review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions): latest update from Welsh Government (02.10.2020)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 place a series of restrictions on gatherings, the movement of people, and the operation of businesses, including closures. They require businesses, which are open to take reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus. They are designed to protect people from the spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).                                                            

This week, Ministers have carried out the three-week review of the coronavirus regulations to ensure they remain proportionate to the public health risk posed by the virus.

Since the last weeks of August, we have seen sharp and rapid increase in the number of cases across Wales, starting in South East Wales but spreading to most parts of the country.

We have introduced a series of local restrictions to respond to these increases in local authority areas across Wales and we have also introduced some additional national measures, including the ending of alcohol sales after 10pm.

The deteriorating public health situation across Wales means we will not be making any major changes to the rules at a national level. The only very modest change is that skating rinks will be able to reopen from 3 October, as signalled at the last review.

We will however, change the local restrictions to ensure that single people living alone, including single parents, are not put at increased risk of loneliness or isolation, as a result of the introduction of local lockdowns in areas where there have been sharp and sudden increases in coronavirus.

The new rules, which will come into force tomorrow, will enable single adult households to temporarily join an extended household – or bubble – with another household in their local area, while local restrictions are in place.

This will enable single adult and single parent households to meet other people indoors during a local lockdown and hopefully reduce the emotional impact of local restrictions. The rule of six will apply to these single people bubbles.

Over the course next week, we will also be strengthening local authority powers to restrict drinking in public areas. This will help local authorities stop people gathering and drinking in certain areas where there is a risk of coronavirus being transmitted.

Local restrictions are now in place in 15 local authority areas and in Llanelli. A weekly review of these restrictions is required in the regulations. This week was the second review and we have concluded that it is too soon to lift restrictions in any of the local health protection areas.

It is encouraging that the incidence of coronavirus has continued to fall in Caerphilly borough over the last seven days, which is down to the efforts of people who live in the area.

However, we need to see rates come down further before restrictions are relaxed. We will use the next seven days to work with Caerphilly County Borough Council and other local authorities, public health doctors, the police, and others, to agree a phased route out of these restrictions.

If we all continue to work together, we can protect ourselves and families and keep Wales safe.


Local coronavirus restrictions introduced to control outbreaks in North Wales (30.09.2020)

New coronavirus restrictions are being introduced in four local authority areas in North Wales – Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham – following a rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething today announced.

The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Thursday 1 October, to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus in the four areas.

The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Conwy and Wrexham:

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave each of these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
  • People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households;

The restrictions will be in addition to the rules that apply everywhere in Wales, including:

  • All licensed premises must stop selling alcohol at 10pm
  • Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public areas – as is the case across Wales.

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

"Unfortunately, we have seen a rise in coronavirus cases in four north Wales local authority areas – in Denbighshire, Flintshire, Wrexham and Conwy. These are largely linked to people socialising indoors and are the pattern of transmission similar to what we have seen in South Wales.

We have worked closely with local authority leaders and the police in North Wales and we all agree about the need to take swift action to control and the spread of the virus."

"Large parts of Wales will now be subject to local restrictions but I want to be clear – this is not a national lockdown. These are a series of local restrictions to respond to rises in cases in individual areas. It’s always difficult to make the decision to impose restrictions but we hope that these measures will make a positive difference – just as we have seen in Caerphilly and Newport, where local residents have pulled together and followed the rules."

"It is important we all work together and support each other. This isn’t just about protecting ourselves, it’s about protecting each other."

The restrictions are being introduced following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in coronavirus, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas.

The Welsh Government met with local authorities, health boards and police across North Wales today (29 September) to discuss the situation across the region, and what measures could be taken to prevent the further spread of the virus and how to protect people’s health.

The local restrictions will not be introduced in Anglesey or Gwynedd at this stage, where cases are lower.

The new local restrictions will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police.

Keep Wales safe by:

  • Always keeping your distance
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Working from home wherever you can
  • Following any local restrictions
  • Following the rules about meeting people
  • Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

Written Statement: Prioritisation COVID-19 Testing (29.09.2020)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.

Over recent weeks I have issued statements setting out how Welsh Government is working with the NHS and Public Health Wales and other key stakeholders to make sure that testing is available where most needed.

In addition to work to supplement capacity from Lighthouse labs with those operated by PHW, the UK’s four Chief Medical Officers (CMOs) have been assessing the prioritisation of the testing programme. 

I am today setting out the prioritisation for testing in Wales as we move into a new phase of our response, these reflect the priorities set out in our testing strategy:

Priority one will be to support NHS clinical care and focus on hospital patients, including all admissions, so that clinical judgements can be made to ensure the best care for these individuals.

Priority two will be to protect those in care homes. We know that people living in our care homes are particularly vulnerable to COVID. Based on SAGE and TAG advice, we will continue to test staff, with or without symptoms, fortnightly or, where local prevalence is significant, weekly.  We will also test all new admissions and, in the event of an outbreak with a home, all residents and staff will be tested.

Priority three will be the testing of NHS staff, including GPs and pharmacists where possible, as protecting our NHS has been at the heart of our COVID response and is a clear priority in our Testing Strategy. We will continue to test NHS staff with symptoms but will move test asymptomatic staff in outbreaks and in areas of higher prevalence. 

Priority four is targeted testing to support management of outbreaks and surveillance studies which will help  to manage outbreaks in high-risk environments such as closed residential settings or higher-risk workplaces, where the risks of the virus spreading and chances of finding more positive cases is high. Surveillance testing refers to the population-wide Office for National Statistics study, essential trials for new potential vaccines, and studies of particular at-risk populations.

Priority five is to prioritise testing for symptomatic staff working in education or childcare settings where is it needed to keep the settings open. We are continuing to improve the testing system to ensure staff can get priority access when they have symptoms. Those who test negative can return to work, ensuring our education and childcare settings can remain open. 

Priority six is testing all symptomatic individuals irrespective of local prevalence although it is important that individuals only book a test if they have key symptoms (a high temperature, a new continuous cough and a loss of taste or smell).   People should self-isolate if they have any of these symptoms, or if you are asked to by a contact tracer.  By following this advice, we will be able ensure that the resources that we have available are being used as effectively as possible.

Our Testing Strategy, published in July, will be updated to reflect these priorities.  The aims of that strategy remain - to ensure testing capacity is used to protect the vulnerable in care homes and hospital, respond to outbreaks and incidents and ensure our critical public services can be maintained. 

The Welsh Government will continue to work with NHS Wales, Public Health Wales and other key stakeholders in a strong response to COVID-19 and these priorities will help ensure testing is available where most needed especially as we move towards the autumn and winter period.


Local lockdowns in Wales: general information from Welsh Government (28.09.2020)

Welsh Government have set up a page on their website which hosts the latest information regarding the latest local lockdown areas in Wales. 

The page hosts information that includes guidance and services, frequently asked questions, area maps and policy and background (strategy, reports, projects and assessments). 

