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Call for care homes to be given top priority amid ‘totally unacceptable’ testing shambles

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A SOCIAL care leader has hit out over the “totally unacceptable” shambles around Covid-19 tests and called for Hywel Dda Health Board care homes to be given top priority.

Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, the lack of capacity and the delays in providing results were causing major problems for the sector, potentially putting lives at risk.

In too many cases, he said, the results were not coming back and contacts being traced within the “golden 48-hour window” when the tests proved positive.

As a result, the regime was ineffective in curbing the spread of Covid-19 which was a massive worry as a second surge now seemed inevitable, with two local lockdowns in place in Wales and more likely to follow.

He was concerned that lessons has not been learned from the first wave of coronavirus when Care Forum Wales had been ahead of the Welsh Government and Public Health Wales in urging care homes to close their doors to visitors.

In February the organisation, which represents nearly 500 social care providers in Wales, launched a campaign to shield social care to save lives.

As part of the campaign, Care Forum Wales also called for a comprehensive and effective testing regime, plentiful supplies of PPE and extra funding to help providers to survive the economic cataclysm.

Mr Kreft said: “The UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, is right, we should absolutely be prioritising our care homes.

“There are a number of new quick test technologies undergoing validation. We are calling for a Welsh Government commitment to ensure they are made available to care homes as a matter of urgency as soon as they come online. Care homes must get them before airports, schools, and factories.

“We would also like an assurance that the machines already pre-ordered are prioritised for care homes.

“Care Forum Wales started this discussion in February when we were talking about the importance of testing for social care because the sector underpins the NHS here in Wales and enabled it to function.

“The current situation we’ve got it just totally unacceptable. It’s not the case that everyone isn’t trying hard but we’re not actually achieving what we need to do.

“They did adjust the access to the testing but in far too many cases we’re not getting the results quickly enough and that is causing huge problems in the sector.

“We’ve got this 48 hour golden window to ensure that we stop transmission.

“We’ve got tens of thousands of people working in our care homes in Wales. They’re coming in and out from the community.

“We know we’ve already got local lockdowns in the communities so have to make sure that people if they are asymptomatic in particular have got regular tests and that the results come through quickly so we know whether or not they have the virus.

“This disease which for many people might be quite mild is an absolutely horrendous disease for older people, people with underlying health conditions, and of course the 20,000 people in our care homes in Wales are by definition vulnerable and many of them have serious underlying health conditions.

“Our members in Care Forum Wales locked down early, way before government advice.

“We really got ahead of the game but had to make sure there was a testing regime. “There is a great news story about many care homes in Wales. Most of them have been Covid free, and those that have had the virus have been able to in most cases to deal with it and eradicate it quickly.

“What we’ve seen as lockdown has eased is that the defences have been weakend, making it easier for that transmission to come in.

“We’ve got to make sure that our care homes are protected and that’s why we launched our campaign, Shield Social Care, Save Lives.

“It’s been running for months, and it will have to run for the whole winter, because our care homes and the NHS are facing the biggest challenge we’ve ever seen. It really is a hideous situation.

“Prioritising certain sectors like social care is an absolute must. This is a safeguarding issue, for the vulnerable people living in the care homes and the magnificent staff who look after them.

“Care homes are vital to ensure that the NHS can function. Most of our hospitals have a population of older people which is probably about 60 or 70 per cent of the total patients.

“Those people have to be discharged. Our care homes need to be ready and available and they can’t do that without a regime of testing that is delivering what we need in Wales.”

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Killer Andrew Jones must spend at least 30 years in jail

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A KILLER from Carmarthen will spend at least 30 years in jail.

Andrew Jones, 53, from Bronwydd Road, denied murdering his long-time friend Michael O’Leary but was convicted by a jury.

Mrs Justice Jefford set a minimum term of 30 years which he must serve before he can be considered for parole. She described the killing as ” a planned ambush”.

She told the killer: “Michael O’Leary did something wrong but he did not deserve to pay for that with his life. All accounts of him is of a man who lit up the room and played a central role in the lives of his family.

“Your family stands by you. You are more than fortunate in that. The impact of your actions in their lives has also been devastating. They feel ostracised from the community from where they live.

“Your wife still talks about you as the love of her life and your children talk about you in glowing terms.”

The judge made an order for the forfeiture and destruction of a rifle but not of the other guns in Jones’ possession.

