First Minister says reopening of schools could take up most of the ‘headroom’ ahead of next lockdown review
The First Minister Mark Drakeford has said his government will prioritise reopening of schools, possibly meaning “there may be little scope to go beyond that in the next review” of lockdown regulations.
The First Minister has updated the Senedd today to “place the state of the virus in Wales in context”, and has given more information about the trio of issues in Wrexham – the Rowan Foods outbreak, the wider community transmission concerns and the issues at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.
Nobody should be under any illusion that this virus could not return rapidly and adversely here in Wales as well. And, to be clear, local spikes in coronavirus have been experienced, and continue to be experienced, here in Wales.
We have on-going outbreaks in Wrexham. The outbreak at Rowan Foods is, we believe, now fully under control, and the last case associated with this outbreak was identified on 24 July. At the Wrexham Maelor hospital actions continue to be taken to address a spike in cases.
There, since the outbreak was declared on the 25 July, 7 cases have been identified as new hospital acquired infections. No further hospital acquired cases have been reported on 6 of the last 7 days. The Outbreak Control Team continues to meet daily and is being supported by a range of partners, including experts from Public Health Wales and the Health and Safety Executive.
Because of these two site specific outbreaks, a decision was taken by local public health leaders to offer mass voluntary community testing in parts of Wrexham. Of the 1,418 people tested only 11 new positive cases were identified, a positivity rate of 0.7%.
Given that the Joint Biosecurity Centre cites a positivity rate of 4% as the threshold for any emerging concern, the focus in Wrexham remains on bringing the site specific outbreaks to an end. The TTP system will be at the forefront of this effort.
The First Minister said in the community testing in Wrexham over 95% of samples were tested within 24 hours of being received, “…demonstrating that when such a turnaround is needed, the system is geared to provide it. Last week the highest ever number of tests in Wales were completed within 24 hours.”
The First Minister said the R number in Wales is estimated to be between 0.6 and 0.9, explaining “In a model published on Friday last, the R number for Wales was calculated as lower than for Scotland and England, although the lower the circulation of the virus, the more volatile the R number becomes, leading us to rely on a wider basket of indicators, including the results of testing.”
The Senedd was told last week 41,451 tests were carried out in Wales, of which 0.8% were new positive cases.
The First Minister said that his Cabinet decided last week to devote much of the headroom available to “provide new flexibilities for meetings between family and friends”.
A note of caution was issued, along with a postponement of some future easement, “But our discussions have recognized that this the most risky of any easing of lockdown measures. We have therefore decided to delay any decision on this until later in the cycle. Our aim remains to restore to people some of the freedoms they have had to forego in this part of their lives. We will only do so, however, if the public health case can be made.”
“To look ahead to the end of the cycle which has already begun. The Chief Medical Officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty has warned there that easing the lockdown may already have reached its limits. Here in Wales we have taken a different, step by step approach, but on 21st August we will be only two weeks away from the reopening of schools in September. We will need to prioritise any headroom we may have at that point to ensure that this vitally important moment for our children and young people can be accomplished safely and successfully. There may be little scope to go beyond that in the next review.”
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