Current coronavirus restrictions in place in Wales are “entirely necessary for now”, a senior health figure has said.
In a statement, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, described the coronavirus situation in Wales as “incredibly serious”.
What is the Welsh NHS Confederation?
The Welsh NHS Confederation is a body made up of the seven health boards and three NHS trusts in Wales, as well as Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW).
According to its website, the Welsh NHS Confederation “support[s] our members to improve health and wellbeing by working with them to deliver high standards of care for patients and best value for taxpayers’ money.
“We act as a driving force for positive change through strong representation and our policy, influencing and engagement work.”
Wales has been under ‘Alert Level 4’ restrictions since December 20. More recently, full lockdowns have been imposed in both Scotland and England due to a rising number of new coronavirus cases.
Mr Hughes said: “Our NHS is coming under intense pressure and we are preparing to receive more patients due to coronavirus in the coming weeks.
“Unfortunately we are likely to see more NHS services disrupted as more of our finite capacity is taken up with coronavirus patients, making provision of non-covid care even more challenging.
“As the Chief Executive of NHS Wales [Andrew Goodall] highlighted today [January 6], there are more patients in our hospitals with coronavirus than ever before. High community infection also leads to a higher number of our staff having to isolate or becoming sick with coronavirus themselves which also impacts on the NHS capacity to care for patients.”
Mr Hughes added: “That is why these restrictions are entirely necessary for now. We need to make sure we save as many lives as possible, while still ensuring as much of our health service as possible is available for other very significant health conditions.”
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“We also want to be clear that we know these restrictions have a huge impact on livelihoods and people’s mental health and wellbeing. However, there is light at the end of the tunnel with the roll out of two vaccines. It is therefore crucial the public in Wales come together to protect their communities for a while longer.
“While the roll out of the vaccine is a huge undertaking, and will take time, everyone in NHS Wales stands ready to deliver it as quickly as we can.”
A mass vaccination centre is set to open in Caerphilly County Borough later this month, Aneurin Bevan University Health Board has confirmed.
Wales’s Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, described the rollout of the AstraZeneca vaccine as a “game changer”.
What are the vaccines?
The UK Government has procured vaccines on behalf of the four nations and around 100m of these are of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, with Wales receiving its allocation based on population over the next weeks and months. Two doses will be needed, with an interval of between four and 12 weeks between doses.
At the beginning of December, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was the first to receive MHRA approval in the UK. Forty million doses of the vaccine have been made available for delivery across the UK.
Based on a UK-wide priority system, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has already begun to be administered to frontline health and social care staff, as well as care home residents and staff and people aged over 80. Latest figures show that in the first three weeks, 35,000 people were vaccinated.
Unlike the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is stored at normal vaccine fridge temperatures. This means it will have few storage and transportation issues, making it much easier to use in community settings such as care homes and primary care settings like GP surgeries.
People are asked not to phone their GP, pharmacy or hospital asking when they will get a vaccine. When someone is in one of the groups eligible for the vaccine, they will be invited to attend a dedicated clinic which will have been set up to ensure patient safety and that of the healthcare professionals.
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