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COVID-19 pandemic in Wales

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COVID-19 pandemic in Wales
Wales Principal Areas Map Cases per 100K of COVID-19 ONGOING; starting at 17 April 2020.svg
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 per 10,000 per capita, by county[1]
DiseaseCOVID-19
Virus strainSARS-CoV-2
LocationWales
First caseSwansea
Arrival date28 February 2020
(1 year and 5 days)
OriginWuhan, China
Confirmed cases17,543 (as of 15 August 2020)[2][note 1]
Deaths
1,587 (as of 15 August 2020)[3]
Official website
gov.wales/coronavirus

The COVID-19 pandemic was confirmed to have spread to Wales on 28 February 2020, with a case being reported in the Swansea area; a person who had recently returned from Italy.[4] The first known case of community transmission was reported on 11 March in the Caerphilly area.[5]

Health care in the United Kingdom is a devolved matter, with England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales each having their own systems of publicly funded healthcare, funded by and accountable to separate governments and parliaments, together with smaller private sector and voluntary provision. As a result of each country having different policies and priorities, a variety of differences now exist between these systems.[6][7]

Timeline[edit source | edit]

Template:COVID-19 pandemic data/Wales medical cases chart

Sign on the A55 near Queensferry at border between Wales and England 2 June 2020/

Initial outbreak (28 February – 11 March)[edit source | edit]

The first case of COVID-19 in Wales was confirmed on 28 February 2020 in a person who had returned from Northern Italy, and then transferred to a specialist NHS infection centre at the Royal Free Hospital in London.[8][9] The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Frank Atherton, said that the Government would be taking "all appropriate measures" to reduce the risk of transmission.[4]

On 10 March nine more cases were discovered in Wales bringing the total to 15, the first significant jump in cases.[10]

Pandemic confirmed (11 March – 23 March)[edit source | edit]

On 11 March, the World Health Organisation declared the outbreak a pandemic.[11]

On 16 March, the first death in Wales was reported in Wrexham.[12]

On 18 March, the Welsh Government announced that all schools in Wales would be closing by 20 March. With a limited number of schools remaining open to provide support for key workers and children with additional needs.[13] It was further announced in the following days that all exams, including GCSEs and A-Levels, would be cancelled, with grades being based on existing work and predicted grades.[14]

Lockdown (23 March – present)[edit source | edit]

On 23 March, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a lockdown of the United Kingdom, with only essential services remaining open. This announcement was followed by the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announcing that the measures would also cover Wales and would come into effect from that evening.[15] The measures put in place restrict people from leaving their home for non-essential travel, with outside exercise limited to once a day. The measures that controlled exercise outside the home differed from those in England, where the measures in place did not stipulate a once-a-day restriction, whereas the Welsh version specifically limited exercise outside the home to once a day, with the maximum fine being £120, compared to £960 in England.[14][14] On 20 May, the Government announced that the maximum fine would be increased to £1,920.[16]

Gatherings of two or more people, except individuals in the same household, were banned, whilst pubs, restaurants (with exception for take-aways) and shops selling 'non-essential goods' were ordered to closed.[17]

On 25 March the Coronavirus Act 2020 was given Royal Assent, after passing through both Houses in the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The following day the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 were approved by the Welsh Parliament, giving the Welsh Government emergency powers to deal with various aspects of managing the pandemic. These new powers include the authority to:[citation needed]

  • Take people into or keep them in quarantine
  • Restrict or prohibit mass gatherings
  • Close premises[18][19]

On 26 March, Snowdon and other Welsh mountains were closed to the public, after a larger number of people gathered on the mountains in the preceding days.[20] Natural Resources Wales later announced that all sites and paths liable to have large amounts of people visiting, or pose a high risk, would be closed.[21]

By 27 March, North Wales Police were patrolling the border between Wales and England because visitors were ignoring the stay-at-home instructions and travelling into Wales. In many cases the police were stopping cars entering from England.[22][23][24]

On 2 April, it was announced that the number of confirmed cases had risen above 2,000 and the number of deaths in Wales had risen above 100.[25] On 5 April the number of cases rose above 3,000.[26]