She added: “This was a remarkable investigation by Dyfed-Powys Police.

“The officers and operatives involved are too numerous to mention but they are all to be commended for their efforts.”

Mr Jones’ barrister Karim Khalil QC is now addressing the court.

He said: “The defendant himself is not a highly educated man. He made the best of the talents he had.

“He worked all hours, not in any sense workshy. He built a family life which is now destroyed.

“He is remorseful for what happened. He is not cold-blooded.

“He acknowledges the pain he has caused.”

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Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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Concerning rise of Covid-19 cases in Carmarthenshire

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THE HEALTH protection zone covering a large part of Llanelli is working well and helping bring down the number of positive Covid-19 cases, however concerns are increasing about the spread of Covid-19 elsewhere in Carmarthenshire.

Residents living in the zone are being thanked for their efforts and asked to keep up the good work for at least another week to help bring numbers down even further.

Carmarthenshire County Council, working with Hywel Dda University Health Board and Welsh Government, is keeping the situation under constant review.

Discussions are also taking place to prepare for a potential ‘circuit breaker’ – a measure being considered by Welsh Government to stop the rapid spread of the virus across Wales.

It would mean a return of stronger national restrictions for two-three weeks.

Welsh Government is due to announce its decision on Monday.

In Carmarthenshire, although cases remain concentrated in Llanelli (currently at 87.4 per 100,000 of the population*), small clusters of the virus are being identified across the county.

The rate of infection for Carmarthenshire, excluding the Llanelli health protection zone, is currently 64.8 per 100,000 of the population.

The rate for the whole county, including the Llanelli health protection zone, currently stands at 71.5 per 100,000 of the population.

All figures quoted are correct as at October 14, 2020 – the most recently available data.

Council Leader, Cllr Emlyn Dole, said: “We are so pleased to see the numbers continue to fall in the Llanelli area – this shows that the extra restrictions put in place are working,” he said.

“We are so very grateful to the people of Llanelli for listening, taking extra care and helping control the spread.

“However there is a note of caution for the rest of the county where we’re seeing figures starting to creep up.

“Largely, these appear to be in small clusters, and not as concentrated as in the Llanelli health protection zone, however it is a cause of concern. It shows that the virus is spreading.

“Contact tracing investigations tell us that many of these cases are linked back to people coming into close contact with eachother whilst socialising in licensed premises or at work, and then sharing the virus with people they live with.

“So we’re asking – please – keep your distance from people you don’t live with, practice good hygiene, wear a face covering, work from home if you can, and self-isolate if you’re asked to or if you have any Covid-19 symptoms.”

Carmarthenshire County Council continues to concentrate resources on supporting licensed premises to provide a safe environment for customers.

Since September 25, when the extra restrictions for Llanelli were announced, over 450 pro-active visits have been made to business premises offering advice and support.

Most are operating well, but there is still a small minority of licensed premises not putting safe systems into place – 12 of those have been served closure notices since September 25, most of them re-opening after making significant improvements.

Director of Public Health for Hywel Dda University Health Board Ros Jervis said: “This is a critical moment for the wider Carmarthenshire population. We can see cases rising and we need everyone to take action. Please do what you can to protect your health and that of your loved ones. Remember – hands, face and space. Wash hands regularly, use a face covering when social distancing isn’t possible and if you live outside of a health protection zone, where extra restrictions apply, then still place keep a two metre distance from people not in your household, whether you are inside or outside. Taking these measures is not only the best way to protect our health, but also the best way to protect the more vulnerable in our local communities.”

Deputy Chief Executive, Medical Director and respiratory consultant for Hywel Dda University Health Board Professor Philip Kloer added: “We are seeing a worrying rise in the number of cases of Covid-19 in Carmarthenshire. We are already providing care for Covid-19 patients in our hospitals and we expect these numbers to increase, right at the time of year when our hospitals are getting ready for the busy winter period. Please, in order to protect yourselves and the ability of the NHS to provide you and your families with the care you need, follow the guidelines. Our staff are working incredibly hard and following stringent infection prevention procedures. Please do not mistake this as a message to stay away from hospital or primary care services if you need them. We are here for you and we have made our hospitals and health care provision as safe as possible for you and our staff, using all the expert evidence about how this disease spreads and the infection prevention measures required.”

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