Posted: Thu 10th Dec 2020

People urged to reconsider Christmas plans by Wales’ chief medical officer

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Thursday, Dec 10th, 2020

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Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has urged people to reconsider their plans to meet other households this Christmas as coronavirus hospitalisations reach their highest levels.

Speaking at the Welsh Government media briefing on Wednesday, Dr Frank Atherton described Wales’ situation as serious and reiterated the need for members of the public to take personal responsibility.

The current all-Wales rolling seven-day figure is currently at 350 per 100,000. This is an increase on the numbers seen immediately after the two week firebreak.

A total 21 out of the 22 local authorities in Wales are seeing a rise in coronavirus cases.

As of Wednesday, the rolling seven-day infection rate in Flintshire is 153 per 100,000 up from 103 per 100,000 two weeks ago, a rise of 49 per cent, it still remains one of the lowest rates across all Wales.

Port Talbot has the highest infection rate in the UK currently with 693 per 100,000 followed by Merthyr Tydfil at 586 per 100,000, Gwynedd 37.7 per 100,000, and Anglesey 47 per 100,000, have the lowest rates in Wales.

Across Wales there are 1,800 coronavirus related patients in hospital, which is higher than the peak of the first wave of the pandemic in April.

Recent updates have also noted: “Deaths are also currently tracking at a higher level than the reasonable worst case scenario”.

Commenting on the sharp increase in cases, Dr Atherton said: “Coronavirus infection is spreading and spreading fast, it’s accelerating across across the country.

“That’s happening more quickly than we’d anticipated as we came out of the firebreak just a few weeks ago and it’s accelerating at a greater speed than than we’ve seen during the autumn months.

“It’s also affecting all age groups. We’ve seen this across the UK, previously, that often waves of infection start in younger people than 25, and then spreads into the over 60s.

“That’s certainly what’s happened in this wave of the pandemic and that matters because we know that this is older people become infected in greater numbers, they tend to have more serious illness and tend to end up in hospital and need extra support.

“So this is really quite a worrying situation.”

Ahead of the temporary relaxation of restrictions on household mixing over the Christmas period, Dr Atherton also spoke of his concern that cases will continue to increase going into the new year and urged people to think about how they can reduce their personal risk to help keep everyone safe.

Dr Atherton admitted that he had changed his plans to visit relatives over the five day loosening of restrictions in light of the increased infection rate in Wales.

He said: “I think we just have to accept that this Christmas has to be different from previous ones.

“As everybody will know, we’ve agreed across the four nations some relaxation of the rules over the five day Christmas period, and that’s to allow people to have some Christmas together to celebrate with their families.

“That was a really important joint decision that was made across the whole of the UK.

“In the light of where we are in Wales, we all need to think about what we should and could do over Christmas. We all need to think about our plans, and to perhaps rethink our plans.”

He added: “I want to say to people is that it’s not just government rules that will keep us safe.

“It’s really about how we all act, how the choices that we make are so important at this time, ver the coming days and weeks and that’s going to define what happens really over the Christmas period and how much we could enjoy Christmas with our families.

“We’ve said it lots and lots of times but coronavirus unfortunately, is a social virus, it likes coming together and it thrives on human contact. So whenever and wherever we come into close contact with each other the virus can be transmitted from person to person.

“It doesn’t just come from strangers, it comes from people that we know, people that we trust, people that we live with people that we work with.

“So we all have to think about how we can reduce our risk of the virus transmission within our families, within our households and within the broader community.”

It was this message of personal responsibility that ran featured throughout this afternoon’s briefing and within the recent Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) that spoke of the risk the relaxation of the rules over Christmas poses.

However there are no plans to change the current rules for the festive period – instead people are being asked to think about whether they need to mix with other households in the way they had hoped.

Asked if the situation had spiralled out of control in Wales since the end of the firebreak, Dr Atherton admitted that the cases were “much higher than hoped”.

He said: “When we went into the lockdown it was on the understanding that we would have a 17 day short, sharp shock, and it did lead to reduction in viral transmission.

“But it was also predicated on as we came out of that firebreak that we would have to rely on people’s behaviour not to mix, not to do those things I’ve been talking about in order to keep the rates of viral transmission low.

“That has not happened as we anticipated and that’s probably understandable given people’s enthusiasm to start to think about Christmas, and the tiredness of everybody because of what’s happened over the last few months.

“I don’t think things are out of control, but but rates are rising. They’re rising too quickly. We have to ask ourselves why are they rising and who can do something about it?

“They’re rising because people are mixing. People can stop the risk of infection by not mixing, that’s a simple message. People have a role to play – everybody in Wales has a role to play in this.

“Government has a role to play in this by setting the rules, but government alone cannot do this. Government cannot save the situation around coronavirus, it has to rely on what we all do.:

“Everybody has to think about what their role is in this and ultimately, we need to remind ourselves that our own personal responsibility requires us to continue to make sacrifices and to continue not to mix so that we don’t spread the virus.”

Dr Atherton also faced questions on whether he was blaming members of the public for the rise in cases, he said: “This is in no way, putting blame onto people, this is just explaining what is happening and explaining the way in which the virus transmits from person to person. The more we mix, the more the virus spreads, and the higher the rates of illness and death.

“That’s just the reality that we face, not just here in Wales, but everywhere else.”

“The message I’m trying to give is that government can do so much, it can set the rules, it can try to protect people it can provide the NHS services that we all rely on. But there is something about personal responsibility as well, for how we we behave individually and collectively.”

He added: “To all the NHS staff who’ve been working so hard, we owe them a great debt of gratitude and I think the best way that we can start to repay that debt is by keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe over Christmas by not mixing, by doing all of those things that we’d surely now know can keep ourselves safe.”

You can find today’s briefing and Q&A session on the below link

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