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Self-isolation period cut to five days in Wales

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PEOPLE who test positive for Covid-19 will be able to leave self-isolation after five full days if they have two negative lateral flow tests, Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed today,

The two consecutive negative lateral flow tests must be taken on days five and six of the isolation period.

The changes are being made after a thorough examination of the evidence from Public Health Wales and bring Wales into line with changes made elsewhere in the UK.

They will come into effect from 28 January, at the same time as Wales is expected to complete the move to alert level zero.

A shorter self-isolation period will support public services and businesses by reducing pressures on the workforce through Covid-related staff absences.

Financial support through the Self-Isolation Support Scheme will return to the original payment rate of £500 in recognition of the shorter isolation period.  People who need support with essentials such as shopping and pharmacy goods will be able to access help through their local authority and voluntary organisations. 

Minister for Health and Social Services Eluned Morgan said:

“Self-isolation is one of the most effective ways of preventing the onward spread of this virus and disrupting its transmission. But self-isolating for long periods can have a negative impact on our mental health and can be damaging for our public services and the wider economy.

“After carefully reviewing all the available evidence, we believe that testing on days five and six together with five full days of isolation will have the same protective effect as a 10-day isolation period.

“But it is really important everyone self-isolates and uses lateral flow tests in the way advised to ensure they protect others from the risk of infection.

“The response from the public has been outstanding in Wales throughout the pandemic and we want to thank everyone for working with us to keep Wales safe.

“The booster jab has lessened the likelihood of severe cases of the virus and hospitalisation, so I encourage anyone who is yet to have their vaccine to take up the offer.”

If a person is currently self-isolating as a positive case, or tests positive for Covid-19, they must self-isolate for five full days and should take a lateral flow test on day five and another test 24 hours later on day six.

If both results are negative, it is likely they are not infectious and can stop isolating.

But anyone who tests positive on either day five or day six must continue to self-isolate until they have two negative tests taken 24 hours apart or until day 10, whichever comes first.

This change reflects the latest evidence from Public Health Wales. Guidance on self-isolation for those working in more sensitive areas such as health and care will issue shortly. 

Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, Plaid Cymru spokesperson on health and care, said: “This is undoubtedly good news, but it’s now important to understand what needs to happen to bring this self-isolation period down to zero days – how is Welsh Government assessing this, what conversations are happening, and what criteria will need to be met for this important milestone to be reached?

“In the meantime, we must continue to see effective measures to push down community transmission further and to create more long-term resilience, including more action on clean air in schools, encouraging greater vaccine take-up, and ensuring our health and care services are given the support and resources they need.”

Shadow Health Minister Russell George MS said: “With the booster jab rollout so advanced, the need to keep public services staffed, and the increasing desire to move to a point where we live with the virus, the time for cutting the self-isolation has undoubtedly come.

“Sadly, as has been the case throughout the pandemic with the Labour administration in Cardiff Bay, they replicate decisions taken by the UK Conservative Government but only after playing politics, questioning and undermining such changes days earlier.

“As we move from the pandemic to endemic these political games have to stop as Labour’s response to Omicron harmed Wales, not through mass hospitalisations and deaths, but through thousands having to isolate, leaving public services understaffed, consumers short-changed, and businesses losing out.”

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Health

Hywel Dda Health Board confirms Bank holiday arrangements

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FOLLOWING confirmation that Monday, 19 September, will be a Bank Holiday to mark the Queen’s State Funeral, the Health Board is contacting all patients to confirm or re-arrange their appointments, depending on service availability. Whilst all emergency services will be operating as normal, we need to adjust some elements of our planned care services and prioritise patients with urgent care needs wherever possible.

Our Chemotherapy Units will be operating as normal on Monday and some surgery for urgent cases will take place at our hospitals.

Where appointments need to be re-scheduled, patients are being contacted over the coming days by the relevant team to re-arrange their appointment as quickly as possible. In some cases, this may mean bringing appointments forward to this week. Some face-to-face outpatient appointments will still go ahead, and some may be held as an online/virtual appointment on Monday.

If you have an appointment on Monday, and have not been contacted by 1pm on Friday, please contact the health board’s communication hub on 0300 3038322 or email ask.hdd@wales.nhs.uk for further information and guidance. Staff at the communication hub are available to answer calls between 10am-4pm on Saturday, and 10am-3pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday. We are contacting all patients by telephone or text message, please check your telephone for any messages.

As GP surgeries and most Community Pharmacies and Dental services will be closed on Monday, a Bank Holiday out of hours service will be provided. Individuals requiring repeat prescriptions are encouraged to arrange them in advance.

