COVID-19 Wales

On April 16th 2020 the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, confirmed the joint decision of COBRA to continue with the current UK wide restrictions on movement for another three weeks to protect the NHS and so to save lives. He said that while there were some positive signs in the data from the epidemic it was still too soon change course in how Wales was dealing with Covid 19.

The First Minister said that this three weeks should provide an opportunity to consider the context in which we could consider moving to the next phase of easing the present public health measures.

There are a number of key elements in this process.

There needs to be a set of common objective measures to inform any decision. What are the critical numbers that need to be falling and for how long across the UK?  We need to be able to anticipate what impact any action will have on public health and how easily can it be reversed if needed.

We need to know what how various steps are sequenced with tests and parameters in place at every stage. It will be crucial that public health surveillance is in a position to monitor the changes as measures are eased. This surveillance must to linked to plans to respond particularly if any deterioration occurs. Wales is lucky to retain a national Public Health Service which is a source of strength and confidence.

But as measures are eased the resilience of the NHS in Wales to respond to the changing situation must be further strengthened.

Wales must draw on international experience particularly from where restrictions are being lifted. The long participation of Public Health Wales in international networks & relationships is an important asset in this regard.

The Welsh Government will seek to draw on experience from beyond government to provide challenge, new ideas and to plan for recovery. This input will not just be from Wales but from broader afield. We all need to work together.

The preferred option is to have a common and shared process across all of the United Kingdom as we emerge from the current public health measures but Wales needs to be sufficiently agile to know if this is not appropriate and to respond appropriately.

The number of confirmed cases in Wales to date (18/4/2020) is 6,936 ( 224 / 100k population) with 534 deaths ( 17 / 100k ). A total of 24,114 tests ( 778 /100k) have been undertaken. While Wales has an older, sicker and less affluent population that much of the UK it is still too early to come to any definitive conclusion as to the significance of these variances may have from the rest of the UK.

Overall Wales has largely followed the UK in its response to the epidemic. However it did move to cancel elective admissions before the English NHS and it has placed social distancing at work on a statutory footing through regulations. The Welsh Government, in conjunction with the NHS, local authorities and the third sector, has established local community hubs to support those most affected by the epidemic particularly those who are at greatest risk and who require special shielding.