INVITES are currently being sent to Pembrokeshire residents aged 75 to 79 to receive their first Covid-19 vaccine at a mass vaccination centre.

Maria Battle, Hywel Dda chair, visited the county’s two centres at Pembrokeshire Archives, Prendergast, Haverfordwest and Tenby Leisure Centre last week to thank staff and volunteers.

“Our vaccination campaign, the biggest in the history of the NHS, is gathering pace daily.

“It is heart-warming to hear patients talk about the hope the vaccine is giving them of reconciliation with their families and of returning to a more normal life when it is safe to do so.

“We are very grateful to our local authority partners and our universities, our volunteers, the RAF and all our staff and contractors who are working over and above their normal duties to get this vaccine to as many people as quickly as possible. Together we will win our fight against this virus.”

David Simpson, leader of Pembrokeshire County Council added: “We are delighted to work in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board on the mass vaccination centres at the Pembrokeshire Archives Building in Haverfordwest and Tenby Leisure Centre.

“This will enable more people to be protected as we extend the vaccination cohort across the priority groups.

“The vaccination programme is a huge task, and it is still vitally important that we continue to protect ourselves while the vaccine roll out continues.

“I want to thank everyone that is working or supporting the vaccination centres and GP surgeries in their vital work, which will help ensure the most vulnerable in our communities are protected.”

One of those who had a vaccination in Tenby on Sunday was 78-year-old Geoffrey Sinclair of Martletwy.

“The Tenby Leisure Centre is a vast modern building ideally suited to its current use as an emergency Covid vaccination centre. Arriving by car from distant rural parts you follow the clear sign and turn into the one-way entrance where you are greeted by a good-humoured lady in full outdoor Covid-rig who directs you to a parking place and tells you where to enter the building by one of its rear doors.

“This opens into a vast hi-tech arena and an entrance person who checks that you have an appointment, and directs you to a reception table where all the details are logged. There is a continuous busy hubbub of background burbling. A bit like that just before the start of a symphony concert in some vast concert hall.

“You then go to two more admin stages at well-spaced peripheral desks and eventually to the queen-jabber, in the centre of the action. She is so slick that before you know it she has in what seems almost a single well-honed movement done the impressive deed. After all, when I asked her if she did it in her sleep, she didn’t deny it.

“She helps you roll up your sleeve, opens a sealed sachet, pulls out the self-contained syringe, pops it painlessly into your arm and then cleanly disposes of it in a special container. ‘Just like that’, as Tommy Cooper might have said.

“Before you have really appreciated this fusion of art and science, she calmly motions you to a row of well-spaced chairs with fellow-septuagenarians waiting for an allotted 15 minutes to de-acclimatise.

“You then try not escape before your turn and make your way to the exit door at the far end of the building - not forgetting to disinfect your chair with a wet-wipe, and dispose of it in a giant pedal-bin.

“During my deceleration period this caused me great amusement watching several not very domesticated gentlemen scrabbling at the top cover, apparently unaware of the function of a huge black rubber foot-pedal.

“Then the long walk to freedom, trying not to run, where a burly man does what can only be described as the opposite of a night-club bouncer: he opens the exit door to let you out individually. Just a bit stiff for a few hours overnight, but enough to remind you that it did actually happen and wasn’t a dream.

“So impressive, so organised, so good-humouredly efficient and ultimately so re-assuring. Thank you NHS.

“This is the first time in almost a year that I have been in any ‘social gathering’ …”

On Friday, January 29, First Minister Mark Drakeford confirmed the alert level four lockdown restrictions will remain in place in Wales for the next three weeks.

Two small changes have been made to the current alert level four restrictions.

• A maximum of two people from different households will be able to exercise outdoors together, as long as they maintain social distancing.

• If a support bubble arrangement has broken down, a new one can be formed as long as there is gap of 10 days before doing so.

As of February 1, the three counties in the Hywel Dda Health Board (UHB) area have seen 416 extra coronavirus cases in a week, the lowest weekly increase in case numbers since early November.

The number of cases across the three counties now totals 14,555 – 9,852 in Carmarthenshire, 3,071 in Pembrokeshire and 1,632 in Ceredigion.

There were 26 further deaths in Hywel Dda in the last seven days, bringing the total to 366.