All urgent and emergency care services will continue as normal. If you are unwell and unsure what to do, you can visit the online symptom checker or call NHS 111. The Minor Injury Units at acute hospital sites will be open as usual. Opening hours for community walk-in services can be found on the health board’s website. Please attend an Emergency Department, or call 999, if you have a life-threatening illness or serious injury, such as: 

Severe breathing difficulties 

  • Severe pain or bleeding 
  • Chest pain or a suspected stroke 
  • Serious trauma injuries (e.g., from a car crash). 

We apologise for any inconvenience caused and thank you for your support and patience.

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Health

Hywel Dda set to upgrade Glangwili’s X-Ray facilities

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STAFF and patients are set for a boost with the news of an upgrade of Glangwili’s X-ray facilities. Hywel Dda University Health Board has been fortunate to be awarded Welsh Government funds, as part of a health board wide imaging equipment replacement scheme, which will allow for a new x-ray room to be built at Glangwili General Hospital.

The new development will mean that one of the two existing x-ray rooms at Glangwili General Hospital will be refurbished with a new superior digital x-ray room which will facilitate higher standards of diagnosis.

Following numerous breakdowns of the current x-ray room, this new and improved equipment is welcomed and will help improve x-ray capacity at Glangwili General Hospital. The new state of the art equipment will produce superior image quality of x-rays and at the same time lower radiation doses. The rejuvenation will also mean a fresh new and improved environment for patients, especially our paediatric patients.

Construction will take place from September 5 until November 11, during this time Glangwili General Hospital will operate with its remaining x-ray room which will mean some delays for outpatients. Delays will be mitigated by the use of a temporary x-ray room which can be used for some examinations.

Patients with appointments for x-rays will be offered evenings and weekend appointments and some will be offered slots at other health board sites to keep momentum on reducing waiting times. The team at Glangwili will ensure that emergency patients will be seen with as little delay as possible and that CT, MRI, Ultrasound and Fluoroscopy appointments are not expected to be affected.

Andrew Carruthers, Executive Director of Operations, said: “This investment from the Welsh Government will be a great benefit to our patients. The team at Glangwili are committed to the continuous development of services that we offer as a health board and the new equipment will benefit our patients. We are excited for the other three acute sites to have their replacement x-ray room within this financial year.”

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Autumn Covid-19 booster roll-out begins today in Wales

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THE ROLL-out of the autumn Covid-19 booster has started today (September 1) in Wales with care home residents and staff across Wales the first to receive the vaccine.

Everyone who is eligible for the autumn booster will be invited for a vaccination by their health boards. Invitations will be issued in order of vulnerability, with everyone eligible being offered a booster vaccine by December.

The vaccine will help support the immunity of all those who are at higher risk from COVID-19, improving their protection against severe illness, while also helping to support the NHS during winter 2022-23.

This autumn, in line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine booster will be offered to:

  • Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults
  • Frontline health and social care workers
  • All adults aged 50 years and over
  • People aged five to 49 years who are in a clinical risk group
  • People aged five to 49 years who are household contacts of people who are  immunosuppression
  • People aged 16 to49 who are carers.

In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), eligible adults aged 18 and over will initially be offered the Moderna vaccine which protects from both the original strain of coronavirus and the Omicron variant. Those eligible aged under 18 will be offered the Pfizer vaccine. Both vaccines will be offered at least three months after a previous dose.

The vaccines will be administered in a variety of settings including GP surgeries and vaccination centres.

The winter respiratory vaccination strategy will ensure all those eligible for the autumn booster are also protected from seasonal flu – people are being encouraged to take up the flu vaccine when offered. All those eligible for a flu vaccine will be offered it before the end of the year.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “Our winter respiratory vaccination programme will help protect the most vulnerable in our communities from flu and coronavirus this winter.  The COVID-19 booster campaign will start with those in care homes, alongside those working within the NHS and the social care sector.

“Vaccines have had an enormous impact on the course of the pandemic – they have saved countless lives and given us the freedom and confidence to restart our lives.

“I want to thank everyone working in the NHS and other organisations who will once again lead efforts to protect the most vulnerable through vaccination.

“This year, we will  once again offer an expanded flu programme, with 1.5 million people being eligible for a free vaccine.

I would encourage anyone who is eligible to take up their invitation to help themselves.

“All eligible adults will be invited for their autumn COVID-19 booster via letter and text message from their health board by December and I would ask people not to contact their GPs about their invite so they can continue to focus on looking after people’s health.”

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