Your Covid morning briefing as Wales scraps ‘dangerous, obscene’ plan to use Ozone cleaners in schools


Here are the coronavirus morning headlines for Friday, October 15, as plans to use ozone machines to disinfect classrooms in Welsh schools have been abandoned.

The £3.31m scheme for 1,800 new machines to help schools in the fight against Covid was announced last month but was almost immediately described as “dangerous, obscene and pointless”.

And a safety review found that the machines were potentially “highly harmful” to children. The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) review concluded the machines were not suitable for an education setting.

The review warned that the gas ozone, which can be used as a disinfectant “is a highly harmful indoor pollutant which is associated with harm to human health at low concentrations and damages diverse and integral components of indoor environments”.

It found that children and those with underlying respiratory conditions are “particularly sensitive to ozone exposure” and that the gas “reacts with a range of compounds present indoors to generate persistent harmful secondary aerosols”.

The study also concluded that the evidence for effective ozone disinfection “is limited in scope and quality”.

The Welsh government has now said the cash for the ozone machine scheme would instead be used in schools and colleges to improve ventilation.

The Welsh Conservatives’ education representative Laura Anne Jones said the Labour policy was “sadly not thought through” and that “educating our young people and keeping them safe has to be the priority”.

Sian Gwenllian, Plaid Cymru’s education spokeswoman, welcomed the move to “pull the plug on the controversial and ill-fated ozone machine scheme”, adding the earmarked funding should go towards improving schools’ air circulation.

Laura Doel, director of National Association of Head Teachers Cymru, said: “We are pleased that additional funding will be made available to schools and we will continue to work with the Welsh Government on the issue of ventilation to ensure that schools have what they need to tackle the problem. It is crucial that schools do not end up having to foot the bill to fix ventilation problems.”

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Cheaper travel tests in England to start on 24 October

Fully vaccinated people arriving in England from countries not on the red list can take a cheaper and quicker lateral flow test rather than the PCR version from October 24.

The change to the post-arrival day two test will come into effect for those returning from half-term breaks.

In Wales, there has been no announcement on tests but First Minister Mark Drakeford has raised concerns about the change to testing.

He has accused by the UK Government of risking the health of the country by scrapping day two PCR tests for international travellers entering the UK. Read why here.

In England, passengers will have to upload a photo of their test and booking reference supplied by the private provider to verify results as soon as possible, with free confirmatory NHS PCR tests for any positive cases, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

Eligible travellers will be able to order lateral flow tests from private testing providers, with a list of approved private providers going live on GOV.UK on October 22.

Passengers are also able to book to have a test which they can take on their arrival into the UK at testing centres located in some airports.

Anyone who tests positive will need to self-isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “We want to make going abroad easier and cheaper, whether you’re travelling for work or visiting friends and family.

“Lateral flow tests will be available later this month for those returning from half-term holidays.

“This change to testing is only possible thanks to the incredible progress of our vaccination programme, which means we can safely open up travel as we learn to live with the virus.”

Latest infection rates for Wales

Twelve more people have died with coronavirus in Wales according to latest figures from Public Health Wales (PHW).

The data published on Thursday, October 14, also revealed there were 2,635 new positive cases bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 389,152. The 12 additional deaths recorded brings the overall toll to 5,990 in Wales.

The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales based on the cases for every 100,000 people (seven days up to October 9) now stands at 531.9 – a rise on the 522.9 reported on Wednesday. The figures announced on Thursday are for the 24-hour period up to 9am on October 13 according to PHW.

The local authority with the highest infection rate in Wales is now Torfaen with 726.9 cases per 100,000 population over seven days followed by Vale of Glamorgan with 717.1 and Cardiff with 698.3. Cases for your area here.

Unvaccinated patients seriously ill in hospital with Covid ‘refusing modern medicine’

An intensive care consultant has said that some patients in the third wave have refused “modern medicine.”

Dr Ami Jones, an ITU consultant who works with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board, explained the dangerous misinformation she has heard from patients during an interview with BBC Wales.

“The third wave is the only time I’ve really kind of had patients who are like, ‘this is rubbish, I’m not getting vaccinated, I don’t believe in this, I don’t want your modern medicine,'” said Dr Jones.

“That’s really tough I think, particularly by the third wave because it’s almost a kind of treatable disease now.”

