People in Wales urged to ‘stick to the rules’ as vaccine rollout progresses

PA

A public health director for Wales has urged people to “stick to the rules over the next few weeks” as figures published at the weekend showed a continuing decline in coronavirus cases and progress in the vaccine rollout.

Public Health Wales said 73.8% of those over 80 have received their first dose of the vaccine, along with 74.5% of care home residents and 78.8% of care home staff, as of midday on Sunday.

A total of 403,463 first doses and 786 second doses have been given so far in the nation.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set the target of delivering a first dose to 15 million people in the top priority groups, including all over-70s in the UK, by February 15 – with 8,378,940 having had their first jab so far.

Figures for the seven days to January 25 show the coronavirus transmission rate in Wales is continuing to decline and is considerably lower than the UK average – at 173.4 daily new cases per 100,000 people, compared with 306.4 per 100,000 nationally.

Dr Robin Howe, incident director for the coronavirus outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said he supports the Welsh government’s decision on Saturday to allow two people from different households to exercise together outdoors, due to the “downward trend in the numbers of positive cases”.

He added, though, that case numbers are still high and hospitals are still under “extreme pressure”.

Dr Howe urged people in Wales to “adopt the same mindset for this lockdown as in March 2020” due to the circulation of more infectious variants.

“This is a crucial time. We must ensure that we stick to the rules over the next few weeks so that the number of cases continues to reduce and that hospitals can start to recover, while the vaccination programme is under way to protect the most vulnerable in our communities,” he said.

“The effects of the vaccines may not be seen nationally for some time and everyone – including those who have been vaccinated – must continue to follow the advice on keeping Wales safe.”

There have been a total of 192,282 confirmed coronavirus cases in Wales since the pandemic started and 4,754 deaths.

This comes after First Minister Mark Drakeford said he hopes to “take advantage” of its lower transmission rate to get pupils back to school ahead of other UK nations.

The Welsh Labour leader said a phased return to the classroom, starting with primary school children, could begin “straight after half term” in mid-February if Covid cases continue to fall, whereas Mr Johnson has said he is considering children in England returning on March 8 at the earliest.

Mr Drakeford said on Friday that, following a three-week review, it is still too early to relax lockdown restrictions which have been in place since December 20, despite the promising figures.

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