There is at last some positive news on the horizon when it comes to coronavirus. While the last year has had an unimaginable impact on many of our lives, and we are far from out of the woods, there are some reasons to be more hopeful.
With the number of vaccinations on the up, infection rates declining and being able to get our hair cut or visit a loved one in a care home again, there has seemed to be more light at the end of the tunnel.
It is anticipated that this weekend will see the end of the ‘stay local’ rule meaning people in Wales will be able to travel further afield for the first time this year.
Here’s all the things we have to be positive about when it comes to our collective pandemic experiences.
Over 1.3 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine in Wales
(Image: Ben Birchall/PA Wire)
For many months during the pandemic the only glimmer of hope to be able to return to some sort of normality seemed to be the creation of a vaccine.
The vaccine roll-out has been taking place at a rapid speed across the country in recent months, as Wales delivered one million vaccinations by the end of last month.
As it stands, over 1.3 million people have received their first dose of the vaccine in Wales, with more than 366,000 people having had a two dose course.
First Minister Mark Drakeford recently said that he hoped the top nine priority groups would be offered the vaccine by mid-April.
The infection rate across Wales now stands at 40.5 cases per 100,000 of population based on the seven days up to March 19 (correct as of Wednesday, March 24).
This figure is slightly down from 41.5 on Tuesday and is below the Welsh Government benchmark of 50.
To put this into perspective, two months ago, on January 24, the infection rate in Wales stood at 245 cases per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to January 19.
This shows that the figures have dramatically decreased in recent weeks.
Hospital numbers declining
The number of hospital inpatients with confirmed cases of coronavirus has also significantly fallen in recent weeks.
For the week ending on March 21, there were 275 confirmed case inpatients on hospital wards throughout Wales. This can be compared to the peak of 2,054 for the week ending January 3.
Since the start of the year there has been a steep downward trend to get to where we are now, showing that things seem to be moving in the right direction.
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Percentage of positive tests
According to Public Health Wales, on Wednesday, March 24, there were 159 new positive cases in the last 24-hour period.
Once again, comparing the current figure to what it was two months ago on January 24 when 796 new cases had been recorded, it shows that the percentage of positive tests has been falling.
Last month, on February 24, figures revealed that there had been 236 new confirmed cases within the 24-hour period.
Thankfully, the figures have been continuing to drop.
The percentage of tests coming back with positive results is now below the key 5% Welsh Government benchmark – standing at 3.3% in the last seven days.
Some areas of Wales have very low rates
Some areas of Wales have been worse affected by the pandemic than others, but some have managed to retain low rates for long periods of time.
As it stands, Ceredigion currently has just 11 cases per per 100,000 of population based on the seven days up to March 19, while Monmouthshire has recorded 13.7 and Powys stands at 15.9.
The ‘stay local’ rule to go…probably
People will be able to travel more widely once the ‘stay local’ rule is lifted
(Image: Richard Swingler)
Despite the ‘stay at home’ requirement being lifted on March 13, Wales has adopted a ‘stay local’ rule, meaning we all still have to stay within our local area.
But Mark Drakeford has said that the rule could be lifted within days which would allow people to travel more widely for the first time since December. The First Minister said he was “optimistic” that as coronavirus figures continued to fall in Wales, the ban on people staying local to their homes could be lifted.
At the end of the last review of restrictions, Mr Drakeford said he hoped to be able to lift the stay local rule from Saturday, March 27, in time for the Easter holidays.
As well as (hopefully) being able to travel more widely throughout Wales, self-contained holiday accommodation is set to re-open from Saturday, March 27, too.
With strict lockdown measures imposed on us since December, many of us will be looking forward to a well-earned break away, even if it is still in Wales. Many accommodation businesses have been inundated with bookings from people looking to get away, with some already fully-booked for the Easter break and most expecting a busy summer season.
The new rules state that re-opening in the first instance will be restricted to one household only and for those travelling from within Wales itself.
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Indoor care home visits
Lockdown restrictions have been particularly tough on those with loved ones in care homes across Wales.
For many, the news that indoor care home visits would restart again from Saturday, March 13, was something they had been longing for.
Despite only single designated visitors being allowed at the moment, just being able to visit loved ones once again will be a huge relief to many people across Wales.
Being able to get our hair cut again
The first customers at Swyd Tattoo and Barber Shop in Cardiff city centre
(Image: © Huw Evans Picture Agency)
People in Wales have also been able to get a long overdue haircut for the first time since December, as hairdressers and barbers were allowed to re-open on Monday, March 15.
For the first time this year, people have finally been able to have their hair cut professionally after salons were forced to close at the end of 2020.
For many people it has arguably been one of the most highly anticipated re-openings and many businesses faced huge backlogs of clients wanting their lockdown locks trimmed.
It’s safe to say we won’t be taking them for granted in the future.
Non-essential shops re-opening
Monday, March 22, marked the beginning of the phased re-opening of non-essential retail in Wales, as supermarkets and shops that were already open were able to remove tape and cordons which had covered non-essential items for months.
While independent shops and big high street brands will remain closed for the next three weeks, there is light at the end of the tunnel for shoppers. The First Minister said during the last review of the lockdown measures that “if the public health situation remains positive, all shops will be able to open from April 12 “.
Popular stores such as Primark have already confirmed their provisional re-opening date of April 12 as the company said it is “really looking forward” to welcoming customers back.
Find out about coronavirus cases in your area:
Children going back to school
All primary school pupils and children in exam years 11 and 13 were able to return to school on Monday, March 15, after being separated from their classmates for an extended period of time.
From Monday, April 12, all learners will be able to return to school after the Easter break.
After months of home learning, it will be a relief to many children across the country to be able to head back into the classroom – and their parents!