(Title Image: iStock via UK Government)
There was due to be several statements from ministers on their respective departmental responses to the coronavirus pandemic, but the only oral statement given today was from the Health Minister. The others were issued as written statements – more on that tomorrow
- Think before stockpiling or panic-buying as it may mean more vulnerable people, social care staff and emergency service workers might not be able to get the basics in stores.
- As of March 23rd, occupancy of intensive care beds was at 45% with 15% of patients having suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus/Covid-19.
- The number of intensive care beds has been doubled to just over 300 and 600 extra ventilators have been bought with further options being explored.
- The new Grange University Hospital near Cwmbran will be partially opened to provide an additional 350 beds by the end of April 2020 and talks are ongoing with private health providers to secure additional capacity, said to be up to 150 beds.
- A “significant push” of personal protective equipment will increase supplies to the seven local health boards, ambulance service and Velindre trust. PPE has also been supplied to all GP clinics, out-of-hours providers and pharmacies.
- Final year medical, nursing and social work students are being offered temporary full-time placements to work on the front line with full and proper induction and training and will be paid properly.
Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West) queried whether there was enough extra capacity available, with the Hywel Dda health board alone estimating they may need an additional 1,600 during the peak. There was also likely to be a similar gap in provision for ventilators despite moves to procure more.
Returning to the issue of testing, Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) asked for an explanation as to why the Welsh and UK governments aren’t following World Health Organisation advice to rapidly expand testing. Also, there was the matter of testing the families of key workers as it was resulting in experience NHS staff having to self-isolate, when there may be nothing wrong with them, because of the symptoms of other people in the household.
Joyce Watson AM (Lab, Mid & West Wales) condemned people selling medicines, like paracetamol, online for £3, while panic buying was resulting in essential staples like baby formula disappearing from shelves.
To that end, the Minister issued a warning:
Mick Antoniw AM (Lab, Pontypridd) said that while volunteering carries risks due to the nature of the emergency, it was essential. He called for guidance to be issued to ensure volunteers carried out tasks safely.