Coronavirus: “Catch it, bin it, kill it”; schools should stay open

(Title Image: Public Health Wales)

As trailed yesterday the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), gave a statement to AMs on the Welsh Government’s initial response to coronavirus/Covid-19 following the first confirmed case in Wales.

Summarising the key points:

  • People should follow UK Foreign Office advice to avoid travel to Hubei province in China and only travel to the rest of mainland China and affected parts of northern Italy (presumably Iran too) if it’s essential.
  • Anyone who’s travelled back to Wales from an affected area or has had contact with someone who has – and is displaying symptoms (fever, dry cough, shortness of breath) – SHOULD NOT go to their GP or A&E department and should instead use NHS Direct Wales/111 telephone service (which is free). People will be seen in good time based on their likelihood of infection but the Minister appealed for patience.
  • 450 people in Wales have been tested at time of posting with only one confirmed case. 90% of tests are undertaken in a person’s home. Coronavirus has been added to Public Health Wales‘ disease monitoring programme.
  • Emergency powers are being considered if needed and would likely be introduced as a whole-UK law (which will require the Senedd’s consent as some aspects are devolved). There are no timescales yet.
  • Schools should remain open unless told otherwise and enhanced passenger monitoring can be introduced at Cardiff Airport if needed.
  • The key message to take home to avoid transmitting the virus is “Catch it, bin it, kill it” – use disposable tissues when sneezing or coughing, bin the tissue then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water.

Another key message, in the era of fake news and social media, was to only trust reliable sources of information:

Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.), believed the UK’s governments have dealt with the issue so far as best as they can. When it came to informing the public, there had to be a stronger push that falling back on Public Health Wales website so people will actually see it.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) asked for a clear direction for employers and their responsibilities. Irresponsible employers are expecting workers to turn up regardless of their health, which could put others at risk. Plaid Cymru has also called for coronavirus to be labelled a “notifiable disease” which has insurance implications for businesses to cover possible lost earnings (in the last few minutes it’s been announced that the Welsh Government are going to do this).

Huw Irranca-Davies AM (Lab, Ogmore) also focused on getting the message out, stressing the need for clarity and for different sources of information to be put together so it can be easily found by the public, businesses and frontline workers.

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