On 6 April, Jitendra Rathod, a heart surgeon at University Hospital of Wales, died after testing positive for coronavirus. He was thought to have been the first health worker in Wales to die after being diagnosed with the disease.[27]

On 7 April the number of deaths rose above 200.[3] On the same day, distancing measures in the workplace, enforcing a two-metre (6') distance between people, became law in Wales, requiring employers to take "all reasonable measures" to comply.[28]

On 8 April the number of cases rose above 4,000 to 4,073,[2] with 245 deaths notified.[3] On the same day it was announced that the lockdown would not be lifted within the next week.[29]

On 17 April, Public Health Wales reported, for the first time, the areas where the deaths in Wales (to date, 506) had occurred. Almost all were in southeast Wales, with 12 deaths shared between the other health board areas covering west, mid- and north Wales.[30] It was later discovered that there had been a delay in reporting the figures from the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board[31] Mark Drakeford announced that "lockdown could stay in Wales even if it was lifted elsewhere in the UK".[32]

On 8 May, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in Wales would be extended for a further three weeks.[33] He also announced "modest" changes to the measures already in force: some garden centres would be allowed to re-open, and people could now exercise outdoors more than once per day provided that they "stay local".[34]

On 10 May, Prime Minister Johnson announced lockdown-easing measures on UK television, without mentioning that the measures were only relevant to England.[35][36] The response to this was immediate: the leaders of Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales said they would not be adopting his new "Stay alert" slogan (as opposed to "Stay home") and Nicola Sturgeon commented: "We mustn't squander progress by easing up too soon or sending mixed messages. People will die unnecessarily." The Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said that the Scottish Government had not been consulted about the change.[37] The Welsh Government Counsel General for Wales, Jeremy Miles, said exercise must be local to home and visitors could be fined if they drove into Wales for leisure.[38] Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said that the new message "lacked clarity".[39]

On 12 June, the First Minister Mark Drakeford stated that the R number for Wales is the lowest of any part of the United Kingdom, at 0.7.[40]

On 6 July, There were no confirmed deaths in Wales for the first time since the pandemic started.[41]

On 10 July, for the second time Wales confirmed no deaths. First Minister Mark Drakeford announced changes to the lockdown restrictions and specified dates for the reopening of hospitality businesses, hair and beauty salons, and outdoor leisure facilities. He stated that Frank Atherton, the chief medical officer for Wales, had "confirmed we have some capacity to ease the restrictions further over the next three weeks".[42]

On 17 July, the First Minister announced that the Wales daily briefings would end and instead they would be taking place every week.[43]

By 21 July, Wales was recording no new deaths for the eighth time in a month. However, figures released by the Care Inspectorate Wales confirmed that there had been 736 care home resident deaths linked to COVID-19 by 17 July, with the overall number of deaths 71% higher than in the same period last year.[44]

On 25 July, Wales recorded no deaths for the tenth time in a month. On 27 July, it was announced that the R number for Wales is again the lowest of any part of the United Kingdom, between 0.6 and 0.8. By 18 August, the number of people still in hospital suffering from COVID-19 was seventy.[45]

Restrictions were further eased by an announcement on 31 July, confirming that pubs and restaurants would be able to open indoor areas on 3 August. Up to thirty people would be able to meet outdoors and children under 11 would no longer have to keep a 2m distance from anyone. Indoor bowling alleys, auction houses and bingo halls were allowed to reopen, while swimming pools, gyms, leisure centres and indoor play areas would be allowed to reopen from 10 August, all with social distancing.[46]

Government response[edit source | edit]

The measures put in place restrict people from leaving their home for non-essential travel, with outside exercise limited to once a day. The measures that controlled exercise outside the home differed from those in England, where the measures in place did not stipulate a once-a-day restriction, whereas the Welsh version specifically limited exercise outside the home to once a day, with the maximum fine being £120, compared to £960 in England.[14][14] Gatherings of two or more people, except individuals in the same household, were banned, whilst pubs, restaurants (with exception for take-aways) and shops selling 'non-essential goods' were ordered to closed.[17]

The UK government's letter sent to every household (Welsh language version)

On 26 March, the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 were approved by the Senedd, giving the Welsh Government emergency powers to deal with various aspects of managing the pandemic.[citation needed]

A coronavirus medical ventilator designed by Rhys Thomas, a consultant anaesthetist at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen, Wales was given the go-ahead by the Welsh Government.[47] The machine, designed in a few days was used successfully on a patient in mid-March, and subsequently funded by the Welsh Government to develop further in order to clean the room of viral particles and only supply purified air to the patient.