Areas covered:

  • Bridgend
  • Cardiff
  • Swansea
  • Caerphilly
  • Llanelli
  • Rhondda Cynon Taf
  • Vale of Glamorgan
  • Blaenau Gwent
  • Neath Port Talbot
  • Merthyr Tydfil
  • Torfaen
  • Newport 

This information can be found at the following link

 

Please remember that in order to Keep Wales safe everyone outside of an area with local lockdown restrictions should continue to:

  • always observe social distancing
  • wash your hands regularly
  • if you meet another household, outside your extended household, stay outdoors
  • work from home if you can
  • stay at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

If you have any queries or require a key worker letter please contact nwssp.workforce@wales.nhs.uk


Written statement: Local coronavirus restrictions update (27.02.2020)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister. 

On Friday, Health Minister Vaughan Gething published a written statement to update Members about the latest coronavirus situation in South Wales.
We continue to see rapidly rising cases in many parts of South Wales, which has led to introduction of new local restrictions in Llanelli on Saturday. Local restrictions will also come into force in Cardiff and Swansea on Sunday at 6pm. 

In his statement, the Health Minister said we would closely monitor the situation in Neath Port Talbot, the Vale of Glamorgan and Torfaen over the weekend and will review whether these areas also need to come under the local restriction regime.

These three areas have seen cases within their own boundaries rise sharply over the last few weeks and they all border areas with considerably higher rates of coronavirus. 

We have held a series of meetings today with public health experts, local authority leaders, the NHS, police and police and crime commissioners to assess the latest position in each of these areas. 

All participants agreed local restrictions should be introduced in Neath Port Talbot, the Vale of Glamorgan and Torfaen. These will come into effect at 6pm on Monday (28 September). 

This means everyone living in these three local authorities will: 

Not be allowed to enter or leave the area without a reasonable excuse.

Not be able to meet indoors with anyone they do not live with for the time

being – extended households (sometimes called a “bubble”) are suspended

for the time being.

All licensed premises have to stop serving alcohol at 10pm.

Everyone must work from home wherever possible. 

A large part of the population of South Wales will now be living in areas under local restrictions to protect their health and prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

Although the restrictions are the same in each local authority, this does not mean people from one local area under local restrictions can travel to another area under local restrictions without a reasonable excuse, such as travelling for work or education. 

This is not a regional lockdown. We have introduced a series of local restrictions in these South Wales local authority areas to respond to a specific rise in cases in each area, all of which have distinct and unique chains of transmission. 

In some places, such as Caerphilly and Newport, we have seen positive falls in response and we will be able to take action to relax these restrictions in these areas if they continue. 

It is important everyone follows the rules where they live. We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones.

 We continue to closely monitor the situation in North Wales where cases overall are lower than we are seeing in South Wales at the moment but there is evidence that coronavirus is increasing in some parts of the region. We will be meeting North Wales local authority leaders next week to discuss the developing situation.


Further local coronavirus restrictions introduced to control rises in South Wales (27.09.2020)

Coronavirus laws are being further tightened in Neath Port Talbot, the Vale of Glamorgan and Torfaen in response to a growing spread of cases, First Minister Mark Drakeford, has confirmed. 

Local restrictions will come into force from 6pm tomorrow (Monday 28 September). 

The restrictions, which will apply to everyone living in Neath Port Talbot, Vale of Glamorgan and Torfaen are: 

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
  • People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households (sometimes known as ‘bubbles’). This means meeting indoors (in people’s houses, in a pub or elsewhere) with anyone you don’t live with is not allowed at the moment unless you have a good reason, such as providing care to a vulnerable person.
  • All licensed premises have to stop serving alcohol at 10pm.
  • Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor places, which are open to the public, such as shops, as well as on public transport – as is the case in the rest of Wales. (There are some limited exemptions for people with disabilities and medical conditions – these are the same as for public transport). 

The First Minister said:

"Following a worrying rise in cases of coronavirus across South Wales, we took action on Friday to introduce local coronavirus restrictions in Llanelli and local restrictions will come into force in our two largest cities– Cardiff and Swansea – tonight." 

"We are now taking further action and placing three more areas under local restrictions in South Wales – Neath Port Talbot, Torfaen, and the Vale of Glamorgan – because we are seeing rising rates in these three areas. These areas also share borders with local authority areas where rates are much higher." 

"Introducing restrictions in any parts of Wales is always an incredibly difficult decision for us to make. But we’re acting to protect people’s health and to try and break the chain of transmission and stop the situation from getting worse." 

This is not a regional lockdown – this is a series of local restrictions in each local authority area to respond to a specific rise in cases in each area, which have distinct and unique chains of transmission. In some places, such as Caerphilly and Newport, we have seen really positive falls in response and we hope they can begin to be relaxed if they continue." 

It’s really important everyone follows the rules where they live. We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones." 

Local restrictions are already in place in seven other areas of South Wales – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly borough, Llanelli in Carmarthenshire, Merthyr Tydfil borough, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Newport.

 Restrictions come into force in Cardiff and Swansea at 6pm tonight (Sunday 27 September). 

Much of South Wales is now covered by local restrictions – although the restrictions are the same in each local authority, it does not mean people from one local area under local restrictions can travel to another area under local restrictions without a reasonable excuse, such as travelling for work or education. 

All local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police. 

The Welsh Government is continuing to keep a close watch on the situation in North Wales – cases overall are much lower than in South Wales, but there is evidence coronavirus is increasing in some parts of the region. 

Keep Wales safe by: 

  • Always keeping your distance
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Working from home wherever you can
  • Following any local restrictions
  • Following the rules about meeting people
  • Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

Call to ‘Protect the NHS’ as Wales heads into winter (27.09.2020)

Wales’ Health Minister is urging the public to help ‘Protect the NHS’ and keep services clear for those who need them most. 

Across Wales, health boards and the Welsh Ambulance Service are seeing a return of pre-lockdown behaviour and demand for services.

In anticipation of what will be a uniquely challenging winter with the added effects of COVID-19, people are being asked to help protect vital services for those in most need by accessing alternative services rather than their Emergency Department when their complaint is neither life-threatening nor serious. 

Welsh health boards are reporting that around 20 to 30% of patients who present at Emergency Departments could be better treated elsewhere or in a different way. 

As part of the Protect the NHS drive, people are being advised to order prescriptions 7 days before they’re due; use their local NHS pharmacy and GP service for minor illnesses or injuries, visit the 111 / NHS Direct Wales website or phone them for free health advice through online symptom checkers for minor ailments. 

People should still attend hospitals when asked to do so to continue or review their treatment. Hospitals have taken a range of appropriate measures to keep people safe, including treating people with COVID-19 or suspected COVID-19 in separate areas to those who do not have the virus to prevent the risk of it spreading. 

People are also reminded that if they have COVID symptoms not go to their pharmacy, GP or local Emergency Department, but instead book a test through 119 and call 111 if symptoms persist or they can no longer cope at home. 

