LAST Sunday (Oct 16), a group of International Politics PhD students organised a novel event to express support for unaccompanied refugee children in Calais. The ‘Balloon Pop’ took place in the grounds of Aberystwyth Castle.
Braving the cold evening wind and rain, participants wrote messages of support on balloons.
The messages included ‘Refugees Welcome’, ‘All Kids Matter’, and ‘Children are Innocent’. With the sun setting over a stormy Cardigan Bay, the balloons were burst in a big group ‘pop’.
The burst balloons were then collected and sent to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, along with a letter calling for the United Kingdom to do more to help the children on the Calais camp. The event was attended by more than 30 ‘poppers’, including children, students and residents of Aberystwyth.
CHILD PROTECTION CONCERNS
Over 1,000 unaccompanied refugee children are currently living in the Calais refugee camp known as the Jungle. Evictions by the French authorities are scheduled to commence in the coming days, raising severe child protection concerns. Following a previous eviction earlier this year, an estimated 129 refugee children were reported to have gone missing. In this context, three PhD students of International Politics from Aberystwyth University decided it was time to, quite literally, make some noise.
Under the Dublin Agreement and Dubs Amendment, the United Kingdom has committed to welcoming unaccompanied refugee children. The former agreement provides reunification rights to unaccompanied children with family ties in the UK, while the latter allows for the resettlement of vulnerable unaccompanied children without family ties. Home Secretary Amber Rudd has reaffirmed her commitment to welcoming refugee children and a handful of children from Calais with family ties in the United Kingdom have started to arrive in the country. It remains unclear how many children will be relocated, however. Given that over one thousand unaccompanied refugee children are present in Calais, the Aberystwyth student group believe more action is needed to protect the lives and well-being of all unaccompanied refugee children in Calais, regardless of family ties.
One of the balloon pop organisers, Karijn van den Berg, told The Herald: “The sound of popping balloons, sadly, is only too reminiscent of the primary cause of displacement of many of these refugee children, who fled countries at war to the sound of gunfire and explosions. The Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which both France and the United Kingdom are parties, states that ‘a child temporarily or permanently deprived of his or her family environment shall be entitled to special protection and assistance provided by the State’. Where is this special protection and assistance for the unaccompanied refugee children of Calais?”
UK GOVERNMENT STIRS
On Monday (Oct 17), 14 teenagers arrived in the UK from the jungle camp in Calais ahead of its looming demolition. The transfer of the vulnerable children, aged from 14 to 17, was confirmed by the Home Office. France’s Minister of the Interior, Bernard Cazeneuve, has called on the UK to fulfil its moral duty to Calais’ unaccompanied children: “From the point of view of some in France, the Calais migrants’ misery is entirely down to the selfishness of the British government.
“London, they believe, is hiding behind the Le Touquet agreements governing controls on entry from continental Europe to the UK. They accuse the UK of using these agreements in an unscrupulous way, as a means of refusing to take in refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East, including unaccompanied children with family connections in the UK. The first transfers of young people with close relatives in the UK begin this week, while France has agreed to take in 13,000 refugees. The British government now needs to intensify its efforts to identify and resettle child migrants.”
The founders of the ‘Balloon Pop’ have no illusions that an envelope of burst balloons will be sufficient to sway the policies of the United Kingdom. They hope, though, that their action showed the world that, across the country, people care; that Britain, despite appearances, has not lost its humanity.
Ysgol Gynradd Ciliau Parc to close temporarily due to a further COVID-19 case
YSGOL GYNRADD CILIAU PARC, Ciliau Aeron will be closed temporarily as a further COVID-19 case is confirmed. Two Contact Groups out of three have now been affected by positive cases and therefore, due to lack of staffing, the whole school will close for a period of time.
Pupils in the affected Contact Groups has been asked to self-isolate for 14 days due to being close contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case at the school. These pupils and staff must remain at home for 14 days to reduce the possible spread of the virus to family, friends and the wider community. All parents have been contacted by the School.
The Council urges all parents to refer their children for a test if they develop any of the symptoms, which are:
- a high temperature
- a new continuous cough
- a loss or change to sense of smell or taste.
Parents should also be aware of other symptoms early on, such as headaches, tiredness and general aches and pains usually associated with the flu.