On 18 March, the Welsh Government announced that all schools in Wales would be closing by 20 March. With a limited number of schools remaining open to provide support for key workers and children with additional needs.[13] It was further announced in the following days that all exams, including GCSEs and A-Levels, would be cancelled, with grades being based on existing work and predicted grades.[14]

Mark Drakeford, First Minister, announced that the Welsh Government has opened discussions with the army about helping the NHS in Wales including training soldiers to support the Welsh Ambulance Service and assisting with non-clinical activities. The Army also set up and ran some of the temporary hospitals across Wales.[48]

On 21 May 2020 the Welsh Government announced that one of the new antibody blood tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus is being produced by Ortho Clinical Diagnostics (OCD) at Pencoed, Wales, in partnership with Public Health Wales. The test will be rolled out, prioritised and managed and will also be available in care homes. According to Health Minister Vaughan Gething, this test is an important part of the "Test, Trace, Protect" strategy which will help Wales come out of lockdown.[49]

Ceredigion had the lowest rates of people infected with or dying from COVID-19 in the British mainland, up to June 2020. The area is naturally rural and holiday attractions and the university were closed down very early. The county council set up its own contact tracing system in March 2020.[50]

Healthcare response[edit source | edit]

Hospital capacity[edit source | edit]

In 2018–19 there were around 10,563 beds available in hospitals within Wales.[51] As of 7 April 2020 Wales had 369 critical care beds, with plans in place to increase capacity further.[52] There are 415 ventilators currently in Welsh hospitals, with a further 1,035 ordered.[53]

Temporary hospitals[edit source | edit]

On 27 March, it was announced that the Principality Stadium in Cardiff was to be used as a temporary hospital for up to 2,000 beds.[54] Each health board in Wales later announced that they are increasing the number of beds available in their current hospitals and, with the exception of Powys Teaching Health Board, would be opening a number of temporary hospitals in available spaces.[55]

On 9 April it was announced that the temporary hospital to be located in the Principality Stadium would be called Dragon's Heart Hospital. On completion this will be the largest hospital in Wales and the second largest hospital in the United Kingdom.[56]

Location of field hospitals[55]
Local health board Location Number of beds
Aneurin Bevan Grange University Hospital, Cwmbran 350
Betsi Cadwaladr Venue Cymru, Llandudno 350
Bangor University 250
Deeside Leisure Centre, Flintshire 250
Glan Clwyd Hospital, Bodelwyddan, Denbighshire 80
Cardiff and Vale Dragon's Heart Hospital (Principality Stadium, Cardiff) 2,000
Cwm Taf Morgannwg The Vale Resort, Vale of Glamorgan 290
Rhondda Cynon Taf council's Ty Trevithick offices 150
Hywel Dda Parc y Scarlets, Llanelli 350
Bluestone National Park Resort, Pembrokeshire 144
Swansea Bay Llandarcy Academy of Sport, Neath 1,340
Bay Studios, Swansea

Research and innovation[edit source | edit]

A coronavirus medical ventilator designed by Rhys Thomas, a consultant anaesthetist at Glangwili General Hospital in Carmarthen, Wales was given the go-ahead by the Welsh Government.[47] The machine, designed in a few days was used successfully on a patient in mid-March, and subsequently funded by the Welsh Government to develop further in order to clean the room of viral particles and only supply purified air to the patient. Early April, it was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, and on 12 April the ventilator, designed and built in Wales, was also approved by the UK Government. It is being produced by CR Clarke & Co in Betws, near Ammanford. The idea was suggested by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price who challenged Thomas to come up with a simpler and more effective ventilator.[57][58]

