Swansea medic’s stark warning after 40 die from virus in a month

People with coronavirus symptoms, however mild, must self-isolate and get a test because people are dying in Swansea Bay and health and social care services are at the point of getting overwhelmed, a public health leader has said.

Dr Keith Reid, director of public health at Swansea Bay University Health Board, said 40 people had died in the last four weeks and some of the 166 people they were treating for the virus were under the age of 40.

He added that the rate of infection in Swansea was now significantly higher than the Welsh average.

“We are now in a very serious situation in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot,” said Dr Reid.

“Covid-19 is affecting our communities significantly, and this is impacting the way that health and social care services are run.”

If you have symptoms of the virus, the rest of your household should also self-isolate until the test result is known. They can come out of isolation if the test is negative – but must isolate for 14 days if the test comes back positive.

What more do you think needs to be done to slow the spread of the virus in Swansea Bay? Tell us what you think here.

But Dr Reid said habits were hard to break.

“We know from recent cases that people in Swansea Bay are still meeting up with others that they do not live with, which is helping the virus spread,” he said.

“During this fire-break lockdown we should only be meeting with people we live with unless living alone or we have child sharing arrangements.”

Other measures such as social distancing and hand hygiene must also be observed, he said.

The warning comes as:

– 40 people have died from Covid-19 in Swansea and Neath Port Talbot in the four weeks up to November 3

– Hospital staff are treating 166 patients with the virus, some under the age of 40, and some in intensive care

– Capacity to deal with non-Covid patients is becoming more and more constrained

– The number of cases per 100,000 population is now 385.4 in Swansea and 344 in Neath Port Talbot, more than double a fortnight ago. The seven day rolling average for Wales was 260 as of yesterday, November 4.

– Neath Port Talbot Council has suspended day services and respite for services for at least two weeks following outbreaks among users and staff

– Swansea has more than 100 local authority residential beds occupied at the moment and in September alone had 652 new inquiries seeking support.

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Dr Reid added: “It is important that you know the virus is not just affecting older and vulnerable people.

“There are patients under 40 years old who are in hospital with Covid-19.”

“Of those currently in our hospitals’ critical care beds, a significant number are under 60 years old.”

“In the past four weeks, we have lost 40 patients to COVID-19 in the Swansea Bay area – each of these someone’s mother, father, husband, wife, partner, sister, brother, friend or loved one.

“At present, we have 166 people being treated for COVID-19 in our hospitals – with a number of these in critical care.

“We are now consistently testing over 5,000 people each week for coronavirus. In the last week, nearly one in five of those tested were positive.”

He added that local Test, Trace and Protect teams were straining to match demand.

“We have also seen coronavirus spreading in workplaces. Often this is happening in break rooms and canteens, and when people share vehicles. It’s easy to fall back into old routines but coronavirus doesn’t go away while we’re at work. We still need to stay two metres apart, wear face coverings where needed and keep our hands clean.”

“We need your support to get through this second wave and to give us the best possible chance to continue providing the system of critical local support services for our most vulnerable residents. By making these little changes now, you can stop COVID-19 spreading and keep Swansea Bay’s health and social care services running.”

Andrew Jarrett, director of social services at Neath Port Talbot Council, said he understood the suspension of day services and respite would place pressure on families and carers.

He added: “Homecare and residential care services are also under increasing strain, as more and more staff have to isolate, either because they have become infected or because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.

“We will continue to provide these essential services as best we can to help keep our communities safe – but we cannot do this without you.”

Dave Howes, Swansea Council’s social services director, said “we are in for a long and difficult winter”, and added that more staff were being recruited.

“But I can’t stress this enough, we need the public to do their bit to help break the spread of the virus,” he said.

Dr Reid said the virus was also spreading in workplace canteens, break rooms and shared vehicles.

He said: “It’s easy to fall back into old routines but coronavirus doesn’t go away while we’re at work.

“We still need to stay two metres apart, wear face coverings where needed and keep our hands clean.

“We need your support to get through this second wave and to give us the best possible chance to continue providing the system of critical local support services for our most vulnerable residents.”

WalesOnline – Swansea