Health Minister: Planned vaccine slowdown should not prevent Wales reaching next target as next stage begins

More than three quarters of a million people have now been vaccinated in Wales Credit: PA Images

A planned slowdown in the coronavirus vaccination rollout should not prevent the Welsh Government from meeting its next target, the Health Minister has said.

Vaughan Gething said it was hoped vaccine supply would increase again by March and that would mean the administration would still be on track to offer everyone in priority groups five to nine their first vaccine dose.

Mr Gething said one in four people in Wales have now been vaccinated and was speaking as the next stage of Wales' coronavirus vaccine rollout begins.

He said: "This is another massive logistical effort and we will be using all the resources we have available to use in the days and weeks ahead, including local pharmacies, to make sure we can vaccinate as many people as quickly as possible.

"But we have to factor in a temporary slowdown of vaccine supply across the UK to our plans over the next couple of weeks.

"I want to be clear we have worked this into our plans and this will not delay anyone’s second dose appointment.

"We expect supplies to quickly pick up again by March and, if this happens, we will be on track to offer everyone in groups five to nine a vaccine by the end of April."

Mr Gething said the Government was looking at small changes to lockdown restrictions this week Credit: PA Images

Mr Gething added that the Government is looking at ways of offering "a bit more flexibility" for families during lockdown, with the latest three-week lockdown review due on Friday.

"We have already said we will use whatever headroom we have to get our youngest children back into school after half term," he said.

"We have been working with local education authorities, with teaching and non-teaching staff unions to develop a phased and flexible plan to enable Foundation Phase to restart from next Monday.

"You will also know that the First Minister has said we are looking at whether there are any other small changes we are able to make to give families a bit more flexibility after such a long lockdown."

Wales' coronavirus test positivity rate is now below 10%.

The seven-day case rate is now below 100 cases per 100,000 for the first time in months.

There were a further 16 deaths and 363 new confirmed cases, Public Health Wales data published on Monday revealed.

On vaccinations 784,809 people had been given their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine; 5,402 has been given a two-dose course.

The vaccination rollout's next target should not be impacted by the planned slowdown, according to the Health Minister Credit: PA Images

More than three quarters of a million people in Wales had been vaccinated by Sunday.

However, Mr Gething emphasised that the presence and emergence of new variants had added further complexity to dealing with the pandemic.

He said: "We have to be very careful about how we come out of lockdown because of the presence of new and infectious strains of the virus in the UK.

"The highly-infectious Kent variant is now the most dominant strain of the virus in Wales."

"Clusters of a mutated version of the Kent strain have been identified just over our border in Bristol and Liverpool", he added.

"And the UK Government has extended its surge testing to more areas of England to try and detect and contain the South African variant.

"These variants have added yet another dimension to the pandemic. It’s important that we all work together to get levels of coronavirus in the community as low as we possibly can.

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