<68 Spanish Hospital Workers Test Positive For COVID 19 After Christmas Party>
These are the morning coronavirus headlines for Thursday December 30 as one Welsh health board says it has hundreds of healthcare workers off sick or isolating because of Covid.
A senior Welsh nurse says staffing is "the main problem" currently faced by the NHS as Omicron continues to spread. At one Welsh health board, Betsi Cadwaladr, more than 500 staff have tested positive for coronavirus in the last seven days alone.
The board is having to cope with this on top of the number of people off sick with other illnesses. They are relying on staff taking on extra shifts or overtime and using temporary workers to plug the gap.
It comes as health officials confirm Omicron is the most dominant strain of coronavirus in Wales with the variant accounting for 80% of cases in some areas of the country.
Mandy Jones, the deputy director of nursing at Betsi Cadwaladr, said maintaining good staffing levels is crucial for them to continue safely running emergency and urgent care.
She told ITV News Wales : "A major contributor for us being able to sustain services for emergency care is the staffing that we've got. So for example, this month compared to October-November, we've got double the amount of staff off. In the last seven days there's been over 500 staff who've tested positive for Covid. In addition to that, we've got other sicknesses and since March there's been about a 20% increase in the number of staff who are off as a total."
When asked if there was a danger hospitals could be overwhelmed, Ms Jones said she could not say. She explained they have managed to maintain all the services they possibly can but "it is a big, big challenge".
"We try and be as safe as we can, to provide the services that we need to for emergencies and urgent care," she said.
"The consequence of that is that we constantly have to risk assess continuously, hour by hour, day by day, as to what services we can provide."
When is the next Covid rules review in Wales?
The Welsh Government has confirmed it is sticking to weekly reviews of Covid rules in Wales.
Earlier in December the Welsh Government said it would move to weekly reviews from the three-weekly cycle due to concern about how quickly Omicron was spreading.
The outcomes of the reviews were being announced on Fridays with one on Friday, December 17, taking place where the First Minister said there would not be limits on travel or people meeting up over Christmas but that nightclubs would close.
Then, on Wednesday, December 22, came the announcement that the rules of six was returning for hospitality venues with restrictions coming in from 6am on Boxing Day. Mr Drakeford also said the ban on nightclubs and crowds at sports fixtures was also brought forward to 6am on Boxing Day. A new offence was also created to make it illegal for people to hold large parties with more than 30 people indoors or 50 people outdoors.
The Welsh Government has now confirmed that weekly reviews are continuing, which means the next two are due to be on Friday, December 31, and Friday, January 7.
Coronavirus infection rate in Wales reaches new high
The total number of positive coronavirus cases in Wales since the start of the pandemic has passed 600,000.
On Wednesday the latest data from Public Health Wales, covering the 24-hour period up to 9am on December 27, showed 5,929 new cases, bringing the total in Wales since the pandemic began to 600,682.
The total number of deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test has now risen to 6,653 in Wales with a further two fatalities since the last data was released. The figures relating to deaths covers the 48-hour period up to 9am on December 28.
The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales, based on the seven days up to December 24, has risen to 1,079.3 cases per 100,000 population – the highest figure at any stage of the pandemic.
The local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales for the seven days from December 18 to 24 is Cardiff, where the figure is 1,339.8, while Newport, Torfaen, Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire, Flintshire, Gwynedd, the Vale of Glamorgan, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Ceredigion, and Swansea all have rates in excess of 1,000.
Huge queues at Welsh Covid test centre after slots in England are filled up
People travelled miles from England across the Welsh border yesterday after being told PCR tests were not available where they lived.
Many people wanting to get a PCR test were met with a red wall on the Government's online booking system, which showed that there were only slots available at testing centres in Wales and Scotland.
Photos from North Wales Live showed that queues of people arrived at the coronavirus testing facility on Deeside Industrial Estate after centres in England were listed as unavailable on Tuesday morning and long queues remained throughout the day.
Social media users shared their frustration at making the trip to Flintshire from Merseyside and Cheshire - with some travelling from as far away as Wigan in Greater Manchester.
Twitter user @whatsthatmoosic wrote: "I live in Wigan and have to travel to Deeside for a PCR because I tested positive on a lateral flow last night. Only Wales and Scotland have testing sites."