She added: “If you have a vaccine then you’re pretty likely to not die. If you don’t have a vaccine, we’re back into wave one and we don’t know if you’re going to live or die. But it’s really, really hard when that patient is looking back at you saying: ‘This is rubbish, I don’t believe you.’

“We’ve even had people who won’t have the vaccine, don’t believe in that, but then want experimental [treatment].”

Dr Jones added that some patients have asked for ivermectin and particular vitamins.

False negative Covid test results confirmed at English site

People who got a negative result from a Covid testing site in Berkshire earlier this month are being told to book another test, amid fears they were mistakenly given the all-clear.

Some PCR tests carried out at Newbury Showground resulted in false negatives, West Berkshire Council said.

The BBC has been told the problems relate to one specific lab, rather than the site, and have now been fixed.

But some other people in south-west England are thought to be affected too.

Health officials are set to give out more details later on Friday.

The coronavirus testing site – an events venue in a village in the outskirts of Newbury – is operated by the government.

Most PCR tests are taken at sites such as this and the samples are sent off to a lab for analysis, with the results then communicated to the tested person, usually by text or email, within 72 hours.

West Berkshire Council said: “Over the past month, some PCR tests completed at the Newbury Showground testing site have had results sent out that may have incorrectly shown as negative for Covid-19.

“If you took a PCR test between 3 and 12 October which was negative, we strongly recommend a retest for you and for any close contacts.”

Australian state to end hotel quarantine for vaccinated travellers

Australia’s most populous state has said it will end hotel quarantine for vaccinated international travellers as the government accelerates the lifting of pandemic restrictions.

New South Wales (NSW) State Premier Dominic Perrottet announced on Friday that fully vaccinated travellers who tested negative to Covid-19 before flying to Sydney would be spared 14 days in hotel quarantine from November 1.

The major relaxation of the state’s pandemic restrictions was announced four days after Sydney came out of a 106-day lockdown.

“We can’t live here in a hermit kingdom. We’ve got to open up and this decision today is a big one, but it is the right one to get New South Wales connected globally,” Mr Perrottet said.

“It’s going to be great for our tourism industry, it’s going to be great for tourist operators.”

The federal government announced two weeks ago that vaccinated Australians would be free to travel overseas from November for the first time since March last year.

New South Wales would become the first state to open because it would be the first to reach the benchmark of 80% of the population aged 16 and older becoming fully vaccinated.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has yet to say when tourists will be welcomed back to Australia, but has ruled out this year.

After Australian permanent residents and citizens, skilled migrants and students would be given priority over international tourists, he said.

Limits on hotel rooms available for quarantine have been a major barrier for Australians who want to come home.

It is unclear whether returning Australians will be able to avoid hotel quarantine in other states by landing in Sydney then catching domestic flights across state lines.

Africa detecting just one in seven Covid-19 cases, says WHO study

Only one in seven Covid-19 infections in Africa is being detected, meaning the continent’s estimated infection level may be 59 million people, according to a new study by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

“With limited testing, we’re still flying blind in far too many communities in Africa,” said Matshidiso Moeti, regional director for the WHO in Africa.

To get more accurate numbers of infections and to better curb transmission, the UN plans to increase rapid diagnostic testing in eight African countries with the goal of testing seven million people in the next year.

The initiative is a “radically” new approach that shifts from passive to active surveillance by working with communities, said Ms Moeti.

The rapid tests are affordable, reliable and easy to use and will provide results within 15 minutes, she said.

An additional 360,000 cases are expected to be detected by using the tests, with approximately 75% of them being asymptomatic or mild, she said.

The initiative will be based on what is called a ring strategy that has been used to eradicate smallpox and was implemented during Ebola outbreaks. It is called a ring method because it will target people living within a 100-metre radius around new confirmed cases.

Hungary reports five-month high in new daily Covid-19 cases

Hungary has recorded its highest daily number of new Covid-19 cases in five months amid a spike in coronavirus deaths and hospital admissions.

Officials reported 1,141 new cases, the highest daily total since May 14.

The increase pushed the number of cases so far this week to a 37% jump over the same period last week.

The country of nearly 10 million people has 742 Covid-19 patients in hospital, the highest number since early June.

Pandemic containment measures in Hungary have been largely repealed since early July, and masks are not required in any public areas.

On Monday, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences recommended that masks be worn in enclosed areas, at events and on public transportation in order to “curb the fourth wave of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

As of Thursday, 66.6% of Hungarian adults were fully vaccinated, below the European Union average of 74.7%, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

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