Health Minister Vaughan Gething, pictured, said:

"It is imperative our Emergency Departments and emergency ambulances are kept for those who are in a life-threatening or serious condition. Even more so now our EDs have reduced space to ensure social distancing, not just for patients but for staff also." 

"If someone has a health complaint that is worrying them and won’t go away, they can contact their pharmacy, opticians, contact the 111 website or phone service, local surgery or health centre to be assessed. Please save our Emergency Departments for those with serious complaints such as severe bleeding and burns, strokes or loss of consciousness."

“During the pandemic the people of Wales were exceptional at protecting these vital services by accessing 111 or NHS Direct Wales and we need to move back to this way of thinking. To say coronavirus has not gone away is an understatement. We all need to remember that our NHS staff and services are still under huge pressure. That’s why it is even more important this year than ever that we can all do our bit by helping us to help you to access the right service, at the right time, to protect the NHS." 

Chief Executive of the Welsh Ambulance Service Jason Killens said:

"With winter fast approaching and an apparent second wave of COVID-19 underway, it’s more important than ever that people make sensible decisions when accessing the NHS. As an ambulance service, we’ve seen a rapid return to pre-lockdown demand levels over the last couple of weeks, so we need the public to do their bit to reduce pressure on the emergency services. Our ambulance service exists to help people who are seriously ill or injured or whose life is in imminent danger." 

"We need to reserve our precious resources for them, which one day might be you, your child, your parent, your spouse or your friend. If it’s not urgent or life-threatening, there are many, many alternatives to 999 that you can access. By doing this, you’re protecting yourselves, others and the NHS." 

Welsh residents are also urged to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by: 

  • always keeping a distance
  • washing hands regularly
  • working from home wherever possible
  • following local restrictions
  • following the rules about meeting people
  • staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms

Local coronavirus restrictions introduced to control outbreaks in South Wales (25.09.2020)

Coronavirus laws are being tightened across South Wales this weekend, including in the capital city, in response to a growing spread of cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething (pictured) has confirmed.

Local restrictions will come into force in Llanelli from 6pm on Saturday – the first time restrictions have been introduced on a more localised basis – and in Swansea and Cardiff from 6pm on Sunday.

Ministers will also meet public health experts, local authority leaders and others over the weekend to consider whether local restrictions need to be extended to Neath Port Talbot, the Vale of Glamorgan and Torfaen on Sunday evening.

The restrictions, which will apply to everyone living in Llanelli, Cardiff and Swansea are:

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
  • People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households (sometimes known as ‘bubbles’). This means meeting indoors (in people’s houses, in a pub or elsewhere) with anyone you don’t live with is not allowed at the moment unless you have a good reason, such as providing care to a vulnerable person.
  • All licensed premises have to stop serving alcohol at 10pm.
  • Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor places, which are open to the public, such as shops, as well as on public transport – as is the case in the rest of Wales. (There are some limited exemptions for people with disabilities and medical conditions – these are the same as for public transport). 

Health Minister Vaughan Gething, said:

"Over the last few weeks we’ve taken action to put local coronavirus restrictions in place in parts of South Wales. Following a worrying rise in cases of coronavirus in the town of Llanelli and in our two largest cities, including the capital – Cardiff and Swansea – we are taking further action by introducing additional measures in these areas."

"Introducing restrictions in any parts of Wales is always an incredibly difficult decision for us to make – having to introduce these restrictions in our biggest cities, including our capital, is another sombre milestone in a difficult year. We’re acting to protect people’s health and to try and break the chain of transmission and stop the situation from getting worse." 

"We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones."

In Carmarthenshire, action is being taken on a more localised basis because more than eight out of 10 cases are focused on the town of Llanelli. The town’s ward boundaries will be used to define the limits of the restrictions. 

A postcode checker will be available on the Welsh Government’s website together with full details about the restrictions.

Local restrictions are already in place in six other areas of South Wales – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Caerphilly borough, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Newport.

The new local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police. 

The Welsh Government is continuing to keep a close watch on the situation in North Wales where the picture is mixed – cases overall are much lower than in South Wales, but there is evidence coronavirus is increasing in some parts of the region.

Keep Wales safe by: 

  • Always keeping your distance
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Working from home wherever you can
  • Following any local restrictions
  • Following the rules about meeting people
  • Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

Written Statement: The Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Wales) Amendments (25.09.2020)

Vaughan Gething Minister for Health and Social Services. 

Members will be aware that the UK Government made provision to ensure that travellers entering the United Kingdom from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days, to prevent the further spread of coronavirus.  These restrictions came into force on 8 June 2020.

On 10 July, the Welsh Government amended the Regulations to introduce exemptions from the isolation requirement for a list of countries and territories, and a limited range of people in specialised sectors or employment who may be exempted from the isolation requirement or excepted from certain provisions of the passenger information requirements.

Since then these regulations have been kept under review and a number of changes to the list of exempt countries and territories have been made. 

Today I reviewed the latest JBC assessments and I have decided that Curacao, Denmark, Iceland and Slovakia will be removed from the list of exempt countries and territories.

The Welsh Government intends to further amend the regulations by adding new sectoral exemptions for elite sports people and support staff including medical teams. Events will added to the list of specified sporting events. 

Tomorrow I will lay the necessary regulations which will come into force at 04:00 on Saturday 26 September.


Written Statement: Review of local restrictions in Caerphilly borough (25.09.2020)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services. 

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) (Amendment) (No. 8) (Caerphilly) Regulations 2020 were introduced on 8 September in Caerphilly County Borough Council area in response to a sharp and sudden rise in coronavirus cases to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus. 

Welsh Ministers must review the regulations by 24 September to ensure they are proportionate. That review has been carried out. 

Cases of coronavirus have declined steadily since the restrictions were introduced in Caerphilly borough two weeks ago. I would like to thank residents for all their hard work and their efforts to help control the spread of this infectious virus. Compliance with the restrictions has been very high. 

However, we still have some way to go. Rates of infection remain high in the borough – above the levels we would want to see. After discussing the situation with the local authority, we have decided to leave the restrictions in place for at least a further seven days. 

If we continue to see a further reduction in cases in the borough, we hope we will be able to consider relaxing the local restrictions. 

In the meantime, the following restrictions will remain in place for everyone living in Caerphilly borough:

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave the Caerphilly County Borough Council area without a reasonable excuse.
  • Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor places, which are open to the public, such as shops, as well as on public transport – as is the case in the rest of Wales.
  • People will only be able to meet outdoors for the time being. People will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household (sometimes known as a “bubble”). 

New, Wales-wide restrictions preventing the sale of alcohol after 10pm come into force this evening at 6pm and all hospitality businesses selling alcohol will also have to provide table service only. 

I want to encourage people living in Caerphilly borough to continue following these rules – over the last two weeks you have made a considerable difference to the spread of the virus in the area; with your continued help, we will see that downward trend continue.


