Another Welsh health board has reintroduced face mask mandates in response to soaring Covid cases.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board yesterday announced all staff and visitors would now have to wear coverings in all settings again unless exempt.
Hospital bosses said the move was due to the ‘continuing rise in the prevalence of Covid’ in the community.
‘Please follow this guidance to help us reduce the impact of Covid on our patients, workforce and services,’ the announcement read.
‘In addition to wearing a face covering, it is important to continue to maintain social distancing where possible.’
It is the second Welsh NHS body to reimpose mask mandates for staff and visitors.
Wales, under the leadership of Mark Drakeford, has been quick to impose pandemic restrictions and slower to withdraw them than England.
Labour’s Mr Drakeford accused Boris Johnson — who was first to pursue the Living With Covid strategy — of ‘ignoring the science’ for refusing to reintroduce curbs at the start of the year.
As well as in Wales, hospitals in England have also started to bring back mask rules because of the spike in infections.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is the latest Welsh NHS organisation to impose a mask mandate
The decision follows that of Hywel Dda University Health Boardwhich which has not only brought back facemasks but has also imposed visiting restrictions
Wales, led by First Minister Mark Drakeford (pictured), has been quicker to impose and slower to withdraw pandemic rules than other UK nations
Hospitals bring back mandatory face masks
Hospitals are set to bring back the wearing of face coverings and reinstate social distancing measures in a bid to curb a recent surge in Covid cases.
Trusts from Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Nottinghamshire, Devon and Wales have all reinstated guidance that urges people to mask-up because of a spike in infections.
Figures from NHS England show there were around 10,658 patients hospitalised with the virus on Monday.
Infections have doubled in a fortnight across England — with around 1,000 patients now being admitted with the virus each day.
There are fears that a new sweep of the latest Covid variant could decimate NHS staff levels once more, causing knock-on effects for ambulance wait times and the availability of specialists and operations.
CAVUHB chief executive Suzanne Rankin said yesterday that wearing a mask, while inconvenient, could make a big difference.
‘Wearing a face covering may feel like a minor inconvenience, but they make a big difference in protecting the vulnerable people in hospitals and helping reduce the impact of Covid on services,’ she said.
CAVUHB’s reintroduction of face masks follows that of Hywel Dda University Health Board in Haverfordwest.
As well as coverings, only patients receiving end-of-life care and special exemptions approved by the nurse in charge can now receive visitors.
HDUHB’s director of nursing quality and patient experience, Mandy Rayani, said: ‘We have made the decision to reinforce these measures at Withybush Hospital to reduce the risk to our patients and staff and thank people for their support and co-operation at this time.’
Covid cases in Wales, much like the rest of the UK, have spiked in recent weeks due to the new Omicron sub-variants BA.4 and BA.5.
Last week, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported about one in 30 people in Wales had Covid on June 24 in its weekly infection survey, which is now considered the best barometre of the outbreak since free-testing was axed.
Similar Covid rates have also been reported across the border England, where trusts in Hampshire, Nottinghamshire and Devon have reinstated mask rules.
Throughout the pandemic, Mr Drakeford’s administration has been quick to impose restrictions like mask mandates and slow to withdraw them compared to England.
Wales famously decided to close nightclubs and enforce social distancing in businesses after Christmas in a bid to tackle the original Omicron wave.
In contrast, England kept its clubs and businesses open, instead advised people to test themselves before going to events and ‘prioritise’ which they attended to reduce the spread of the virus.
Mr Drakeford has also previously launched tirades at Mr Johnson regarding England lifting Covid restrictions.
In January, when the UK was dealing with a wave of Omicron, he called England an international ‘outlier’ for avoiding reimposing any measures and accused the PM of overseeing a ‘politically paralysed’ administration.
His comments were made at a press conference where he insisted Covid restrictions must stay in place so Wales could weather an upcoming Omicron ‘storm’.
The UK’s recent Covid spike is being driven by the spread of BA.4 and BA.5, which are thought to be more infectious but just as mild as the original Omicron strain.
Data from the ONS’s infection survey showed 2.3million people had Covid in the week ending June 24, a 32 per cent rise from the previous week.
Celebrations for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, half-term holidays and warm weather are also thought to be fuelling the latest surge. Some have also pointed to Britons mistaking Covid symptoms for hay fever.
The UK Government has said it is monitoring the situation ‘very quickly’ but does not yet plan to reintroduce restrictions.
There are fears that the latest Covid surge could cause NHS staff levels to drop once more, causing knock-on effects for ambulance wait times and the availability of specialists and operations.
Will Covid ruin summer AGAIN?
Summer holiday plans for millions of Brits could be in jeopardy as experts fear foreign destinations may reinstate tough Covid curbs to counter surging infections.
Tests, facemasks and vaccine passes could return to favoured holiday hotspots and airports could see further chaos if the number of self-isolating workers skyrockets.
Now MPs and experts have publicly shared their concerns for the future of millions of Brits’ summer holiday plans which could hang in the balance.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, warned foreign getaways and even staycations could be scuppered.
She told the Mirror: ‘It is possible that holiday plans will be ruined due to rising Covid rates in the UK.
‘Other countries could reintroduce restrictions on arrivals from Britain, and transport companies – already in crisis from the Government’s mishandling of Brexit and industrial action, are likely to see an increase in staff shortages with more off sick.’