Supply chain issues[edit source | edit]

On 10 April the UK Government sent out a document to PPE suppliers informing them that suppliers of certain medical equipment, including protective masks, gloves and aprons, must be registered with the Care Quality Commission, which regulates all health and social care services in England only. There was not a similar agreement in place between suppliers and Care Inspectorate Wales or the Care Inspectorate of Scotland.[59][60] The Welsh Government advised care home providers that they should order through their local council, while Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price lodged a formal complaint with the European Union over the issue.[60] The manager of two care homes in Gwynedd, Wales was told by two suppliers that they would only sell to care homes in England.[61] The chief executive of the care home umbrella group Scottish Care said that the UK's four largest PPE suppliers had said they were not distributing to Scotland because their priority was going to be “England, the English NHS and then English social care providers”.[62] The UK government reported that it had not instructed any company to prioritise PPE for any nation.[62] Healthcare supplier Gompels' website said at the time that "These restrictions are not something we have decided, they are a criteria [sic] given to us by Public Health England".[63]

Impact[edit source | edit]

Airports[edit source | edit]

The Welsh Government also announced that it would provide financial assistance to state-owned Cardiff Airport, to maintain solvency during reduced operations.[64]

"At risk" population[edit source | edit]

Letters were sent to over 80,000 people who were deemed to be the 'most vulnerable', advising them to stay indoors for 12 to 16 weeks.[65] The Welsh Government began sending food boxes to the most in need, in order to help them stay in their homes.[66][67]

On 8 April, it was confirmed that the Welsh Government had shared data of those identified as extremely vulnerable to serious illness as a result of exposure to COVID-19. This was done to help them get priority online food deliveries rather than risk leaving their homes.[65]

Businesses[edit source | edit]

On 30 March, a £1.1 billion support package for businesses and public services affected by the pandemic, included a £500 million economy crisis fund, £100 million in loans, and £400 million in emergency funding.[68]

Education[edit source | edit]

On 15 March Bangor University cancelled all lectures with immediate effect, with teaching resuming online on 23 March. Cardiff University and Swansea University both also announce that they would be moving towards remote learning and online lectures from the 23 March.[69]

On 18 March, the Welsh Government announced that all schools and nurseries in Wales would be closing by 20 March, initially for a period of four weeks, and Education Minister Kirsty Williams said that it would very likely be for a "considerable period of time". A limited number of schools are remaining open to provide support for key workers and children with additional needs.[13] It was further announced in the following days that all exams, including GCSEs and A-Levels, would be cancelled, with grades being based on existing work and predicted grades.[14]

On 6 April the Welsh Assembly announced funding for free child care for all children of key workers under five years old.[70]

On 3 June it was announced that schools in Wales would reopen on 29 June and that the summer term had been extended by one week to 27 July. In addition the autumn half-term break would be extended by one week.[71]

Health[edit source | edit]

On 1 April, it was announced that during the pandemic home abortions would be allowed for women in the first nine weeks of pregnancy, following an online or telephone consultation.[72] This was part of a significant re-structuring of health care services for women in particular.[73]

Virtual GP appointments were also rolled out across Wales, sooner than originally anticipated, allowing for phone consultations, with video consultations also available if needed.[74]

Politics[edit source | edit]

Plans by the Welsh Government to extend the right to vote to prisoners serving less that were shelved, with ministers unable to commit "any official resource" the changes due to the pandemic. Plans to extend the vote and enfranchise sixteen and seventeen year olds were to continue ahead however.[75]

Prisons[edit source | edit]

On 19 March, it was reported that around 75 officers at HMP Berwyn in Wrexham County Borough were off work due to sickness or self-isolation, and 22 prisoners showing symptoms of coronavirus were being isolated by the prison. The prison had enough staff members to remain fully operational.[76]

On 31 March, three inmates at HMP Swansea had been confirmed as testing positive.[77]

On 4 April it was announced that some low risk prisoners, with two months or less still to serve, would be released on temporary licence. Those released will be electronically tagged. No inmates convicted of COVID-19 offences would be considered for release.[78]

Religious services[edit source | edit]