Coronavirus regulations: updated frequently asked questions from Welsh Government (24.09.2020)

Welsh Government have updated guidance / FAQs that reflect the new Wales-wide changes which come into force at 6pm today

The guidance details what you and businesses can and cannot do during the outbreak and what happens if you break these new laws.

Link to the information can be found here: https://gov.wales/coronavirus-regulations-guidance


NHS COVID-19 app launches across Wales and England (24.09.2020)

People across Wales and England are being urged to download the NHS COVID-19 app to help stop the spread of coronavirus and protect themselves and their loved ones as case numbers rise.

The app launches today [Thursday 24] after positive trials and will be a useful tool when used alongside Wales’ successful manual contact tracing system. 

It will be available to those aged 16 and over, and forms a central part of the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme identifying contacts of those who have tested positive for coronavirus. 

The roll-out of the app in Wales coincides with a national campaign around how people in Wales can best support the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme, including only getting  a test if they are showing symptoms; self-isolating when required; and working with local contact tracers if they are contacted. 

Wales’ contact tracing system - which is a publicly-run service and locally delivered - is working well and has seen a very high contract and trace rate. Latest stats show 94% of cases are being successfully contacted. 

The app works by logging the amount of time you spend near other app users, and the distance between you, so it can alert you if someone you have been close to later tests positive for COVID-19 – even if you don’t know each other. 

The app will advise you to self-isolate if you have been in close contact with a confirmed case. It will also enable you to check symptoms, book a test if needed and get your test results. 

Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said:

"The launch of the NHS COVID-19 app is an important part of Wales’ coronavirus response, supporting the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect programme. The more people who download and use this app, the more it will help us to prevent the spread of COVID-19." 

"We have worked closely with the app development team to ensure it works seamlessly across Wales and England, providing people with the right advice based on where they live. In Wales, the app will complement our existing contact tracing and testing services and will further support our co-ordinated response to COVID-19 at both a local and national level."

"I strongly encourage everyone in Wales to download and use the app to keep Wales safe." 

The app has been designed with user privacy in mind, so it tracks the virus, not people and uses the latest in data security technology to protect privacy. The system generates a random ID for an individual’s device, which can be exchanged between devices via Bluetooth. These unique random IDs regenerate frequently to add an extra layer of security and preserve anonymity. 

The app does not hold personal information such as your name, address or date of birth, and only requires the first half of your postcode to ensure local outbreaks can be managed. 

Today the UK’s major mobile network operators, including Vodafone, Three, EE and O2, Sky and Virgin, have confirmed that all in-app activity will not come out of customers’ data allowance.

 In a joint statement Apple and Google said:

"We built the exposure notifications system to enable public health authorities in their efforts to develop apps to help reduce the spread of the virus while ensuring people can trust in the privacy-preserving design. We are committed to supporting the government’s effort to launch an app based on this technology." 

Whilst the app will be a major support for the contact tracing system, Welsh residents are being reminded to continue to keep Wales safe and prevent the spread of COVID-19 by: 

  • Always keeping a distance
  • Washing hands regularly
  • Working from home wherever possible
  • Following local restrictions
  • Following the rules about meeting people
  • Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms

Hospitality business in Wales to close at 10pm to tackle spread of coronavirus (23.09.2020)

Hospitality businesses in Wales will have to close at 10pm, as new measures are introduced in Wales to prevent a fresh coronavirus crisis, First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced.

Hospitality businesses will have to provide table service only from Thursday and all off-licences, including supermarkets, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.

The new measures are part of a package of co-ordinated actions to control the spread of coronavirus, which are being introduced across the UK. They will come into force in Wales at 6pm on Thursday (24 September).

  • To help further prevent the spread of coronavirus, the First Minister also announced:
  • A new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus;

Strengthened regulations to ensure employers support people who need to self-isolate.

The changes follow a four-nation COBR meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, which discussed a series of proposals for further action – many of which are already in place in Wales – to respond to rising rates of coronavirus transmission throughout the UK.

Announcing the new measures, First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

"Once again, we are facing rising cases of coronavirus infections in different parts of Wales and once again we are seeing people being admitted to our hospitals with serious illnesses because of this virus. In the weeks and months ahead of us, there is a very real possibility we could see coronavirus regain a foothold in our local communities, towns and cities. None of us wants to see that happen again."

"In some parts of South Wales, where we have seen the sharpest rises in cases, there are already even stricter local restrictions in place to protect people’s health. We now need to make that difference across Wales. It was with the help of people across Wales that we got through the first wave in the spring – you followed all the rules and helped reduce cases of coronavirus, protecting the NHS and saving lives."

"We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps to protect them and their loved ones. Together, we can keep Wales safe."

The changes come as new local restrictions have come into force for people living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.

A series of measures announced by the Prime Minister for England are already in force in Wales:

  • In Wales, the Welsh Government asks all those who can to work from home wherever possible. This has been in force since late March;
  • Face coverings are required in all indoor public places, for both customers and staff working in those indoor public areas;
  • People in Wales can only meet socially indoors with people they live with (your household) and members of an exclusive extended household (known as a bubble). Meetings or gatherings indoors are limited to six people from the same extended household, not including any children under 11.

Written Statement: Keeping Wales Safe from Coronavirus (23.09.2020)

Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister.  

This morning, I took part in a UK-wide COBR meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister and attended by the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland and the deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. 

The meeting discussed a series of UK-wide actions, which would be introduced collaboratively in each of the four nations to respond to an increase in coronavirus transmission.

I also welcomed the Prime Minister’s commitment to having a regular and reliable rhythm to UK-wide decision making – with the devolved governments having a clear and important role in that process.

In recent weeks, we have seen an overall rise in cases of coronavirus across Wales – that rise is not uniform. Some parts of Wales have seen a sharper and more pronounced increase in cases of the virus than other parts, which led to the introduction of local restrictions in six local authority areas in South Wales to protect people’s health.

At the last review of the coronavirus restrictions, we introduced new Wales-wide measures to help control the spread of the virus – these included the requirement for everyone over 11 to wear a face covering in an indoor public place and a new limit on the number of people who can meet indoors at any one time. In Wales, only six people from the same exclusive extended household group can meet indoors – extended households are currently suspended in the areas subject to local restrictions. 

Each of the four UK governments today agreed about the need to take further coordinated, preventative action to control the spread of virus. 

Some of these actions, such as the need for people to work from home wherever possible, are already in force in Wales and have been since late March. We also continue to encourage people to think very carefully about who they meet and whether they need to travel. 

We will, however, be introducing some new measures in Wales, which will come into force at the same time as the rest of the UK and which are designed to help prevent a fresh coronavirus crisis.

From Thursday at 6pm, hospitality businesses in Wales – including pubs, cafes, restaurants and casinos – will have to close at 10pm. They will also have to provide table service only.

