By Lesley Griffiths

MS for Wrexham

After marking the second anniversary of the first lockdown last week, we are, unfortunately, once again seeing a noticeable increase in coronavirus cases across Wales. A slightly different form of the Omicron variant is causing this spike and it is spreading quickly. Reinfection rates are high so even if you have had Covid before, it won’t mean you are immune to this new subtype. While there was an expectation case rates would rise as protections gradually relaxed, the new form of Omicron is pushing infections up rapidly.

Thankfully, medical experts believe this new strain is similar to the original Omicron variant, meaning most people will experience mild symptoms. However, not everyone will have a moderate illness. Hospital admissions have increased in recent weeks and the number of NHS staff who are absent because they have Covid or are self-isolating is also rising.

The spring booster campaign has started in earnest. Some more vulnerable people may have received their last booster up to six months ago so this latest rollout will offer a further jab to everyone over 75, to all care home residents and everyone over 12 who is immune-suppressed. Health boards will be sending out invitations to everyone in these groups so there is no need to contact your GP or to call the helpline.

In the meantime, it’s important we continue to follow the simple steps to help protect ourselves and our loved ones, such as washing our hands regularly, self-isolating when we have symptoms and wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places.

Unpaid carers provide invaluable support to people. They play a crucial role in society and this was particularly evident during the pandemic. In recognition of their huge efforts and personal sacrifices, and to help with some of the costs they have incurred, the Welsh Government has announced a one-off £500 payment will be made to more than 57,000 unpaid carers in Wales who are in receipt of Carers Allowance. The payment is targeted towards those individuals who care for someone for at least 35 hours a week and have low incomes. The Welsh Government is investing £29m to fund the scheme, with almost 2,500 unpaid carers in Wrexham expected to benefit. A registration process will open later this year and anyone receiving Carers Allowance on 31 March 2022 will be able to register with Wrexham Council to claim the payment. Further details about when and how to register will be published by the end of April and I will keep constituents updated.