Isolation and social distancing moves proportionate to delay virus – Wales chief medical officer

Household isolation and social distancing measures are “proportionate” to delay the coronavirus outbreak, the chief medical officer for Wales has said.

Dr Frank Atherton said the steps would buy time for the NHS and allow preparations to be made for social care.

He told a press conference in Cardiff: “There is a huge amount of work going on to prepare the NHS, to prepare social care for this but we need to buy some time.

“The message to everybody now is these measures are proportionate, they are guided by the science and everybody needs to take account of them.

“It’s no longer appropriate for people to be gathering in large groups.”

Dr Atherton (pictured) said around 70,000 people in Wales were “particularly vulnerable” and he expected further measures to protect them would be announced later this week.

He also said the issue of closing schools was “kept under constant review” and that priority testing of healthcare workers for Covid-19 was also being discussed, with the potential for it to extend to the police and fire service.

He said: “We need to keep our essential staff in work where possible.

“We’re already seeing that the measures announced this week are removing people from the workforce.

“So we are actively looking at processes to test healthcare workers.

“In fact, I issued some guidance yesterday to the health system as to who should have priority for testing so that we can make sure that essential healthcare staff are brought back quickly into the workforce if that’s appropriate.

“I absolutely recognise that that process, as we ramp up our testing capacity in Wales and across the UK, that process needs to extend beyond healthcare into social care in particular and into schools in particular as well.

“There are other sectors – police, fire and rescue – that we also need to think about. This will affect all aspects of the public sector and beyond.”

Dr Atherton said it was now assumed the virus was “circulating widely” in the community, but that “well over 80%” of cases in Wales have had a mild form and have recovered or are recovering.

He also said plans were under way to double Wales’s number of critical care beds, of which there are currently about 150.

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