Welsh Government apologises after Covid-19 letter mistake causes ‘unnecessary danger’

The Welsh Government has apologised after thousands of letters warning people with underlying health conditions to stay at home during the coronavirus pandemic were sent to the wrong addresses.

Some 75,000 people in Wales have been identified as being at very high risk of severe illness from Covid-19 and were advised to stay at home for 12 weeks.

But 13,000 letters, from Wales’ chief medical officer, went to previous addresses of the intended recipients.

All the letters have been reissued with the Government blaming a “processing error” but opposition politicians said it had put people in “unnecessary danger” and demanded answers to how it had happened.

The letters should have been delivered by April 3 and also contained information and advice, including how those who have no-one else to support them can get medication and other essential items like food.

Those eligible for the letter qualify for priority delivery slots from supermarkets.

Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the mistake happened after data was processed at “remarkable speed”.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Due to a processing error within the NHS Wales Informatics Service, some shielding letters were posted to a previous address, where the intended recipient had recently moved.

“All letters have since been reissued to the correct addresses.

“We provided all local authorities with the correct details from the start of this process, and they have been directly contacting each person involved over the past two weeks.

“Supermarkets had also received the correct addresses and have been using these to prioritise delivery slots for people shielding.

“We fully understand the concern this would have caused people and sincerely apologise for the mistake.”

Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Delyth Jewell (pictured) said some of the most vulnerable people in Wales had been put in “unnecessary danger”.

“I think it is a mistake that should not have happened and I am glad the Welsh Government has apologised and we really need to find out how such a fundamental error occurred,” she said.

“We have been hearing for a few weeks now how important it was that the very select group of people that received these shielding letters listened to the advice, that it would give them priority slots for supermarket deliveries.

“It would have given these 13,000 people a false sense that they were not at greatest risk and they may well have been going out to shops because they were not able to get delivery slots.

“It has put people at an unnecessary and unacceptable risk. A simple apology is welcome, but it is not enough, and we need to find out how this happened and be confident that no mistake like this will happen again.”

Conservative Assembly shadow health minister Angela Burns added: “For weeks people who believe that they should be shielding have been waiting for confirmation that this is the case, and for some people the letter may have been required for them to be allowed to stay at home by their employer.

“But it’s the confusion at this time of heightened anxiety that is having the biggest impact.

“Some people have reported having been contacted by supermarkets claiming they’re on the list, without any official confirmation from the Government.

“This uncertainty needs to end and it needs to end now.”

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