Coronavirus: Wales remains in “contain phase”; GPs and pharmacists being issued protective equipment

(Title Image: Public Health Wales)

Yesterday afternoon, the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth) provided another update to AMs on the situation in Wales regarding coronavirus/Covid-19.

What’s new?

  • Wales is still in the “contain” phase – early cases are identified and contacts are followed-up.
  • The relatively low number of cases to date shouldn’t be taken as a sign that “this is nothing to worry about”; this isn’t like flu season and there’s no vaccine or antiviral treatment. The expectation is the number of cases will increase over the coming weeks.
  • The advice remains the same: follow basic hygiene rules (“catch it, bin it, kill it”); if you have symptoms don’t go to a GP or hospital – contact 111 or use NHS Direct Wales and follow their advice; only pay attention to official sources of information.
  • All local health boards have provided assurances they’re ready to accept patients into isolation facilities if needed.
  • Personal protective equipment is being distributed to GP surgeries and community pharmacies this week and a “pandemic stockpile” is being prepared. Software is being made available to enable GP video consultation and an online symptom checker has also been launched. Some testing is carried out in homes, though some health boards have opened drive-thru testing centres (available by appointment only).
  • As mentioned previously, emergency powers are being prepared at an all-UK level though there’s no timetable as of yet. Like last week, schools should remain open and there are no plans to cancel or postpone mass gatherings (like sports events).
  • A monitoring system at Cardiff Airport is being prepared where any aircraft arriving from an affected region will need to declare any passengers with symptoms before disembarking.

Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.) praised the online symptom checker having tried it out, saying it was very clear – though there was an issue for those without internet access. The Minister said the 111 phone number was “an all-Wales service”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth AM (Plaid, Ynys Môn) raised issues with the 111 service too, having been told by a doctor that some patients were being redirected to an 0845 number because 111 wasn’t working. There was also an element of confusion over out-of-hours services and a lack of protecting equipment for hospital staff when people ignore the advice and go there when experiencing symptoms.

Alun Davies AM (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) warned that NHS staff face “burnout” if, as expected, the problem gets worse. He hoped that behind the scenes the Welsh Government were preparing for the worst with a joined-up civil contingencies response (if it’s needed).

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