FMQs: Early days of the coronavirus response

With the first case of Covid-19/coronavirus confirmed in Wales last week, the party leaders focused their questions there during First Minister’s Questions, with a statement from the Health Minister due later this afternoon (more on that tomorrow).

Worst-case scenarios & daily updates

With Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer saying up to 80% of people could contract the Covid-19 virus with 250,000 requiring hospital treatment, Adam Price AM (Plaid, Carms. E & Dinefwr) probed the Welsh Government’s assessment of the situation.

“In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the virus is now classified as a notifiable disease: why isn’t it here? In England, emergency powers are already in place to allow the police to direct and detain a person who does not comply with a request to be isolated if suspected of carrying the virus, and those powers will be extended to medical and public health professionals: will this happen here? And can we have a daily rather than a weekly public update, as happens in Scotland, of the number of positive and negative coronavirus tests?”
– Adam Price AM

The First Minister confirmed that the spectrum of people infected is expected to range between 50-80% – but this wasn’t a prediction and wasn’t what the Welsh Government thinks will happen.

He also said a daily update is provided on the Public Health Wales website. If the Welsh Government has to make emergency regulations to control the disease then AMs will have an opportunity to scrutinise them.

If you think you’re infected, DON’T go to a GP

Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies AM (Con, Preseli Pembs.) was pleased that there was cross-border and cross-government working on this, but a potential pandemic could put excessive strain on primary care services. Preventative measures may also need to be taken in the residential social care sector.

I’m sure there’ll be more on this in the Health Minister’s statement, but the First Minister repeated advice from Public Health Wales:

“…..there is clear advice available to patients in Wales and, as of today, any patient needing advice will be able to use the 111 number to get coronavirus advice at no charge to that individual. The advice is if you think you have any vulnerability not to go to the GP, not to go to an A&E department, but to take advice through that number in the first instance.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

He raised the possibility that GPs may have to suspend routine screening tasks if the virus spreads to a point where it can’t be contained anymore. One option being discussed is bringing retired NHS staff back into work temporarily through emergency re-registration.

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