The death toll for people who have contracted coronavirus in Wales has reached 624 after 15 more fatalities were announced on Wednesday.

Public Health Wales, as part of its daily update, has also confirmed that the number of people who have tested positive for the virus has jumped 274 to bring the overall total to 8,124.

Dr Giri Shankar, incident director for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “Based on the new case numbers there is emerging evidence suggesting a levelling-off in the number of new cases of novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in Wales, which may be an indication of the effectiveness of lockdown measures.

“However it is still too early to tell for sure and it is too soon to end the current social distancing rules.

“Public Health Wales continues to fully support the extension of lockdown measures, which is essential to avoid reversing the gains we have made in slowing the spread of this virus, protecting our NHS, and saving lives.”

The announcement was made following a press conference with economy minister Ken Skates who gave an update on the situation in Wales.

He admitted there was “no avoiding a recession” in Wales and the rest of the UK but said the challenge was to avert a major depression.

Map: Where the cases have been diagnosed in Wales

Ken Skates
(Image: Welsh Government)

The minister said it was imperative that governments across the UK do everything they can to “shelter businesses and workers through this storm and protect workers from the very great threat of unemployment”.

A recent report by the Office of Budget Responsibility predicted UK GDP would fall by 35% in the second quarter of 2020.

Mr Skates added that even though Wales was a small country it was rising to the giant economic challenge it was facing.

Map: Where deaths in hospitals have been reported by Public Health Wales

He said the Welsh Government had re-examined its budgets and made “tough decisions” to put in place its new £500m economic resilience fund.

Small and medium-sized businesses can apply for a grant between £25,000 and £100,000 while a grant of up to £10,000 is available to assist microbusinesses. He confirmed there have been 8,000 applications for grants so far in Wales.

But he added that Welsh support was being made “available faster and in a more efficient way” through local authorities and the Development Bank of Wales.

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He admitted that as there are 265,000 businesses in Wales it is impossible to support them all.

“Our package of business support is now the most comprehensive anywhere in the UK,” he added.

“Yes there are still gaps, yes there is more we can do, and yes there will be more we will do. But I am proud of what we have put in place here in Wales.”

Mr Skates said high street banks were helping but were “still too slow” in adapting their own ways of working and providing loans.

When questioned on how much field hospitals are costing to set up and run, the minister said the Welsh Government has contributed to their build costs. “The totals are being assessed right now,” he added. “As soon as we are able to publish those figures we will more certainly do so.”

Asked when non-urgent and elective cases would commence again for the NHS Mr Skates said: “It’s too early to say at this stage”.

He added that urgent cases should still be referred to hospitals and that people should be making contact with health professionals if they need attention.

“It’s absolutely essential that people don’t put their ongoing health at risk during this period.”

Meanwhile, when quizzed about whether the UK should have been part of EU procurement schemes for personal protective equipment (PPE), Mr Skates said he believed “it was a mistake” not to be a part of it.

He said the UK should have “seized the opportunity” to work with other governments to “overcome a common challenge that we face”.

But he added that it was ultimately for the UK Government to answer questions about whether it was political decision.

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab arrives in Downing Street
(Image: PA)

When he was asked about whether foreign secretary Dominic Raab was right to criticise Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething for abandoning testing targets, Mr Skates said: “He’s not right to be critical of Welsh Government and name ministers.”

Mr Skates said tackling Covid-19 was an “enormous effort” and he wasn’t aware of “a single politician of any party” who wasn’t working hard amid the outbreak”.

“He is wrong to do it in such a public way”, said Mr Skates adding that the Welsh Government was working working to ensure testing for those who are saving lives.

“Dominic Raab should reflect on that before making other misguided statements.”



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