Off-licences, such as supermarkets, will also have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm. 

If we are to make difference to coronavirus in Wales, we need everyone’s help. We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps, which will not only protect them and their loved ones but will also keep Wales safe. 


Written Statement: Responding to the current challenges with COVID-19 Testing - Update (22.09.2020)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.  

Last week I issued a statement to outline how Welsh Government is working with the NHS and Public Health Wales and other key stakeholders to make sure that testing is available where most needed in particular in dealing with clinical need, responding to outbreaks and incidents, protecting our most vulnerable in care homes and ensuring our critical public services can be maintained.

We know that capacity issues within the UK Government Lighthouse lab network are not going to be resolved for a number of weeks and we continue to take measures to minimise the impact on testing in Wales.

Building on the work that has already taken place to supplement capacity from Lighthouse labs with those operated by PHW.  We are now able to process an additional 28,000 tests per week, with further capacity available to manage outbreaks across Wales. 

We continue to deploy Mobile Testing Units operated by WAST to support incidents and outbreaks. Alongside the five MTUs already deployed in Caerphilly and RCT, an additional MTU supported by NHS Wales and local authority colleagues, with capacity for 300 tests per day, will be providing additional testing capacity in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg region.

The issues affecting the Lighthouse Labs are in part the result of a significant increase in demand.  We are processing significantly more tests every day than at any other time during this crisis with nearly 10,000 tests a day being processed for Welsh citizens and this looks likely to continue.

To help support us, it is important that individuals only book a test if they have the following symptoms: -

  • a high temperature;
  • new continuous cough, and
  • a loss of taste or smell

You should self-isolate if you have any of these symptoms, or if you are asked to by a contact tracer.

By following this advice, we will be able ensure that the resources that we have available are being used as effectively as possible.


Message from the UK chief medical officers on the UK alert level (21.09.2020)

Message from the 4 UK chief medical officers on the UK alert level.

The Joint Biosecurity Centre has recommended that the COVID-19 alert level should move from Level 3 (A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation) to Level 4 (A COVID-19 epidemic is in general circulation; transmission is high or rising exponentially).

The CMOs for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have reviewed the evidence and recommend all four nations of the UK should move to Level 4.

After a period of lower COVID cases and deaths, the number of cases are now rising rapidly and probably exponentially in significant parts of all four nations. 

If we are to avoid significant excess deaths and exceptional pressure in the NHS and other health services over the autumn and winter everyone has to follow the social distancing guidance, wear face coverings correctly and wash their hands regularly. 

We know this will be a concerning news for many people; please follow the rules, look after each other and together we will get through this. 

Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty
Chief Medical Officer for Northern Ireland, Dr Michael McBride
Chief Medical Officer for Scotland, Dr Gregor Smith
Deputy Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Chris Jones


Written Statement: Local coronavirus restrictions update (21.09.2020)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services (pictured).

We have introduced local restrictions in Caerphilly borough and Rhondda Cynon Taf to control a rapid and sharp increase in coronavirus cases in those two areas. 

We have been closely monitoring the developing situation in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – the rates in these areas are now higher than the Welsh average. 

We been working closely with the local authorities and public health experts, which have been meeting daily to review the position in each area and what measures are needed to control the spread of coronavirus. In many of these areas, local actions have already been taken by local authorities, including restricting visits to care homes, encouraging people to work from home wherever possible and asking people to limit journeys on public transport. 

However, as cases have continued to increase, we now need to introduce local restrictions in each of these areas to protect people’s health and control the spread of coronavirus. 

From 6pm on Tuesday September 22, the following local restrictions will come into effect for people living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport local authority areas: 

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave their local authority areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education.
  • People will only be able to meet outdoors. People will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household.
  • All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.
  • Everyone over 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public places – as is the case throughout Wales. 

We will keep these measures under constant review and they will be formally reviewed in two weeks’ time. 

From 6pm on Tuesday September 22, we will also be extending the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm in Caerphilly borough

The initial restrictions in Caerphilly borough were introduced almost two weeks’ ago and will be formally reviewed this week. The seven-day rolling incidence rate in Caerphilly borough has shown some positive movement downwards and we are cautiously optimistic that the restrictions are having an impact. 

The additional restriction in relation to licensed premises will strengthen the position further and bring consistency across the areas subject to local restrictions. 

Our ability to make a difference to the spread of the virus rests in all our hands – we can only do this together. Every one of us has a responsibility to make the right choices and to follow the measures, which will keep us and our loved ones safe from this infectious and harmful virus: 

  • We all need to keep our distance from each other when we’re out and about.
  • We need to wash our hands often.
  • We need to work from home wherever possible.
  • We need to wear a face covering in indoor public places.
  • We need to stay at home if we’ve got symptoms and while we’re waiting for a test result.
  • And we need to follow any restrictions in place locally.

A large proportion of the population of South East Wales will now be living under local coronavirus restrictions. 

The First Minister and I will call an urgent meeting of all local authorities, health boards and police forces in South Wales – from Bridgend to the English border – to discuss the wider regional situation and whether further measures are necessary to protect people’s health, prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep Wales safe. 

I hope to make an oral statement tomorrow to keep Members fully informed of the latest developments.

and Rhondda Cynon Taf to control a rapid and sharp increase in coronavirus cases in those two areas. 

We have been closely monitoring the developing situation in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – the rates in these areas are now higher than the Welsh average. 

We been working closely with the local authorities and public health experts, which have been meeting daily to review the position in each area and what measures are needed to control the spread of coronavirus. In many of these areas, local actions have already been taken by local authorities, including restricting visits to care homes, encouraging people to work from home wherever possible and asking people to limit journeys on public transport. 

However, as cases have continued to increase, we now need to introduce local restrictions in each of these areas to protect people’s health and control the spread of coronavirus. 

From 6pm on Tuesday September 22, the following local restrictions will come into effect for people living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport local authority areas: 

People will not be allowed to enter or leave their local authority areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education.

People will only be able to meet outdoors. People will not be able to meet members of their extended household indoors or form an extended household.

All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm.

Everyone over 11 must wear face coverings in indoor public places – as is the case throughout Wales. 

We will keep these measures under constant review and they will be formally reviewed in two weeks’ time. 

From 6pm on Tuesday September 22, we will also be extending the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm in Caerphilly borough. 

The initial restrictions in Caerphilly borough were introduced almost two weeks’ ago and will be formally reviewed this week. The seven-day rolling incidence rate in Caerphilly borough has shown some positive movement downwards and we are cautiously optimistic that the restrictions are having an impact. 

The additional restriction in relation to licensed premises will strengthen the position further and bring consistency across the areas subject to local restrictions. 

Our ability to make a difference to the spread of the virus rests in all our hands – we can only do this together. Every one of us has a responsibility to make the right choices and to follow the measures, which will keep us and our loved ones safe from this infectious and harmful virus: 

We all need to keep our distance from each other when we’re out and about.