The Church in Wales announced the suspension of its public gatherings, including church services, along with the postponement of weddings and baptisms. The Muslim Council of Britain and the Roman Catholic church announced similar moves, with many religious services being streamed online.[79][80]

Sports[edit source | edit]

On 13 March, the Six Nations Wales vs Scotland fixture was postponed for a year.[81] The Welsh Rugby Union also suspended all forms of rugby in Wales from 14 to 30 March, which also extended to the end of the season of 20 March.[citation needed]

The Football Association for Wales suspended domestic football matches at all levels in Wales until at least 30 April.[82]

Supermarkets[edit source | edit]

Some supermarkets began to limit purchases of items in high demand. 12 March.

In March 2020, supermarkets announced restrictions on the number of items people could buy, with each company setting their own limits. This was seen as a reaction to a large number of members of the public stockpiling food.[83] Stores began implementing social distancing regulations, with many stores attaching tape to the floor to separate people by two metres (6') and limiting the number of people in the store at a time. Many stores installed protective screens on checkouts to help protect workers.[84]

After new regulations were introduced in England and Scotland in July and August, obliging shoppers to wear face masks, the Welsh government decided not to impose this restriction on shoppers in Wales.[85] Instead, they recommended the use of face masks "where social distancing is difficult". This resulted in criticism from some scientists.[86]

Statistics[edit source | edit]

Cases[edit source | edit]

Situation on 2 June 2020[2][87]
Health board Local authority Cases Tests Total cases
Aneurin Bevan Blaenau Gwent 334 1,747 2,560
Caerphilly 697 4,200
Monmouthshire 342 2,010
Newport 841 4,083
Torfaen 346 2,059
Betsi Cadwaladr Anglesey 225 2,235 2,823
Conwy 544 4,215
Denbighshire 606 4,280
Flintshire 456 3,214
Gwynedd 427 3,979
Wrexham 565 3,940
Cardiff and Vale Cardiff 2,080 10,929 2,740
Vale of Glamorgan 660 4,447
Cwm Taf Morgannwg Bridgend 523 4,244 2,564
Merthyr Tydfil 402 2,015
Rhondda Cynon Taf 1,639 7,795
Hywel Dda Carmarthenshire 732 6,417 1,053
Ceredigion 42 1,392
Pembrokeshire 279 3,226
Powys Powys 286 2,362 286
Swansea Bay Neath Port Talbot 606 4,258 1,873
Swansea 1,267 7,837
Location Unknown 107
Welsh resident outside Wales 115
Wales Total 14,006
Total (2 June) 14,121

Deaths[edit source | edit]

Deaths by local area to 17 April 2020 were published by the Office for National Statistics on 25 April. At this point, deaths had reached 1,016. The figure is higher than that published by Public Health Wales because it included hospitals, care homes, homes, hospices and other settings.[88] This figure may be revised again because a second health board, Hywel Dda, was found to have under-reported 31 deaths in its area.[89]

The table below shows deaths by health board, most of which occurred in hospitals.

Situation on 2 June 2020[3][90]
Health board Total deaths
Aneurin Bevan 267
Betsi Cadwaladr 273
Cardiff and Vale 249
Cwm Taf Morgannwg 287
Hywel Dda 61
Powys 13
Swansea Bay 201
Location Unknown N/A
Welsh resident outside Wales 3
Total (2 June) 1,354

Graphs[edit source | edit]

Total confirmed cases and deaths

New Cases by Week reported

New Deaths by week reported

ONS excess mortality data

The deaths reported by Public Health Wales are only those of hospitalised patients or care home residents where COVID-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and is thought to have been a causative factor in the death.[3] The Office for National Statistics publishes provisional weekly numbers of deaths of those usually resident in Wales, including cases where COVID-19 has been suspected and mentioned on the death certificate, as well as excess mortality data including deaths due to all causes. As of the week ending 7 August 2020, the ONS reported a provisional total of 2,537 deaths in Wales where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.[91]

See also[edit source | edit]

Notes[edit source | edit]

  1. Includes 119 Welsh residents currently outside Wales

References[edit source | edit]

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