Covid briefing as calls grow for a Wales-only public inquiry into the pandemic

Here are the coronavirus morning headlines for Wednesday, October 13, as calls grow for a Wales-only public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic increase. It comes after Wales’ health minister apologised “to all those who suffered” during the pandemic for mistakes the Welsh Government made. Health minister Eluned Morgan made the apology at the weekly Welsh Government press conference after the UK government cabinet minister Stephen Barclay refused on radio this morning to apologise for failings which caused deaths.

The Chancellor for the Duchy of Lancaster, refused to apologise eight times after a damning report blamed the Government for serious errors and delays that cost lives during the Covid pandemic. Opposition parties, bereaved families and health representatives in Wales have now reiterated calls for an inquiry in Wales, with Plaid Cymru saying the Welsh government “must take responsibility for its actions”. Helen Whyley , Director of Royal College of Nursing Wales, told BBC Radio Wales on Wednesday: “I think we need to see, and understand, what happened in Wales.

“Whether that is able to be done as part of a UK-wide inquiry, I think we need to see what the terms for reference look like. The public in Wales, the staff who work in Wales, the care homes, the communities want to know what happened in Wales during Covid 19.” In the Senedd, First Minister Mark Drakeford declined to say whether he agreed the early response was one of the worst ever public health failures in the UK, and said he had not read the report.

“I’ve been asked the question many times, ‘Were there things that you would have done differently had you known then what you know now?’ ” he said. “We didn’t know those things then, we were following the advice that we had at the time.” He said as “our knowledge grew” ministers have “not hesitated to take our own decisions where we thought that was in the best interests of Wales”.

:All the latest coronavirus headlines in Wales.

Latest coronavirus rates for Wales

Another person has died with coronavirus in Wales according to latest figures from Public Health Wales (PHW). The data published on Tuesday, October 12, also revealed there were 2,047 new positive cases, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 384,250. The one additional death recorded brings the overall toll to 5,974 in Wales.

The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales based on the cases for every 100,000 people (seven days up to October 7) has dropped slightly and now stands at 514.8 – a decrease on the 515.1 reported on Monday. The figures announced on Monday are for the 24-hour period up to 9am on October 11, according to PHW. The local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales is now Vale of Glamorgan with 702.9 cases per 100,000 population over seven days, followed by Torfaen with 692.8 and Cardiff with 637. Cases for your area here.

Covid vaccinations in Wales have ‘saved 7,000 lives’

Wales’ Covid vaccination programme has saved 7,000 lives, according to the Welsh Government.

In Wales, 5,974 people have died with coronavirus since the start of the pandemic and health minister Eluned Morgan said that the vaccination programme had saved thousands more lives. Speaking at the Welsh Government’s press briefing on Tuesday, Mrs Morgan said the vaccination programme has avoided 7,000 deaths in Wales and 10,000 hospitalisations. In August, England’s health minister Sajid Javid said 105,900 lives had been saved in England due to vaccines.

At the press conference, Mrs Morgan warned that the pandemic won’t be over by Christmas and people need to be prepared for flu cases to be higher than a typical year. Mrs Morgan said the peak could be at a different time.

Adult social care job vacancies above pre-pandemic levels

Job vacancies in adult social care in England are above pre-pandemic levels, a report has found. The sector’s vacancy rates fell during the pandemic but have risen steadily since May 2021, according to Skills for Care’s annual workforce report.

On average, 6.8% of adult social care roles were unfilled during 2020/21, the equivalent of 105,000 vacancies on any one day. This was down slightly from the previous year’s average, when 7.3% of roles were estimated to be unfilled, the equivalent of 112,000 vacancies on any one day. As of August, 8.2% of roles were unfilled, up from 8% just before the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.

The workforce body said there had also been a fall in the number of filled posts since March, the first time it had noted a fall since records began in 2008. That this has occurred as vacancies rise suggests providers are struggling to recruit and retain staff, rather than reduced demand. It is likely to be due to the opening back up of the wider economy and the impact of the mandatory vaccination policy, which Skills for Care warned could push the vacancy rate up to a record level.

It estimates the sector will need to recruit 490,000 extra jobs by 2035 to keep up with the ageing population. Skills for Care said the drop had been most apparent among registered nurses, with jobs having fallen 5% to 34,000 in the last year. The turnover rate for registered nurses was 38.2%, more than four times higher than the 8.8% turnover rate for their NHS counterparts.

The report found that overall turnover remained high, at 28.5%, equating to approximately 410,000 people leaving their jobs over the course of the year. It also found that the pandemic had “accelerated” the steady shift from care homes to services providing care at home.

US to re-open land borders in November for fully vaccinated

The US will reopen its land borders to non-essential travel next month, ending a 19-month freeze due to the Covid-19 pandemic as the country moves to require all international visitors to be vaccinated. Vehicle, rail and ferry travel between the US and Canada and Mexico has been largely restricted to essential travel, such as trade, since the earliest days of the pandemic.

The new rules, to be announced on Wednesday, will allow fully vaccinated foreign nationals to enter the US regardless of the reason for travel starting in early November, when a similar easing of restrictions is set to begin for air travel into the country. By mid-January, even essential travellers seeking to enter the US, like truck drivers, will need to be fully vaccinated. Senior administration officials previewed the new policy with reporters late on Tuesday on condition of anonymity ahead of the formal announcement.

Mexico and Canada have pressed the US for months to ease restrictions on travel that have separated families and curtailed leisure trips since the onset of the pandemic. The latest move follows last month’s announcement that the US will end country-based travel bans for air travel, and instead require vaccination for foreign nationals seeking to enter by plane. Both policies will take effect in early November, the officials said.

They did not specify a particular date.

Russia registers another record daily Covid deaths

Russia registered a new record number of daily coronavirus deaths on Tuesday, as it faced a rapid surge of contagion amid slow vaccination rates. The government coronavirus taskforce reported 973 coronavirus deaths, the highest daily toll since the start of the pandemic. The country has continuously registered new coronavirus mortality records this month, and daily infections have also been hovering near all-time highs, with 28,190 new confirmed cases Tuesday.

In total, Russia’s coronavirus taskforce has registered more than 7.8 million confirmed cases and 218,345 deaths – the highest death toll in Europe. The state statistics agency Rosstat, which also counts deaths where the virus was not considered the main cause, has reported a much higher total – about 418,000 deaths of people with Covid-19. The Russian government has blamed a sharp rise in infections and deaths that began last month on a slow vaccination rate.

Only 47.8 million Russians, or almost 33% of its nearly 146 million people, had received at least one shot of a coronavirus vaccine, and 42.4 million, or about 29%, were fully vaccinated, the government said on Friday.

Despite the rapidly mounting coronavirus caseload and mortality, the Kremlin has ruled out a nationwide lockdown, delegating the power to make decisions on toughening coronavirus restrictions to regional authorities.

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