A social care leader has urged people to act responsibly and “not give Granny covid for Christmas”.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales – which represents nearly 500 care homes and domiciliary care providers – was speaking after First Minister Mark Drakeford warned there could be a second firebreak lockdown if current measures failed to control the Covid-19 virus.
Although Mr Drakeford said a new lockdown was “not a foregone conclusion”, he said the NHS would not be able to cope if we continued to see an increase in coronavirus-related admissions in the coming weeks, on top of the normal winter pressures.
The average infection rate in Wales now stands at 380 per 100,000 people, with a positivity rates of 17%. Meanwhile, the R rate has increased to 1.27 with a double time of just 11.7 days.
Rules will be relaxed for five days during the Christmas period, December 23-27, across the UK to allow three households to meet.
Mr Kreft stressed Care Forum Wales would strongly support tougher action by the Welsh Government if it was not possible to control and suppress the virus.
Mario Kreft MBE, the chair of Care Forum Wales, said: “We are standing shoulder to shoulder with the First Minister and Welsh Government on the urgent need to control the virus. We fully support the measure to protect the NHS and social care.
“The bottom line is that we need to save lives. People have to take responsibility because we can’t afford for the NHS to be overwhelmed to the point where it can’t treat people.
“The coronavirus pandemic is the single biggest crisis we have had to face since the Second World War and we are at war again – this time against the virus.
“The rising infection rates are a clear indication that the enemy is at the door and we have to shield social care to protect our residents who are uniquely at risk because of age and infirmity.
“The infection rates are rising and Christmas has the potential to turbo charge the virus so it is vital that we do everything humanly possible to suppress it and bring down the R rate.
“The arrival of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has provided us with a ray of hope that this is the beginning of the end of this terrible virus – but we’ve got a long way to go yet so we must not relax our vigilant approach.
“Fundamentally, the spread of the virus has been down to community transmission because far too many people have been flouting Welsh Government guidelines.
“It is absolutely essential that people behave responsibly in the run up to the festive season and beyond – the last thing you want to do is give Granny covid for Christmas.
“We want coronavirus to be the ghost of Christmas past. If we all behave, this virus will not be the ghost of Christmas future and next year we will hopefully be able to celebrate properly with our families once again.
“Saving lives has to be our absolute priority. If you’re not prepared to consider the people who fall ill or die from Covid-19, then think about the people who are going to be seriously ill with other health problems who cannot get into hospital.”
Mr Drakeford added: “The process of offering vaccinations to everyone in Wales will take time and it will be a while before we feel the benefits of this genuine breakthrough in the pandemic.
“In the meantime, we must continue our efforts to control the spread of coronavirus in Wales. Unfortunately, we continue to see rapid growth in the number of coronavirus cases in all part of Wales, eroding the hard won gains from the firebreak period.
“We have updated our covid control plan with a new set of four alert levels. The plan, which will be published next week, sets out in detail how these national measures will be introduced in a uniform and predictable way depending on the rates of the virus and the level of risk.
“The plan sets out four alert levels – from low-risk alert level one to alert level four:
• Alert level one/low-risk – this represents the closest to normality we are likely to have before the summer and the widespread availability and take-up of vaccination.
• Alert level two/medium-risk – additional, targeted controls are in place to maintain infection rates at lower levels. These may be complemented by more targeted local restrictions to manage hotspots or specific incidents and outbreaks.
• Alert level three/high-risk – these are the strictest package of restrictions, short of a firebreak or lockdown.
• Alert level four/very high risk – restrictions at this level are equivalent to a lockdown and reflect the seriousness of the situation.
“We are currently at alert level three. The situation in Wales is very serious; rates of coronavirus are very high and the NHS is under sustained pressure. Last week, we strengthened the national measures to respond to this situation – we must give these a chance to work.
“If rates keep on rising and the pressure on the NHS continues unchecked, we will have to consider a move to the next alert level – level four – immediately after the Christmas period.
“Taking action now to reduce the number of people we see and mix with can help determine what happens after Christmas.”