Coronoavirus: Welsh GPs and NHS staff to get protective gear

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The safety packs being sent to surgeries include face masks

Face masks, gloves and aprons are being sent out to GP surgeries in Wales to protect those treating people suspected of having coronavirus.

Stockpiled protective equipment will also be released for front-line NHS and social services staff, Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething said on Monday.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Wales rose to six on Monday.

Mr Gething said the packs were part of robust "infection-control measures".

The safety packs, which were prepared over the weekend, will be sent to the 640 surgeries in Wales this week.

The steps came after a man in this 60s became the third person in the UK to die after testing positive for coronavirus.

Mr Gething said he wanted to reassure people the Welsh Government was working closely with the NHS and social services to implement its "planned response" to the virus.

"It is important that front-line medical and social care staff have the equipment they need to keep them safe while they help people with suspected coronavirus," he added.

"The face masks, gloves and aprons are part of a stockpile that we have in place as part of our contingency planning, should they be needed to support our NHS and social services."

Dr David Bailey, chairman of the British Medical Association's Welsh council, said the commitment would "go a considerable way" to making sure that GPs and other frontline staff could care for patients through this difficult time.

"We understand that many doctors will be concerned about the current control measures and the possibility of spreading the virus between patients," he said.

"This personal protective equipment commitment begins to allay those worries.

"We expect further announcements from the minister to be made as the situation progresses, to maintain the safety of doctors and patients."

Wales' chief medical officer confirmed at the weekend that two new cases in Wales were members of the same Pembrokeshire household who had been to northern Italy.

Both have been in self-isolation since their return and were being managed in a "clinically appropriate setting".

Wales' other two cases - one person from Swansea and one from Cardiff - had also returned from northern Italy.

As of Friday, 634 people in Wales had been tested for the virus, according to Public Health Wales (PHW).

Preparations to halt the spread of the virus continued at the weekend, with the Welsh Government confirming emergency legislation introduced by the UK government would also apply in Wales.

"The public can be assured that Wales and the whole of the UK is prepared for these types of incidents," said Dr Giri Shankar, from PHW.

Among the measures is a symptom checker for suspected coronavirus, which has been launched online by the Welsh NHS.

The Welsh Ambulance Service said the online service should be the "first port of call" as the NHS 111 telephone lines were "very busy".

And a car park for an old medical clinic is doubling up as Wales' first drive-through coronavirus testing centre at Rossett, near Wrexham.

Meanwhile, Italy has placed millions of people under quarantine as it battles to contain the spread of the virus, with the number of deaths shooting up on Sunday.

Coronavirus presents with flu-like symptoms, including a fever, a cough, or difficulty breathing.

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