We need to wash our hands often.

We need to work from home wherever possible.

We need to wear a face covering in indoor public places.

We need to stay at home if we’ve got symptoms and while we’re waiting for a test result.

And we need to follow any restrictions in place locally.

A large proportion of the population of South East Wales will now be living under local coronavirus restrictions. 

The First Minister and I will call an urgent meeting of all local authorities, health boards and police forces in South Wales – from Bridgend to the English border – to discuss the wider regional situation and whether further measures are necessary to protect people’s health, prevent the spread of coronavirus and keep Wales safe. 

I hope to make an oral statement tomorrow to keep Members fully informed of the latest developments.


Local coronavirus restrictions imposed to control outbreaks in South Wales (21.09.2020)

Coronavirus laws are being tightened in 4 more Welsh authorities – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport – following a sharp rise in cases, Health Minister Vaughan Gething today announced.

The new measures will come into force at 6pm on Tuesday 22 September 2020, to protect people’s health and control the spread of the virus in the four local authority areas.

The new restrictions will apply to everyone living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport: 

  • People will not be allowed to enter or leave these areas without a reasonable excuse, such as travel for work or education;
  • People will only be able to meet people they don’t live with outdoors for the time being. They will not be able to form, or be in, extended households;
  • All licensed premises will have to close at 11pm;
  • Everyone over 11 will be required to wear face coverings in indoor public areas – as is the case across Wales. 

From 6pm on Tuesday 22 September, the requirement for all licensed premises to close at 11pm will also be extended to Caerphilly borough. 

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said:

"Following the decision to place additional coronavirus restrictions in place in Caerphilly and Rhondda Cynon Taf, we have seen a worrying and rapid rise in cases in four other south Wales council areas – Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport. In many cases, this is linked to people socialising indoors without social distancing. We are seeing evidence of coronavirus spreading. We need to take action to control and, ultimately, reduce its spread and protect people’s health." 

"It’s always a difficult decision to introduce restrictions but coronavirus has not gone away – it is still circulating in communities across Wales and, as we are seeing in parts of South Wales, small clusters can quickly cause real issues in local communities. We need everyone’s help to bring coronavirus under control. We need everyone to pull together and to follow the measures which are there to protect you and your loved ones." 

The restrictions are being introduced following a rapid increase in the number of confirmed cases in coronavirus, which have been linked to people meeting indoors, not following social distancing guidelines and returning from summer holidays overseas. 

The Welsh Government will call an urgent meeting of all local authority, health board and police forces from Bridgend to the English border tomorrow to discuss the wider situation in South Wales and whether further measures are needed across the region to protect people’s health.

The new local restrictions measures will be kept under regular review. They will be enforced by local authorities and by the police. 

Keep Wales safe by: 

  • Always keeping your distance
  • Washing your hands regularly
  • Working from home wherever you can
  • Following any local restrictions
  • Following the rules about meeting people
  • Staying at home if you or anyone in your extended household has symptoms.

Shoppers must wear face coverings and keep social distance in order to help Keep Wales Safe – Lesley Griffiths (19.09.2020)

Shoppers in Wales must now wear face coverings and keep a two-metre social distance in shops and supermarkets in Wales in order to help prevent the further spread of Coronavirus, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has said.

With cases of Covid-19 rising in some areas of Wales, the Welsh Government has made the wearing of face coverings in shops and other enclosed public spaces mandatory across Wales, as part of wider efforts to Keep Wales Safe. 

The guidance in Wales continues to require members of the public to keep a two-metre distance from others, except in the case of people from the same household, and those being helped by carers. 

The two-metre distance guidance applies in all areas, including shops and supermarkets. 

The Minister said:

The new rules about wearing face coverings in shops will help to limit the spread of the virus, and we of course expect all shoppers to abide by that guidance. 

However, we urge people to remember that wearing a face covering is not a substitute for social distancing. Just because someone is wearing a face covering, does not mean they should ignore the guidelines on distancing, even if everyone else around them also has their faces covered.

While the wearing of face coverings can and will help, the benefits they provide are limited if people don’t stick to the two-metre guidance. 

She added:

Shoppers have a personal responsibility to make sure they keep others safe by adhering to the guidelines, and keep a two-metre distance from others at all times. Controlling the virus is the responsibility of the public and businesses alike. 

We also want shoppers to bear in mind that many of their fellow shoppers may have health concerns which make them more vulnerable to the impacts of Covid-19, and they will be keen to ensure the proper distancing guidelines are followed.

Supermarkets have guidelines and protocols in place to make sure shoppers keep their distance from one another.

The law requires shops and other premises open to the public to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus, including measures to ensure two-metre distancing is maintained.

If concerns are raised, the Welsh Government has given local authorities the power to take action against those supermarkets, shops and other establishments which are not abiding by the regulations, and not doing everything they can to keep the public safe. 

Moreover, as the First Minister has made clear, supermarkets risk not only enforcement measures if they fail to keep guidelines in place, but also reputational damage, leading to a loss of confidence among shoppers.


Information on a COVID-19 vaccine, who will get it and when. Official update from Welsh Government (10.09.2020).

Why are vaccines important?

Vaccines are responsible for saving millions of lives every year.Vaccines teach your immune system how to protect you from diseases. It's much safer for your immune system to learn this through vaccination than by catching the diseases and attempting to treat them.

Vaccines can reduce or even eradicate some diseases, if enough people are vaccinated. Since vaccines were introduced, diseases like smallpox and polio that used to kill or disable millions of people are gone from the UK. Other diseases like measles and diphtheria have been reduced by up to 99.9% since the vaccines were introduced.

If people stop having vaccines, it's possible for infectious diseases to quickly spread again.

Can vaccination end the pandemic?

The long term response to the COVID-19 pandemic requires a safe and effective vaccine to be available for all who need it. Mass vaccination is our best chance to end the pandemic, so you can get back to doing the things you love without restrictions.

Vaccination will reduce the risk of serious illness and death from COVID-19. Being vaccinated for COVID-19 is the best way to protect yourself, your family and others. Most people have said they would get the vaccine when it’s available. But there will be some individuals who may not be able to have it for medical reasons. Vaccination will not be mandatory.

Until vaccination is widely available, you should continue to take action to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering when you can't keep your distance.

When will a vaccine be available?

Many potential vaccines for COVID-19 are being studied to see if they’re effective and safe. It’s hoped small quantities of a vaccine could be available for those at the highest risk before the end of the year. All vaccines go through several phases of testing. In the first stages of trials some potential COVID-19 vaccines prompted an immune response with no major safety concerns. 

This work is happening currently. Potential UK-made vaccines are being tested on large numbers of people in Wales and many other countries around the world. Once a new vaccine is being used in the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) carry on monitoring it for side effects.

UK governments, including Wales, have ordered millions of doses of promising COVID-19 vaccines. We don’t know which vaccine will be available first, or when, but it’s hoped a COVID-19 vaccination programme could start in late 2020 for those most at risk.

