Covid morning updates as NHS boss says backlog could take years to clear

The backlog of patients waiting for NHS treatement after the coronavirus pandemic could take years to clear, a Welsh NHS director has warned.

Welsh NHS Confederation director Darren Hughes, who represents the seven local health boards and three NHS trusts, among other healthcare services, said a return to pre-pandemic levels is unlikely for the foreseeable future. He said auditors had predicted it could cost up to £300m per year to deal with the backlog.

“I think if we look forward, Audit Wales this week has estimated it is going to cost anything between £150m and £300m per year for the foreseeable future to deal with the backlog, created by all the things that we couldn’t do during the pandemic, as well as being able to treat people who are getting ill every day,” Mr Hughes told Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales.

Read more:Everything you need to know about the coronavirus pandemic in Wales.

He went on: “Pressure is immense, it’s a whole system issue. There’s the front door that has people arriving with needs of urgent care. There are people in hospitals, and a capacity in hospitals is greatly reduced because of all the infection prevention and control measures we’re having to use. Exactly the same for the ambulance service, it’s not like it was pre-Covid. Ambulances needed to be thoroughly disinfected between calls.

“So capacity is actually down – the number of people we can see everyday is down in primary care, in hospitals. Things are really tough, and I think we need to be honest with the public, it’s going to continue to be tough for the foreseeable future.

“And what I would say to politicians is: we are seeing recognition from the health minister of how serious things are, we’re speaking to politicians of all parties. Things are going to be incredibly tough, not just the this month, this year, but for a few years to come.”

Infection rate in Wales has risen again

Thirteen more people have died with coronavirus in Wales according to the latest update from Public Health Wales.

The data published on Sunday, September 26 also revealed there were 3,303 new positive cases bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 341,641.

The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales based on the cases for every 100,000 people (seven days up to September 20) has consistently climbed over the past week and now stands at 593.9 – up on the 582 reported on Friday.

The local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales is Neath Port Talbot with 909.9 cases per 100,000 population over seven days followed by Merthyr Tydfil with 867 and Rhondda Cynon Taf with 793.3.

Positivity rates across Wales have reached 15.3%, with Neath Port Talbot having the greatest proportion of tests coming back positive at 19.7%. Positivity rates are higher than 11% in all 22 local authority areas in Wales.

Covid has wiped out years of progress on life expectancy

The Covid pandemic has caused the biggest decrease in life expectancy in western Europe since the second world war, according to a new study.

Data from most of the 29 countries – spanning most of Europe, the US and Chile – that were analysed by scientists recorded reductions in life expectancy last year and at a scale that wiped out years of progress, reports The Guardian.

The biggest declines in life expectancy were among males in the US, with a decline of 2.2 years relative to 2019 levels, followed by Lithuanian males (1.7 years).

Dr José Manuel Aburto, a co-lead author of the study, said: “For western European countries such as Spain, England and Wales, Italy, Belgium, among others, the last time such large magnitudes of declines in life expectancy at birth were observed in a single year was during the second world war.”

The findings are contained in a paper published in the International Journal of Epidemiology after the analysis of the 29 countries for which official death registrations for last year had been published. A total of 27 experienced reductions in life expectancy.

Last week, the Office for National Statistics estimated that life expectancy for men in the UK had fallen for the first time in 40 years because of the impact of Covid-19. A boy born between 2018 and 2020 is expected to live until he is 79, down from 79.2 for the period of 2015-17, according to the ONS.

Strictly’s Amy Dowden and Tom Fletcher test positive for Covid

Strictly’s Welsh dancer Amy Dowden and her celebrity partner Tom Fletcher will miss next week’s live show after testing positive for Covid.

In a statement on Sunday afternoon the BBC said: “Tom Fletcher and Amy Dowden have tested positive for Covid-19. The pair are now self-isolating separately following the latest government guidelines. While they will both miss Saturday’s live show, Strictly Come Dancing protocols mean that all being well, they will return the following week.”

Amy also shared the news on Instagram saying she has no symptoms at the moment, but will be planning for the pair’s return.

She said: “Unfortunately @tomfletcher and I have tested positive for Covid-19. I’m not suffering any symptoms but am now isolating at home. I have no doubt that over the next 10 days my mind will be going crazy with choreography ideas ready to get back on the Strictly dance floor for the live show in week 3! Thank you for all of the support and good luck to all of the couples this week. I will be cheering you all on!”

(Image: PA)

The local lockdown experiment that utterly failed and why

Today marks a year since Wales’ two biggest cities, Cardiff and Swansea, went into local lockdown.

These areas followed Caerphilly which was first on September 8 and Rhondda Cynon Taf was also placed under restrictions which began on September 17.

The idea was that these measures would provide a temporary stop gap to bring the virus under control and stop it spreading to other parts of Wales. However, what it actually became was a blackhole that local authorities never came out of as cases either continued to rise or remained stubbornly high. They didn’t stop the contagion either as more local authorities joined the lockdown list until more than half of Wales was living in these local lockdowns.

This period of the pandemic is not only worth looking at because we all lived through this time. It is also key to understanding why the winter of 2020/21 was so devastating. It was in the mismanagement of local lockdowns that the seeds for our miserable winter were allowed to germinate.

A full analysis of the effectiveness of local lockdowns and ultimately their inability to contain the virus before the deadly second wave can be found here.

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