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Lockdown at midnight as new strain of coronavirus grips Wales

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ALL of Wales will be placed under lockdown from midnight with festive plans cancelled for all but Christmas Day.

First Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement after urgent talks with ministers over a new strain of coronavirus, The Herald can confirm.

From December 23 to to December 28 rules had been due to be relaxed to allow people to celebrate the holidays with loved-ones.

But now this is limited to just Christmas Day.

Announcing the strict measures Mr Drakeford said: “While we all want to avoid further disruption to businesses and plans for Christmas, our overriding duty is to protect lives here in Wales, we know that 2021 will be a different and a better year. Our economy will recover. Christmas will come again.”

The changes mean that a Wales-wide lockdown, which was due to come into effect from 28 December, has been brought forward and will begin at midnight tonight.

All of Wales will be placed into the highest level of lockdown – Level 4 – with all but essential shops closed, and people being told to “stay home” to save lives.

Gyms, beauty salons, bars and pubs, and non-essential shops will have to close at the end of trading today, with people only being able to travel for “essential reasons”.

Commenting on the new restrictions announced tonight, Paul Davies MS, Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has said:

“Having been briefed by the First Minister today, I can fully appreciate the need for more severe restrictions in Wales, especially where infection rates are high, and the new strain of the virus is circulating.

“I know that many people will be disappointed as they were looking forward to seeing their loved ones this Christmas, but in the face of the emerging evidence it is clear that Christmas bubble arrangements must change.

“By working together and keeping to the rules we can ensure as many people as possible will be around to celebrate Christmas together in the years to come.”

<strong>First Minister statement – 19 December</strong>

Today, I met the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland, and Michael Gove, from the UK Government, to discuss the very latest information on a new strain of coronavirus.

We now know that this new strain is significantly more infectious and spreads more quickly than the original one.

Many of you will have heard the Prime Minister this afternoon setting out the pattern of transmission in London and the South East of England, which has been linked to this new variant of coronavirus.

This is remarkably consistent with the rapid acceleration of transmission in Wales and the high rates of cases we have seen in recent weeks.

The latest evidence suggests this new strain is present throughout Wales.

Throughout the public health emergency, we have had to respond quickly to the rapid changes, which have been so typical of coronavirus.

Today has been one of those days when new information has required an immediate response.

This afternoon, the Cabinet met to discuss this worrying new development in the pandemic and to hear the latest advice from our senior medical and scientific advisers, including the impact on our NHS.

The situation is incredibly serious. I cannot overstate this.

We have therefore reached the difficult decision to bring forward the alert level four restrictions for Wales, in line with the action being taken in London and the South East of England.

These new restrictions will come into effect from midnight tonight instead of during the Christmas period.

This will mean non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres and hospitality will close at the end of trading today.

Stay-at-home restrictions will also come into effect from midnight.

Unfortunately, we must also look again at the arrangements for Christmas – we cannot expose people to the risk of this new, more virulent strain of coronavirus.

We will therefore change the current rules, which allow two households to come together to form a Christmas bubble over a five-day period, so that they will apply on Christmas Day only.

Throughout the alert level four period, a single person household will be able to join with one other household.

While we all want to avoid further disruption to businesses and plans for Christmas, our overriding duty is to protect lives here in Wales.

We know that 2021 will be a different and a better year.

Our economy will recover.

Christmas will come again.

But lives which are lost, are lost for ever.

This new strain of the virus is another dreadful surprise in this long-running pandemic.

We now have a pandemic within a pandemic, a crisis within a crisis.

It is another challenge we must overcome. But one we will overcome together.

We will continue to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and, together, we will keep Wales safe.

Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi gyd.

 

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Restrictions ease further with caution, says County Council

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WITH restrictions easing further, both residents and visitors are reminded to enjoy Ceredigion safely and responsibly.

Wales will move into alert level 2 on Monday, 17 May, Welsh Government has announced.

The changes to the coronavirus restrictions, which will come into force from Monday 17 May include:

·         Indoor hospitality can re-open – 6 people from up to 6 households (not including children under 11) can book

·         All holiday accommodation can re-open fully

·         Entertainment venues, including cinemas, indoor-play centres and areas, amusement arcades, and theatres can re-open. Cinemas, theatres concert halls and sports grounds can sell food and drink as long as it is consumed in a seated area for watching the performance

·         Indoor visitor attractions, including museums and galleries can re-open

·         Up to 30 people can take part in organised indoor activities and up to 50 people in organised outdoor activities. This includes wedding receptions and wakes.

International travel will resume from Monday 17 May but extra safeguards will be put in place for people returning from some countries to prevent coronavirus re-entering Wales. A traffic light system, aligned with England and Scotland, will be introduced. Countries will be classified as green, amber and red. This means people living in Wales will be able to travel to a small number of foreign destinations without the need to quarantine on their return. Mandatory quarantine for countries not on the green list remains in place.

