THE First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford began his press conference today by saying a heart felt thank you to the small army of people who have been working around the clock in all weathers vaccinating the people of Wales.
Mr Drakeford said that the vaccination programme had gone from strength to strength getting faster and faster vaccinating people in wales as every day goes by.
He said: “As of 15 minutes ago 362,000 people have received their first dose.”
Over the last week someone has been vaccinated in Wales every 5 seconds.
He said that there were now 400 GP surgeries, 34 vaccination centres and 17 hospitals involved in vaccinating in Wales.
“It has been an incredible effort and we can be rightly proud about what our NHS is achieving for us in Wales” he said.
He gave the figure of cases of Covid-19 in Wales as 175 per 100,000 in the population. He said that it was encouraging that it was the result of ‘the efforts of the people of Wales’ and ‘the sacrifices they have made over the last six weeks’.
Mr Drakeford said that the numbers in hospital with Covid-19 had stabilised but that the NHS was still under sustained pressure.
The First Minister was as cautious as ever when he said that despite the real progress it was ‘too early to lift lockdown restrictions’ and that Wales would ‘remain at Alert Level 4’ for a further three weeks.
‘Stay at home and work from home for a while longer’, he urged.
He said that when it came to lifting restrictions ‘it would be the same approach during the first lockdown’, which was ‘careful, gradual and always with public health safety at the forefront of our decisions’.
“There will be two small but important changes to the restrictions” he said, which included from tomorrow two people from different households can exercise outdoors together and people can change their support bubbles in line with new guidance that will be published.
The First Minister said that he wanted to address young people in Wales directly and he said that he understood the real difficulty and distress they had experienced this year.
He said: “Getting you back into school and college for face to face is our top priority in the Welsh Government.
“If infections continue to fall we would like to see children returning to school after half term starting with the youngest children in our primary schools.”
He said that he would be working intensively with teachers, unions and local authorities as they keep parents up to date with the plans.
There was hope for businesses in the hospitality and leisure and tourism industry with payments for businesses paying non-domestic rates and payments for businesses, which had not been captured in the system of financial aid.
Businesses receiving small business rate relief of rateable value of £12,000 or less will receive £3,000. Businesses with a rateable value of up to £150,000 will receive £5,000. Supply chain businesses can also apply for support if they have had a reduction in turnover of more than 40%.
The First Minister once again paused to remember the thousands of people who have lost their lives. “It has been a long difficult year” he said.
He emphasised that they were not numbers but close friends, family members with lives ahead of them.
The First Minister concluded by saying that he had been on his feet at the press conference for over and hour and in that time he had been talking over a thousand people in Wales would have been vaccinated.
He said: “That is how fast the system is working and that is how fast people in that informal care group will find themselves being drawn into the system as well.”