WALES is expecting to receive the first supplies of the Pfizer vaccine “in the next couple of days”, with staff trained to give it and people expected to receive it from Tuesday, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Mr Drakeford told today's Welsh Government media briefing that it was hoped the vaccine marked a “turning point in the pandemic” that would put Wales “on what is going to be a long path back to normality”.

The vaccine will be that developed by Pfizer/BioNTech, which was approved by UK medicines regulators on Wednesday. Supplies have already begun to arrive in the UK.

Frontline NHS and socal care, and the over-80s are at the top of the list for the vaccine, with care home residents also among the top priorities

Mr Drakeford described how the Welsh Ambulance Service declaring a critical incident on Thursday highlighted the “impact of coronavirus on day-to-day care”.

He added: “The problem was not so much ambulances or crews being unavailable, but that hospitals in some parts of Wales are now so full of patients with coronavirus that it simply wasn’t possible for our ambulance service to attend to other people’s emergencies in the way that we would want and expect.

“Fortunately, that position has improved today but yesterday the impact of coronavirus in our health service was absolutely real, and making a difference in the care we were able to offer to people suffering from strokes, or heart attacks, or having broken limbs.”

He added: "There are high numbers of deaths each day and each week."

There was a downturn in cases after the fire-break lockdown, said Mr Drakeford, "but we are now experiencing an unmistakeable rise in coronavirus once again".

This is now across all ages - in under 25s, but now this week in over-60s too.

"More and more people are being admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms," said Mr Drakeford.

"We have a record number of people in hospitals and numbers are increasing. Many of them will be in hospital for three weeks or longer.

"This putting our NHS under significant and sustained pressure."

Mr Drakeford said his thoughts are with "those families and friends who have lost loved ones to this awful virus".

"For all these reasons we must act now. It is for these reasons we must act now to strengthen our package of national measures, as we face the winter ahead," he added.

The issue of how the vaccine will be provided to the latter group however, is a "work in progress" according to Wales' Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton, given the need to store the vaccine at extremely low temperatures, and the vulnerability of care home residents means they will not be able to travel to get it.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government will take a precautionary approach to lifting coronavirus restrictions until a sufficient number of people have been vaccinated.