New guidance on when personal protective equipment (PPE) should be used by frontline staff has been issued.
Following a review of the guidelines, PPE should now be worn when treating suspected, as well as confirmed, coronavirus cases.
Previously it was only supposed to be used when dealing with patients exhibiting symptoms or confirmed to have Covid-19.
Wales' Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, welcomed the new UK-wide advice but recognised that by extending the remit for using PPE, there would be "additional challenges in meeting the greater demand."
Dr Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said the new advice was simplified and recognised the fears and anxiety amongst staff.
The new guidelines mean that some items of PPE may be used more often.
Many heath and social care staff have already expressed concerns about the availability of protective equipment. Mr Gething reassured people that they are distributing the equipment but it will take time to have a consistent flow of supplies.
Over the last few weeks, we have distributed more than five million items of PPE from our pandemic stocks – over and above the normal supplies held by the NHS – to ensure staff have the protective equipment they need.
Dr Frank Atherton said they are working closely with all UK nations to strengthen the supply chain of PPE but they are also looking within Wales to find a local developer.
Key changes to the new guidance:
All health and social care staff within two metres of a suspected or confirmed coronavirus patient should wear an apron, gloves, fluid repellent surgical mask and eye protection. Previously PPE was only required when caring for people with symptoms.
PPE is still only recommended for use by health and social care workers as they are most at risk of exposure to the virus.
Some PPE (masks, visors and gowns) which are currently classed as “single use” will be classed as “sessional use” in some situations.
The use of gowns will be extended, particularly when aerosol-generating procedures are taking place.
The new guidance has been welcomed by the British Medical Association in Wales.
Dr David Bailey, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh Council said the new advice will help reassure healthcare staff but it will also intensify the need to increase PPE supplies.
The new guidelines will require an urgent increase in the supply of PPE, so we reiterate our earlier calls for Welsh Government to find a reliable way to substantially increase the production and distribution of this equipment as a matter of urgency.