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A need for a unified approach to public health and environmental issues, more focus on innovation and the importance of investment in health protection are some of the lessons learnt from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wales, according to the Chief Medical Officer.

First published:
30 January 2021
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

Dr Frank Atherton has today (30 January) published his annual report which looks back at Wales’ initial actions in response to the pandemic from early 2020 until the end of the summer, and considers what lessons can be learnt.

Dr Atherton said:

As with the rest of the world, in Wales we have had to respond to the significant threat posed by this pandemic, to our health, social care and wellbeing, our employment and  education systems, our economy, and in fact to every aspect of our lives.

In light of the events of 2020, I have decided to produce a special report reflecting on how we in Wales have faced the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic together and how we can seek to come out of this grave situation stronger and better prepared to tackle some of the challenges we were already facing and those of the future.

COVID-19 reminds us that we do not live in isolation and that it is all too easy to be impacted, almost without warning, by global events. It reminds us how interconnected we are to our environment and those that share it with us.

We must therefore take forward what we have learned and use it to re-evaluate our relationships with the planet and with each other and to say that we will no longer tolerate avoidable inequalities and short term environmental planning. From tragic circumstances we may yet grasp opportunities which we may never have again.

The report makes eight recommendations:

  • Recommendation 1 focuses on investment in health protection services
  • Recommendation 2 urges us to continually review the effectiveness of our case management and contact tracing systems
  • Recommendation 3 suggests we take the learning from this pandemic and apply it to preparations for any future crises
  • Recommendation 4 emphasises the importance of full engagement with the public on our response to the pandemic and the measures being put in place
  • Recommendation 5 suggests that, on the back of the collaborations developed both before and during the pandemic, Wales should adopt a whole of society ‘One Health’ approach to a number of difficult issues, including climate change, zoonoses and antimicrobial resistance
  • Recommendation 6 focuses on the need to maintain innovation and creativity in health and social care delivery and that priority must be given to sustaining the wellbeing of all key workers
  • Recommendation 7 asks us to maintain a focus on health inequities in all our policies
  • Recommendation 8 proposes that on-going research is needed into the long term effects of COVID-19

Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, welcomed the report. He said:

This pandemic is not over, there is a long way to go but we have learned a lot from the first wave and continue to understand more as time goes on. This report will provide a valuable resource for future decision making and policy.