Posted: Wed 20th May 2020

Welsh Government publishes latest output from ‘Technical Advisory Cell’ which provides pandemic advice to Ministers

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Wednesday, May 20th, 2020

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The Welsh government has published the latest advice given to it by the Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) – an advisory group set up to provide ‘official sensitive’ advice to ministers.

Despite the ‘Cell’ meeting three times a week, the latest TAC report – like the previous one – was only made public around a week after it was circulated within Welsh government.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said yesterday he wants to publish the TAC report “every week on a Tuesday morning, it is designed to help inform the public so they can see for themselves what sort of advice we’re getting how it really does underpin our choices as ministers.”

This latest TAC update reports on the reproduction ration of COVID-19 in Wales.

It states: “A consensus of Rt (reproduction value) = 0.7- 1 for Wales was agreed, 

It was agreed that the Rt value is similar across the 4 nations of the UK. 

Whilst it is almost certain to be under 1, it could be close to it.“

The TAC document states:  The “consensus view” is that the overall reproduction number has increased slightly when compared to last week. (May 5)

“This is because the number of cases in the community is decreasing while the number in, or seeded by, care homes or hospitals remains broadly flat.

As a result, hospital or care home cases represent a higher proportion of total cases.” The report states.

TAC concludes: “This means that the rate at which the overall epidemic is shrinking has slowed.”

The advisors also note there is “evidence that the virus is likely to be stable for long periods of time on indoor surfaces and in air.”

The report states: “Decay rate on surfaces increases with higher temperature and humidity. 

There may likely be small benefits in operating buildings at a higher temperature and/or humidity where this doesn’t cause significant thermal discomfort to occupants.

Ventilation rates should not be reduced to achieve this.

The virus is very likely to decay very quickly (a few minutes) in air and on surfaces when exposed to sunlight. 

This adds to the evidence that outdoor environments are highly likely to be a lower risk for transmission.”

The advisory cell also reports on the “adherence” by the public to the stay at home measures implemented at the outset of the pandemic in March.

TAC notes: “From the data available it shows that many are complying with social distancing measures, it is estimated to be around 70% and some information (such as ONS survey data) suggests it could be higher.

The mobility data shows increases in movement (cars on roads, people shopping etc). 

The Apple mobility data and Google mobility data shows increases in some categories for Wales, in line with the rest of the UK and is consistent with increases in traffic.

Changes in the mobility data may not mean similar changes in compliance. 

For example, the recent opening of some shops may result in more trips/higher mobility or warmer weather may mean people are more likely to be outdoors than indoors – however this needs further work to explore.” 

The full TAC PDF can be found here, which is dated 12th May 2020.

TAC is co-chaired by Welsh Government’s Chief Scientific Advisor for Health Dr Rob Orford and the Fliss Bennée, Welsh Government’s Deputy Director, Technology and Digital.

Membership is drawn from Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, Cardiff University and Swansea University.

Experts from a wide range of disciplines including public health, epidemiology, data science, statistics and immunology, to name just a few are members.

Membership of TAC is kept under constant review, most of those on the board of advisors are not named.

The group interprets SAGE (The UK Government Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) outputs into a Welsh context and relay relevant information and questions from Welsh Government back to SAGE.

TAC helps inform NHS and social care planning guidance and ensure Welsh Government and Public Health Wales have timely access to the most up-to-date scientific and technical information.

Brief Local Resilience Forum and Strategic Coordinating Group chairs about scientific and technical outputs, via the

Strategic Health Coordinating Support Group, which is chaired by Public Health Wales.

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