Minister: Lockdown in place for ‘weeks and weeks’ to protect lives and maintain the capacity of the health service ‘to do just that’
Channel 4 news interviewed Health Minister Vaughan Gething last night, where he said the lockdown could continue for ‘weeks and weeks’ into the future.
The full video is below:
In the interview the Minister states that antibody testing could still be a number of weeks away before being in place, and will be ‘really helpful’ to get people going back about their business.
Channel 4 news also challenged the Minister on the adequacy and supply of personal protective equipment for healthcare workers. The Minister replied that 3.4 million items of personal protective equipment in Wales had been delivered, and this weekend saw 600,000 ‘respirator masks’ going to ‘health boards across Wales’. ‘Localised problems’ were recognised, “I don’t want to try to say that anything is perfect because I know it isn’t.”
The Minister was asked if such equipment could run out over the coming weeks and months. Although indicating that he did not think it would happen, Gething said “there’s always a risk that we could see demand outstripped supply” and that the whole world is trying to get personal protective equipment. Prioritising of equipment was also mentioned, with those who don’t need it not getting it.
Moving on to bed capacity the Minister was asked how many extra hospital beds are currently projected as being required for the coming weeks and months.
The Minister said ‘at least 5000’ will likely be created and ‘potentially more’. Pointing to Italy and lessons being learned, “the ability to get people out of the hospital system as it currently is, and it’s a step down care” was behind the extra bed thinking as that then allows people who do have significant health care needs to go into a more acute setting.
Although we are in the early days of the response to the pandemic the Minister was asked for his view on when the lockdown could be lifted, and answered it will be ‘weeks and weeks into the future’, with the peak likely in May / June time.
“It’s real, and it’s serious about protecting lives and maintaining the capacity of our health service to do just that.”
Separately Clwyd South’s MP Simon Baynes MP has been critical on the issue of protective equipment, saying: “Constituents in Clwyd South are contacting me in large numbers every day to express their concern about the problems being experienced by the Welsh Government in Cardiff with providing sufficient testing and personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline health and social care workers.
“A key Welsh government contract to supply testing equipment has fallen through and I would urge the First Minister to redouble his efforts to source and supply testing equipment and PPE to all our brave frontline staff in Wales in the Coronavirus crisis.”
On Friday Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth said it was “unacceptable” that NHS staff and care workers who were working on the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus felt “exposed” and were afraid of their patients, families or their own health being put at risk of contracting or transmitting the virus.
Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said,
“There are serious concerns about gaps in the provision and distribution of personal protective equipment across Wales.
“It is unacceptable that key NHS staff and care workers working on the frontline in the fight against the coronavirus feel exposed, fearing they, their patients and their families are being put at grave risk of contracting or transmitting the virus. Many are now afraid of going into work.
“Of particular concern are nurses and carers working in the community, often with very elderly or vulnerable patients.
“There appears to be inconsistency in the approach across Wales – and inadequate guidance about what equipment will be required under particular circumstances and who will be given the equipment and when.
“As one health chief told me, Welsh Government has to be honest with both frontline workers and the public about the challenge ahead, and the plans in place to provide enough PPE, and the correct PPE over coming weeks. This is a real priority.”
On Friday the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, spoke about a rapid review into personal protection equipment (PPE) guidance in the UK and updated the latest position in Wales.
Dr Atherton said: “We have issued more than 3.4m items of PPE to frontline health and social care workers in Wales from our pandemic flue reserves. This is in addition to the normal supplies available.
“The current UK guidance is clear PPE should be used when dealing with people who have or are suspected to have COVID-19. The current guidelines about what PPE is needed differs by setting and procedure. It is essential those who need PPE have access to it but we should not use it unnecessarily in order to avoid wastage and to ensure we have sufficient stocks as the coronavirus pandemic progresses.
“For many critical workers, including staff in some healthcare settings – those who are not dealing directly with people with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 – standard good practice, which includes thorough hand washing and social distancing will protect people from the spread of the virus.
“In light of the current situation and following discussion with my UK counterparts, we think it right that some of the existing guidance should be reviewed and simplified if possible. A rapid review of the guidance has been announced, which will also look at any supply issues and the most efficient use of current stocks.
“The health and wellbeing of our health and social care staff is our prime concern. It is vital they are protected and that they feel confident when working.”
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