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The darkest hour is before the dawn

Coronavirus disease

Organisations at the frontline of the west Wales response to COVID-19 have warned that our communities are in the eye of the storm as we face record cases of the disease in our area.

The cases in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area are now at an average over seven days of 316.3 per 100,000 population, and in Carmarthenshire, this is as high as 448.2 (figures 03 Dec-09 Dec).

This compares, for example, to 242 cases per 100,000 population in London, and 199 per 100,000 in Birmingham during the same period.

This is putting strain on our community and hospital NHS services, with more than 150 people in local acute hospitals with COVID-19, which is more than the peak during the first phase.

This is creating staff problems, as a significant number, around 930, health board staff are absent either sick or isolating. Clinical professionals and support staff in work are under significant pressure as they deal with both COVID and non-COVID patients.

Leaders from Hywel Dda University Health Board and County Councils in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire say they are facing an emergency situation and they need the community to make even more sacrifices in the interests of keeping our communities safe.

Chair of Hywel Dda University Health Board Maria Battle said: “The darkest hour is before the dawn and whilst hope is on the horizon in the form of the vaccine, this feels like our hardest hour yet. Our NHS and other care staff and critical workers have put themselves in harm’s way during the course of their work. Whilst we know it is hard after this time and as we approach a special time of year, the risk we all face could be greatly reduced by each of us taking action.”

Carmarthenshire County Council Leader Cllr Emlyn Dole said: “We are very seriously concerned about the rapid spread of the virus in Carmarthenshire’s communities. We are so concerned that in the run-up to Christmas and with the virus spreading so quickly, we are asking people to consider self-isolating to protect themselves and their families. Please do everything you can to stay safe.”

Leader of Ceredigion County Council, Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn said “This year’s festive celebrations will be different. We must sacrifice seeing loved ones so that we can meet up another time when it’s safe to do so. We all have a responsibility to ensure we follow the guidelines so limit the amount of people you see to play your part. This will keep our families and friends safe and protect our community and hospital NHS services.”

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Cllr David Simpson, said: “I understand that people have been looking forward to Christmas even more than ever given what we have been through this year. But now is not the time to throw away all the hard work and sacrifice of the past nine months. If we limit the number of people we meet over Christmas we will help prevent the spread. By preventing the spread we are preventing further deaths, it really is that stark. We have light at the end of the tunnel with the roll-out of the vaccines – sticking to the rules now will pay off for all of us in the longer term.”

Practical steps we can all take include:

  • Keep two metres apart, wash hands thoroughly and regularly and wear a face covering when needed
  • Think carefully about your Christmas plans and only do what you ‘must’ do not what you ‘can’ do
  • Avoid physical social interaction and any gatherings
  • Work from home and avoid car sharing

It is also important to self-isolate and get tested if showing any symptoms and to self-isolate if another member of the household is showing symptoms.