Health Minister warns that a second lockdown may be only weeks away

(Title Image: via Senedd TV)

  • “Narrow window to act” to prevent second wave lockdown as Covid-19 cases reach February 2020 levels.
  • Health Minister was told about recent Covid-19 test data breach on September 3rd; First Minister informed on the 14th.
  • Waiting lists could take the rest of the next Senedd term to clear; Lighthouse labs “working well until three weeks ago”.

This is usually around the time of year the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth), sets out plans for how the NHS will deal with winter pressures, but there’s added pressure this year, described as “truly extraordinary”.

As the second wave spreads, the situation is becoming more serious. The ambulance service was also returning to high levels of activity.

“Despite the huge efforts of the majority of people, some areas are experiencing much higher numbers of cases that are likely to result in vulnerable people being admitted to hospital in the coming weeks. So, let me be absolutely clear: if we are to avoid further local or national lockdowns, our behaviour must change and change quickly. We are in a similar position now to early February this year – a matter of weeks ahead of the national lockdown choice made in March by each UK nation.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething

£800million will be provided to help the NHS over the winter, with an emphasis on Covid-19 prevention through track and trace as well as reducing the strains on the NHS by pushing for seasonal flu vaccinations.

Shadow Health Minister, Andrew RT Davies MS (Con, South Wales Central), raised concerns about treatment backlogs over the summer, supplies of flu vaccines as well as PPE supplies for health and social care staff. He sought clarity on when the Minister knew about the recent Public Health Wales data breach to maintain confidence in future plans.

The Minister confirmed he was told about the data breach on 3rd September, though the First Minister said yesterday that he only knew about it on the afternoon of 14th September. This hasn’t impacted any of the investigations which have been launched.

The Minister was less optimistic about cutting waiting times – and that’ll be the case across the UK. He suggested that most of the next Senedd term will be needed to catch up with some of the treatment backlogs. That said, he has no concerns about PPE or flu vaccine supplies.

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS (Plaid, Ynys Môn) noted the serious problems with the UK Lighthouse labs and the availability of tests. Alun Davies MS (Lab, Blaenau Gwent) called for testing to be brought back to Wales given the failures of the UK systems “week after week and month after month”.

The Minister said Lighthouse labs were working well “until three weeks ago”. He’s been assured the problems will be resolved, but it’s hit the turnaound of tests for care workers and faces pressures caused by the reopening of schools, colleges and universities on case numbers.

The Minister seemingly didn’t support a Wales-only testing system (for now), but did say Welsh resources would be deployed where needed.

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