This process has been faster than usual because people have been working together in new ways to deliver a vaccine. Researchers have worked with regulators and ethical committees to fast-track the time it takes to get to approval. For a vaccine to reach the general public it will have to be authorised for use by experts. This will only happen if a vaccine works and is safe.

Who will get the vaccine?

It won’t be immediately available for everyone. Getting enough doses to enough people will take a while after a vaccine becomes available. When vaccines against COVID 19 are first approved, there will be a limited supply. The first doses will be reserved for the people who need them most.

Individuals at highest risk of exposure to the virus will receive the vaccine initially. This means the vaccine will likely be offered to frontline health and social care staff. People in certain high risk groups will follow.

We are still developing understanding of who is most at risk. A UK national body (Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation) will review emerging evidence and make recommendations. At this stage, children are not being considered as one of the groups for vaccination.

In the lead up to the vaccine being available to the initial priority groups, people will be notified of how and where to get the vaccine.

What’s in vaccines?

Vaccines are among the safest medicines the NHS provides. Vaccines contain a small amount of bacteria, virus or toxin that's been weakened or destroyed in a laboratory first. Some contain an instruction to a cell to make a small part of the genetic protein that makes up the virus (viral DNA) and trigger an immune response.

You can read more about what's in vaccines on the Oxford University Vaccine Knowledge Project website.

How will a COVID-19 vaccine work?

A successful vaccine needs to trigger the body’s defences to develop immunity. Some of the vaccines in late-stage trials have created an immune response. This happens by producing antibodies and specialised white blood cells (T cells) that kill cells infected with coronavirus.

Different vaccines may work better in some people than others - this will become clear in the trials and in early use. This can depend on factors such as age and general health. 

Protection from vaccines may last for a short time, like flu vaccines, or a longer time like measles mumps rubella vaccines. We don’t know yet how long protection from a COVID-19 vaccine will last.

Do people still need a seasonal flu jab?

Yes, you should still get your flu jab. This more important than ever this year, to help prevent avoidable visits to the GP or admissions to hospital. The COVID-19 vaccine will not protect against seasonal flu. People who are at high risk of COVID-19 are also those most at risk from flu. Flu vaccines have been used for many years and are very safe.


Answers to common questions about the coronavirus restrictions in Caerphilly County (09.09.2020)

If you have any queries regarding this information please contact Workforce and OD via email: nwssp.workforce@wales.nhs.uk


UPDATE from Mark Drakeford, First Minister (14.08.2020)

Members will be aware that the UK Government made provision to ensure that travellers entering the United Kingdom from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days, to prevent the further spread of coronavirus. These restrictions came into force on Monday 8 June 2020.

On 10 July the Welsh Government amended the Regulations to introduce exemptions from the isolation requirement for a list of countries and territories, and a limited range of people in specialised sectors or employment who may be exempted from the isolation requirement or excepted from certain provisions of the passenger information requirements.

Since then these regulations have been kept under review and a number of changes to the list of exempt countries and territories have been made. In relation to the list of countries and territories exempted from the quarantine requirements:

  • on 11 July Serbia was removed;
  • on 26 July Spain and its islands was removed;
  • on 30 July Latvia, Estonia, Slovakia, Slovenia and St Vincent and the Grenadines were added;
  • on 8 August Andorra, the Bahamas and Belgium were removed from list and Brunei and Malaysia were added.

Yesterday I attended a meeting of ministers from all four UK countries to consider the public health risk posed by an increasing prevalence of COVID-19 in Aruba, France, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands and Turks and Caicos.

Having considered the evidence for the public health risk now posed by travellers who enter the UK from these places, the Welsh Government will later today remove Aruba, France, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands and Turks and Caicos from the list of countries and territories exempt from our health measures at the border.

Urgent amendments will be introduced to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, International Travel) (Wales) Regulations 2020 which will come into effect from04:00 hours Saturday 15 August.  These amendments will mean that anyone who arrives in Wales from Aruba, France, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands and Turks and Caicos or who has been in any of those countries or territories during the last 14 days will be required to isolate for 14 days as of 04:00 hours tomorrow.

When the Regulations are laid the Minister for Finance and Trefnydd will write to the Llywydd, in accordance with the requirements of the Statutory Instruments Act 1946 and our usual practice.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed. Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.


Family and friends at the heart of new coronavirus regulations (31.07.2020)

New rules will come into force on Monday to make it easier for family and friends to meet outdoors, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced today as he set out further changes to the coronavirus regulations in Wales.

The latest package of changes follow the 6th review of the coronavirus regulations and focus on enabling friends and family to meet each other outdoors and enabling more businesses to open indoors.

The First Minster will explain that consideration is being given to extend the number of people able to meet indoors, however this will depend on people continuing to follow the rules and levels of the virus in Wales.

And he will urge people to follow the new rules and guidance to help keep Wales safe and control the spread of coronavirus in the face of worrying trends across Europe.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

"We are becoming accustomed to living with coronavirus but we shouldn’t forget the danger it poses. This is a deadly disease and the risk to our health has not gone away – as we can see in parts of Europe where there have been new outbreaks and new measures introduced to control its spread."

"The rates of the virus in Wales remain low, allowing us to relax the restrictions further over the next few weeks but we can only do this if everyone continues to take steps to protect themselves and their loved ones."

Businesses are required to take all reasonable measures to minimise the risk of spreading the virus on their premises. They have worked really hard to put in place measures to protect staff and customers. And we all need to do our bit too by complying with these and to keep our distance whenever we leave home and meet others.

To the small minority who aren’t following the rules – we will take action. We’re working with our enforcement authorities here in Wales to ensure they have the powers and resources they need. I want to make sure all the measures developed to keep us safe are complied with."

A series of changes will be made to the coronavirus regulations over the next 3 weeks:

From 3 August:

The restrictions preventing more than two households or extended households meeting outdoors will be changed to allow up to 30 people to meet outdoors. Physical distancing must be maintained at all times.

Pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes will be able to re-open indoors. As will indoor bowling alleys, auction houses and bingo halls.

Licenced wedding venues will be able to re-open to provide wedding ceremonies. However, indoor receptions will not be able to take place for the time being – they will be considered as part of the changes for August 15.

The guidance will be updated to relax the position on children under 11 having to maintain a 2 metres distance from each other or from adults. This reflects the scientific evidence, which shows the risk of transmission is lower among this age group. However, it is very important older children and young adults continue to follow social distancing and the other measures to keep them safe.

If conditions remain favourable, from 10 August:

Swimming pools, indoor fitness studios, gyms, spas and indoor leisure centres will be able to re-open.

Children’s indoor play areas will be able to open.

The Welsh Government is also exploring whether changes can be made to the rules to enable people to meet indoors with other people who aren’t part of their household or extended household from August 15.

