Plenary 22nd April
Plenary 22nd April

Taking part in our parliamentary debates is a privilege these days as the technology we are using to meet virtually can only accommodate less than half the 60 members.

This is what I said at the meeting on Wednesday April 23rd: 

“First, I’d just like to say that this was made by a couple of asylum seekers for me (Jenny is holding a protective mask). It’s obviously not suitable for healthcare workers, but it’s beautifully made, and it’s the sort of thing that we could get, for example, our design technology students making. So, perhaps you could pass that idea on to the education Minister.

A couple of questions: one is around PPE. There is clearly a global bidding war going on, and care homes are simply too small and far too busy to be engaging in that. So, it really is the role of government, both local and national, to ensure that we have the PPE we need. I think we shouldn’t be shooting the messenger when Sir Martin Evans says that it is astonishing that an advanced, industrial country like ourselves isn’t able to source PPE from within our own country. And I don’t mean that we need to be producing all items of PPE in Wales; I mean across the UK we should be able to be self-sufficient in PPE. And as this coronavirus pandemic is going to go on for many months, we really do need to ratchet up our ability to produce it for ourselves, otherwise there’s absolutely no hope for developing countries. I just wanted to ask a question on that, which is what thought, if any, has been given to making it safe to reuse certain items of PPE, because that is what is happening anyway by people on the front line who fail to get certain items when they need them. So, is there any evidence that some of it could be reused rather than disposed of immediately after being used?

“My second question is around testing, because you say that you’re confident that all the right people have been tested. Well, some of my constituents who are care workers have had huge difficulty getting tested simply because they don’t have a car. You cannot turn up to Cardiff City Stadium or these other drive-in facilities if you don’t have a car, and putting them in a taxi doesn’t meet the social distancing guidelines for someone with suspected COVID-19. But by not providing this testing, we are delaying the return to work of the individual who may not have COVID, and we are submitting their families to having to be self-isolated. And, so, as well as home testing—and I’d like a bit more information on the timescale for home testing—I wonder if you could tell us what possibility there is for mobile testing by the testers going to the care homes, and the prison, and other places where we know that people need to be tested in order to be able to make the work of care homes more manageable.”

In response, Vaughan Gething, the Health Minister, said: 

“Thank you for that final set of questions. On PPE, I just want to reiterate that we’re taking an approach to pursue all leads and working constructively with other nations in the UK, because it’s the responsible thing to do. And, in normal times, we’d be engaging in politics as normal. I think it’s time to put all of that decisively to one side to get the right equipment for our staff. And this isn’t about shooting the messenger when it comes to what Martin Evans said. It’s not the view of Cardiff University that his judgment is one that applies to the work and the nature of our partnership with that university. It is a reality, though, of the fact that the global supply chains, which we have become used to having and delivering for us, have been interrupted significantly in a way that was not predictable even a short distance into the past. That’s why so many Welsh manufacturers have responded to the call to change the way that they deliver goods to actually manufacture PPE and goods that we know that we need. And, of course, in terms of looking back and learning lessons, we need to look forward to understand what local supply chains we have to provide greater resilience for the supply of PPE across our health and social care system, and that is a point that is well understood within and outside the Government.

“In terms of the reuse of PPE, it is possible that some PPE can be used, for example, in dentistry as a regular part of making use of some of the eye protectors that they wear. But that isn’t a politically-led choice or process; that’s actually got to come on the basis of the evidence of what’s safe, because if I decide and try to say now we should be reusing certain forms of PPE, that is not going to have the level of confidence that staff will understandably want, or indeed the public. Those are definite, professionally led conversations that are taking place about whether there is the potential for more reuse of PPE.

And, on testing, we don’t just have drive-in testing facilities as you know. So, for example, we do think we’re getting closer to home testing. You’ll have heard some of the publicity this week about home-testing kits that are being developed here in Wales. And that’s certainly part of our plan, to want to be able to exploit those—that point-of-care testing—so we don’t have to wait a long period of time to get from referral to test to result. But also community testing services that already exist across Wales do include people going to other people’s places of work or, indeed, their homes. That’s already taking place in the here and now, and that’s part of the infrastructure we already have, and we’re looking at trying to expand that again into the future.”

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