Coronavirus: Wales ‘could have done’ to prepare for Covid-19 crisis

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There were 666 cases of coronavirus recorded when lockdown was introduced in Wales

Wales should have been better prepared when coronavirus arrived in February, according to the chair of the Senedd’s health and social care committee.

Dai Lloyd said Wales “did not have” appropriate coronavirus testing capacity and did not have enough personal protective equipment (PPE).

The first minister said it would have been difficult to persuade people in Wales to introduce lockdown earlier.

But Dr Lloyd, who is also a GP, said: “We could have done more.”

Coronavirus was declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) on 30 January and Wales’ first coronavirus case was confirmed on 28 February.

The first death with coronavirus in Wales was on 16 March and lockdown began on 23 March by which time there had been 16 deaths and 666 positive cases reported by Public Health Wales (PHW).

“We knew it was coming, we knew in January that there was a pandemic and pandemic means an epidemic everywhere so we should have been preparing,” Dr Lloyd told Sunday Supplement on BBC Radio Wales.

“We didn’t have the testing capacity at the start and governments at all levels didn’t recognise the importance of testing despite the WHO saying test, test, test and contact trace.

“We should have had the PPE stocks ready – and we were nowhere near that.”

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A report said Wales had fewer deaths per person than other parts of the UK at the start of the pandemic

At least 2,470 people in Wales have died of coronavirus and at its height in April, 43 deaths were being recorded a day in Wales with 164 people with the virus in Welsh intensive care units.

“Lots of people thought it would be just like the flu and we’d heard of Sars and we should have regarded Covid as like Sars, particularly nasty and particularly lethal,” added Dr Lloyd, the Plaid Cymru MS for South West Wales.

“Governments hadn’t really treated the possibility of a pandemic with any seriousness and as a society we have forgotten how serious infectious diseases can be. We think we’ve got antibiotics, let’s get on with it. This is certainly a wake-up call.”

“We saw what was happening in other countries and saw the horror, if nothing else that was a warning to us,” said Angela Burns, the Welsh Conservatives’ new spokeswoman for government resilience and efficiency.

“The organ of government is slow to gear up, it’s like a great big machine and we were not fast enough at the beginning.

“We needed to be far more alert and have resource planning in place with really good contract management in place to get the stuff we needed.”

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Planes arrived in Wales carrying PPE after the initial shortage

Stay-at-home lockdown restrictions were eased earlier in July.

The number of patients with coronavirus in intensive beds has fallen to 10, and in the last week there have been no Covid-19 deaths recorded by PHW in four of the seven days.

Mark Drakeford said he started lockdown on 23 March “more because of the circulation of the virus in London… than because we thought that the virus was already in rapid circulation in Wales”.

“I think that at the point we did it, it was possible to convince people of the need to do it,” the first minister told BBC Politics Wales.

“Had we done it much earlier, I think it would have been more difficult to have persuaded people in Wales, at least, that the virus was in such rapid circulation, that such a drastic set of decisions was needed.”