The First Minister added:

"It is thanks to the hard efforts of everyone in Wales that we have been able to control the spread of coronavirus and relax the restrictions. We can only continue to do this if everyone carries on this hard work. If we stop now, there is a real risk we will see new outbreaks of coronavirus and we may have to reverse some of these restrictions to control its spread again."

"We are facing the likelihood of a resurgence of the virus over the autumn and winter –this will not be over by Christmas. We all have an ongoing responsibility to keep Wales safe. This means maintaining social distancing, washing our hands often and thinking carefully about where we go, what we’re doing and why."


Written Statement: New letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales to those who are shielding (30.07.2020)

Vaughan Gething MS, Minister for Health and Social Services.

Letters from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales (CMO) to those who are shielding are currently being issued.

This letter confirms the announcement by the CMO on 15th July, that individuals who have been shielding no longer need to do so from 16th August.

The letter also provides details of the support that will continue to be available to this group. A copy of the letter is attached for your information.

This statement is being issued during recess in order to keep members informed.

Should members wish me to make a further statement or to answer questions on this when the Senedd returns I would be happy to do so.

Documents

Shielding Letter


3-layer face covering mandatory on public transport in Wales (21.07.2020)

The Welsh Government is making wearing a 3-layer face covering mandatory from the 27 July 2020, where physical distancing can be difficult to achieve such as on public transport. Further information can be read below.

Wear a 3-layer face covering on public transport to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus to other travellers and staff.

Face coverings must not be worn by children under the age of 3, disabled persons or people who experience breathing difficulties. The 3-layer face coverings could help provide some control of the virus in specific circumstances, but they don’t replace the need for physical distancing or washing your hands regularly.  

You still need to stay 2 metres apart from others wherever possible, avoid physical contact, try to face away from other people and keep the time you spend within 2 metres of other people as short as possible. 

Washing your hands, avoiding touching your face and maintaining social distancing from others remain the best way of stopping the spread of the virus.

 

Wearing face coverings in England

Wearing a face covering is compulsory on public transport in England. You can find out more about this here.

 

Further information

If you have any questions regarding face masks and public transport during COVID-19, please visit Transport for Wales' FAQ's page here.


Playgrounds, funfairs and community centres to reopen – First Minister (17.07.2020)

Playgrounds, funfairs and community centres in Wales will reopen on Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed.

Outdoor gyms will also be able to operate as part of the latest measures to lift Wales’ coronavirus restrictions.

This is the second of a three-week package of measures to re-open large parts of Wales’ tourism, hospitality and leisure sectors, which was announced as part of the latest 21-day review of the coronavirus regulations last week.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

"We continue to look carefully at the latest medical and scientific evidence and the current state of the virus as we make decisions to unlock our society and economy. With rates of the virus in Wales continuing to fall, we are able to carry on with our gradual, step-by-step lifting of the restrictions."

"From Monday, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will be able to reopen. Community centres will be able to increase their activity, helping local authorities provide summer holiday play schemes and childcare. Funfairs will also be able to reopen as they have had time to consider how they can put appropriate measures in place before customers return. This follows the reopening of indoor and outdoor attractions in recent weeks."

“While the removal of these restrictions allows these places to reopen, it does not require them to. The specific timings for reopening may vary from place to place as owners take assessments and make any necessary changes. As we take these cautious steps, no one should make the mistake of thinking the virus has gone away. We could find our hard work quickly undone unless we all go on playing our part, every day, and in every way we can, to keep Wales safe."

The Welsh Government has previously asked a number of businesses to begin preparing to reopen from 27 July, if the conditions allow. These are:

 

  • close contact services, including nail and beauty salons and businesses providing tanning services, massages, body piercings, tattooing, electrolysis or acupuncture
  • indoor cinemas, museums, galleries and archive services
  • tourist accommodation with shared facilities, such as camping sites. Opening would be from 25 July
  • reopening the housing market fully.

 

Provided the reopening of these sectors goes well and conditions allow, indoor opening for pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants will resume from 3 August, following the outcome of the next review of the coronavirus regulations.


New COVID-19 testing strategy for Wales published (15.07.2020)

Wales’ new coronavirus testing strategy has been published today (Wednesday 15) by Health Minister Vaughan Gething.

Over the past three months, the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales have worked together to build a national testing infrastructure, which means that anyone who displays coronavirus symptoms can get a test quickly and easily.

Today’s new strategy builds on the latest scientific evidence and focuses on four priority areas:

 

  1. Contact tracing - to prevent the spread of the disease among the wider population
  2. Delivering NHS services - to support the safety of staff and patients
  3. Protecting vulnerable groups - to safeguard groups at greater risk of COVID-19
  4. Developing future delivery - to use surveillance and new technologies to improve our understanding of the virus.

 

There are currently two different forms of testing in Wales; the antigen virus detection test which shows if someone currently has the virus, and the antibody test which is used to determine whether a person has been previously infected.

The new strategy also looks at the role and purpose of asymptomatic testing and determines that this will continue to be used where there is the greatest risk - such as among our older populations and health and care workers.

It has also been confirmed the weekly testing programme for care homes will continue for another 4 weeks, with the data on prevalence rates closely monitored. If prevalence rates remain at the current low levels then the testing cycle will move to fortnightly.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething, said:

"This strategy sets out the way forward for testing as we emerge from lockdown, with the prevalence of COVID-19 reducing from the peak we saw just a few weeks ago. It also makes preparations for a possible second wave of coronavirus in the autumn."

"We now have a national testing infrastructure that means anyone who needs a test can access one. This enables our contact tracing system to help control the transmission of the disease as lockdown measures are eased. Our NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service is fundamental to helping us to find a way to live with the disease until a vaccine or treatment is available."

"There are still areas where we know we need to improve and we are working hard to ensure more test results are returned within 24 hours. Over the weeks and months ahead, we’ll make the most of new testing technologies and be ready to seize the opportunities that these offer."

COVID-19 Strategy document: https://gov.wales/covid-19-testing-strategy


From 22.06.20

 

  • all non-essential shops in Wales will be able to re-open
  • enabling private prayer in places of worship where social distancing is maintained and gatherings do not take place
  • restarting the housing market by enabling house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed
  • lifting the restrictions on outdoor sports courts but social distancing must be maintained. No contact or team sports will be allowed
  • enabling non-professional elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, to resume training.

The requirement to stay local and not generally travelling more than 5 miles from home remains in place. However, new guidance will make it clear people are able to travel outside their local area on compassionate grounds. This includes seeing people at a care home or a youth offender institution – when these visits are allowed. People who are eligible to vote in overseas elections, where voting must be done in person, will also be able to travel.

The Welsh Government’s revised lockdown arrangements are available to read here.

Further updates will be published as they are announced.

Everyone in Wales with symptoms can book a coronavirus test 18.05.2020

 

Latest Coronavirus information from Welsh Government can be found here.

Latest Coronavirus information from Public Health Wales can be found here.