In a separate post, they added: "What happens if you live nowhere near Scotland or Wales? Basically you’re f***ed."
Another, Alan Bradwell, told North Wales Live he travelled from Middleton, in Manchester.
He said: "When I went online, the test portal said that there were no tests available, anywhere in England and that my nearest test centre was in Deeside."
However, he didn't have to make the round trip of "just over 100 miles" to North Wales after querying the booking at his local test centre.
He continued: "I drove past my local test centre and they were open. I enquired if they had PCR tests available. They said that they did and they used my original appointment information to give me the test that I needed. They confirmed the website needed updating about availability." The full story can be found here.
Welsh Ambulance Service urges a safe New Year’s Eve and respect for emergency staff
The Welsh Ambulance Service is urging people across Wales to exercise caution this New Year’s Eve and follow the latest Welsh Government guidelines on gatherings and mixing households.
Lee Brooks, Director of Operations for the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We hope everybody had a safe and enjoyable Christmas and got to spend some precious time with their loved ones.
“But now it is time to focus on the future and the health of the nation whilst protecting our vital healthcare services and those who work in it at this time of unprecedented pressure.
“Omicron is a real threat, and easily transmissible, so it is important to put yourself in the best position possible to avoid infection by practising good hand hygiene, taking regular Lateral Flow Tests, avoiding unnecessary social contact and always wearing a face covering in shared spaces.
“Also, your best line of defence against serious illness is to ensure that you and your family are all fully vaccinated against Covid-19 and have received your booster jab wherever possible.”
In a time where many people will be enjoying the revelry of the season and consuming alcohol, Lee asks that callers to 999 show respect to all emergency staff.
He said: “With around eight attacks on emergency workers in Wales occurring daily, we would ask the public to work with us, not against us and treat our staff with respect.”
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Austria to make vaccines compulsory for everyone over 14
Austria's government on Thursday gave details of its plan to make coronavirus vaccines compulsory, saying it will apply to people 14 and over and holdouts face fines of up to 3,600 euros ($4,071) every three months.
Roughly 68% of Austria's population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, one of the lowest rates in western Europe. Many Austrians are sceptical about vaccines, a view encouraged by the far-right Freedom Party, the third biggest in parliament, reports Reuters.
As infections set records three weeks ago, the government announced a fourth national lockdown and said it would make vaccinations compulsory for all, the first European Union country to do so.
"We do not want to punish people who are not vaccinated. We want to win them over and convince them to get vaccinated," the minister for constitutional affairs, Karoline Edtstadler, told a news conference with Health Minister Wolfgang Mueckstein.
The vaccine mandate, which must be approved by parliament, is due to start in February and last through January 2024. Two opposition parties support it, suggesting it will pass easily.
There will be quarterly vaccination deadlines, Mueckstein said, adding that the authorities will check a central vaccination register to see if members of the public are in it.
"If that is not the case, proceedings will be brought. In regular proceedings the amount of the fine is 3,600 euros," Mueckstein said, adding that fines would be means-tested.
"As an alternative, the authorities have the option to impose a fine in shorter proceedings immediately after the vaccination deadline. Here the amount of the fine is 600 euros," he said, adding that if this was not paid it would lead to regular proceedings.
There will be exemptions for pregnant women and people who cannot get vaccinated for medical reasons, he added.
Spain cuts isolation to seven days from 10
Spain on Wednesday reduced the isolation period for people who have tested positive for COVID-19 to seven days from 10, the health ministry said, even as new infections hit record highs.
The Spanish decision, taken unanimously at a meeting between Health Minister Carolina Darias and regional health chiefs, follows similar moves by other countries such as the United States and Britain.
A lack of staff due to long isolation times has caused disruptions to some industries even though many of those who test positive are asymptomatic.
The ministry also reduced the mandatory quarantine for close contacts of people who have tested positive to seven days. Separately, Darias said the number of people allowed to attend sporting events would also be slashed.
The national 14-day infection rate hit a new record of 1,360 cases per 100,000 people on Tuesday, rising from 1,206 cases the previous day and marking a five-fold increase since the beginning of December.
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Source : https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/wales-news/todays-covid-briefing-500-hospital-226013152123