From Monday 24 May, a paper-based vaccination status will be available for people in Wales who have had 2 doses of vaccination and need to urgently travel to a country that requires covid vaccination proof.

However, the Welsh Government continues to advise people to only travel abroad for essential purposes.

Caution still needs to remain as the Coronavirus is still with us. Ceredigion residents and visitors must keep following the guidance for Covid-19 infection rates to remain low. Keeping a social distance, wearing a face covering and washing hands regularly are vital to keep our county safe.

Enjoy Ceredigion safely and responsibly.  

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Safe visiting opportunities in Care Homes being put into place

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FOLLOWING Welsh Government’s announcement of moving to Alert Level 2 on Monday, 17 May, families of Council-run Care Homes are reassured that further enhanced visiting opportunities are currently being reviewed and progressed.

The Care Homes will be contacting the designated visitor of those residents who are currently cared for in bed to arrange indoor risk assessed safe visits from Monday 17 May onwards.

Visitors and residents will be offered options regarding their preferred location for the visit. This includes safe visiting options (for example a Pod) or outdoors (weather permitting). The length of time for visits will be extended.

As part of this important piece of work, questionnaires will be sent to families. This will ensure that residents have their voice and wishes centrally captured and used to support with planning and implementing any changes.

The safety of residents, staff and families will be central to all of the visiting opportunities that will be put in place.

All the Care Homes are looking forward to welcoming families back.

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Cllr Paul Hinge elected Chairman of Ceredigion County Council

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COUNCILLOR Paul Hinge has been elected as the Chairman of Ceredigion County Council for 2021-2022 during the Annual Meeting held virtually on Friday 14 May 2021.

This concludes Councillor Gareth Davies’ term of office, where he has steered the Council through an unprecedented time in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Following being elected as Chairman, Councillor Paul Hinge accepted the position and addressed the Council saying that becoming Chairman of the Council was a great honour. 

Originally from Cardigan, Councillor Paul Hinge now lives in Bow Street and represents Tirymynach ward on Ceredigion County Council. He is also the Council’s Armed Forces Champion and has campaigned extensively for veteran rights over the years as a veteran himself.

Councillor Paul Hinge, Chairman of Ceredigion County Council, said: “As a child born in Cardigan a number of decades ago now, I could never have envisaged then that one day I would be taking one of the highest elected civic roles in my home county as I have done so here today; this is a very proud moment in my life. I would like to thank my fellow councillors for entrusting me with this role for the forthcoming municipal year. I would also like to give a special thank you to Councillor Gareth Davies for his unstinting work in such difficult times in this last year, it’s been an honour to have been his Vice Chairman. I look forward now to being Ceredigion County Council’s Chairman in the year ahead”.

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, added: “I would like to congratulate Councillor Paul Hinge on his election as County Chairman and wish him well for the coming year. I would also like to thank Councillor Gareth Davies for steering the Council’s virtual meetings so smoothly and skilfully over the last year.”

Councillor Ifan Davies from Lledrod ward was elected as the Council’s Vice-Chairman. The Reverend Richard Lewis was appointed as the Chairman’s Chaplain for 2021-2022.

Questions for the Former Chairman

Councillor Gareth Davies, Llanbadarn Fawr Padarn ward, was the Chairman of Ceredigion County Council during 2020-2021. Here we look back at his year which has been very different in terms of all of the restrictions and adjustments.

What was it like to be the Chairman of Ceredigion County Council during the pandemic?

It was quite an unusual experience compared to previous years. Of course, nobody foresaw how the pandemic would affect our lives, nor how long it would last. We have all had to adjust the way we live and work. It was a bit of a disappointment that I did not have the opportunity to represent the county in any official events during my time. As an individual who has links with the Tregaron area, it was also sad to hear that the National Eisteddfod would be postponed. However, having said that, I’m extremely proud that I live in Ceredigion where the effects of the pandemic have been amongst the best in the United Kingdom.

What was the biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge was learning how to chair a virtual meeting. With over fifty people in attendance, it was not possible to see everyone on the call at the same time. Everyone else had to learn as well, and, as a result, the meetings took a litter longer than usual. I hope that the Council members feel that I have been a fair Chairman and that everyone had the opportunity to speak if they wished to. Everyone is coping well with the system by now.

What was the best thing about your experience?

I consider myself very privileged, and I was delighted that the elected members of Ceredigion County Council gave me the opportunity and trusted me to be Chairman. The year did not turn out as I had expected. But the safety and the health of Ceredigion’s residents is far more important than anything else.

What is your message for the new Chairman?

I very much hope that the new Chairman will have the opportunity to do the role justice, and I wish him well for the coming year.

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