'All people over 70 in Wales will receive coronavirus vaccine by mid-February', Health Minister says

Credit: PA

The Welsh Government will aim to vaccinate 700,000 people by mid-February, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

The figure will include all care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care staff, everyone over 70 and anyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable.

The health minister said all those over 50 will be vaccinated by Spring, while all other age groups will get a vaccine by autumn.

Latest figures from Public Health Wales show 86,039 people have received their first dose, up from 49,403.

Vaughan Gething said: ''If we can vaccinate this group, it would protect the people most at risk of serious illness and harm if they catch coronavirus. 

''By the spring, subject to supply, we will have offered vaccination to everyone in the phase one priority groups – that’s everyone over 50 and all those who are at risk because they have an underlying health condition.

 ''By the autumn, our focus will be on offering Covid vaccines to everyone else.''

Wales currently have 22 vaccinations centres which will increase to 35 Credit: Welsh Government

Gething said the Welsh Government will open more vaccination centres across Wales to administer vaccines. Currently there are 22 but these will increase to 35 in the coming weeks.

By the end of this week, over 100 GP practices will be running clinics with the number increasing to 250 by the end of January.

The health minister said there would have to be a ''trade off'' to allow GP staff to administer the vaccine.

He said: ''You can't do that and manage to maintain every other part of our health service, including primary care.

''There are choices to be made about where and how those normal activities are run and whether we can pause some of them to deal with the enormous priority of the vaccination programme.''

The Royal College of GPs welcomed the announcement of the vaccination plan, saying vaccinations in Wales have had ''a difficult start.''

Dr Peter Saul said: ''One of the things that have been missing which has been addressed today has been clarity in our programme.

''The second issue in Wales is we've got seven health boards, each having a different flavour of vaccine delivery and I think that's caused confusion not just among patients but also doctors and nurses.

''The messages we need as health professionals is clarity about how it's going to be delivered and a programme of when. We got some of that today and let's hope in the next week or two it gets fleshed out in more detail.''

Latest figures from Public Health Wales show 17 more people have died after testing positive for coronavirus and 1,793 more cases have been confirmed.

Public Health Wales said Coronavirus cases in Wales are "cause for serious concern"

Dr Robin Howe, incident director for the coronavirus outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: "The number of positive coronavirus cases remains extremely high in Wales and is cause for serious concern."

On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said lockdown measures, which have been in place in Wales since December 20, would continue for another three weeks along with "strengthened" restrictions affecting supermarkets, workplaces and schools.

He said schools and colleges would stay closed to most pupils until the February half-term unless there was a "significant reduction" in Covid-19 cases.

North Wales Police said "individuals" were arrested on Saturday night for failing to provide details after breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Superintendent Nick Evans said: "Wales is under Alert Level 4 restrictions and infections are dangerously high.

"Our teams will therefore continue to target those who are blatantly breaching the rules, placing others at risk and putting further demand on our over-stretched NHS.

"Level 4 restrictions state that exercise should start and finish from home and that nobody should be travelling unless essential.

"The restrictions are in place to prevent the spread of the virus, protect the NHS and save lives. They apply to every single one of us and it's disappointing to think that some do not believe the restrictions apply to them."