You can apply for a test online https://gov.wales/apply-coronavirus-covid-19-test or by phoning 119.
No further details will be provided regarding this matter.
Hundreds sign petition against Ceredigion parking charges
HUNDREDS of local residents have signed a petition against plans to reintroduce charges at some Ceredigion Council car parks.
Ceredigion Liberal Democrats started the campaign on Friday, which attracted over 400 signatures in less than 24 hours, in response to an outcry from businesses and residents across the county.
Ceredigion County Council announced plans this week to move immediately to a cashless charge system from 1st December at 13 car parks in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and Lampeter. Cashless charging will follow in March for another 3 car parks, including at New Quay.
The petition can be signed at www.ceredigionlibdems.org.uk/parking.
Cllr Elaine Evans, Liberal Democrat Councillor for Cardigan Rhyd-y-fuwch, said:
“I am absolutely gutted that the charges are being reinstated in Cardigan, especially so close to Christmas.
“This year more than any other, times have been extremely difficult for traders and residents in Cardigan. So many of us are worried about the detrimental effect parking charges will have on a town that already has a safe zone implemented.
“We need to keep parking free throughout the pandemic. If we don’t, I worry how much of our town will survive.”
Cadan ap Tomos, Welsh Liberal Democrat Senedd candidate for Ceredigion, added:
“So many local businesses are struggling to keep afloat during this pandemic, and need all the help they can get. That’s what makes this decision by the Plaid Cymru/Independent Council so baffling.
“I’m particularly worried that by going cashless, a great many people who have no bank card to pay with will be shut out of visiting our town centres.
“The fact that hundreds of people have backed our campaign in less than a day should show just what a bad decision this is for our communities.”
Vaccine roll-out ‘within days’
THE FIRST COVID-19 vaccine has been given the go-ahead and the roll-out across Wales will start within a matter of days, the Chief Medical Officer announced on Tuesday, December 2.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has now authorised the first vaccine as safe and effective on the basis of detailed independent expert review of evidence from large scale clinical trials.
The Pfizer Biontech vaccine has become the first to receive MHRA clearance in the UK and 40 million doses of the vaccine will shortly be available for delivery across the UK, with Wales getting its allocation based on population.
The effects of the vaccine may not be seen nationally for many months and the advice on keeping Wales safe remains the same for everyone; keep contacts with other people to a minimum, keep a 2 metre distance from others, wash hands regularly, wear a face covering where required and avoid touching surfaces others have touched, wherever possible.
Approval from the MHRA is the first step of Wales’ roll-out plan, which has seen preparations on-going since May. There are still a number of stages which need to happen before the vaccine reaches those in highest need and is ready for use, but this process is expected to happen over the next week.
These stages include:
- The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) finalising and publishing their guidance for the whole of the UK
- Finalising training materials for staff and patient information leaflets
- Training of experienced immunisers for this particular vaccine
- Final legal frameworks to allow registered health professionals to administer the vaccine to patients need to be authorised by each Health Board in Wales.
- The vaccine – which needs to be administered in 2 doses – will initially be prioritised and available for those aged 80 and over, care home staff and residents and those working within health and social care.
Pfizer Biontech vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures. These centres have already been decided by Health Boards and are in the process of being stood-up.
As further supplies become available and additional vaccines receive MHRA approval, a staged approach will see other groups be offered the vaccine, based on risk of serious complications and deaths.
Individuals in the priority groups for a COVID-19 vaccine will receive an invitation from their employer or health board providing information about the COVID-19 vaccines, telling them where to go and what to do on the day of their appointment.
People are urged to wait to be invited, which will happen through NHS systems. Please do not ask your pharmacist or GP.
There are plans in place for people who are housebound and for care homes to be vaccinated as soon as safely possible, with the approved vaccine being safely taken to them using a mobile service, once cleared for this purpose.
The development process for coronavirus vaccines has been as stringent as any other but the process in the face of the pandemic has been sped up by prompt, world-wide funding and a reduction in paperwork. The length of the trials have not been shortened, and the usual safety measures remain in place.
The vaccine will not be mandatory and people will be able to choose whether they take up the vaccine or not. Information will be provided to people before vaccination to reassure them about patient safety and robust consent processes will be in place.
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton, said: “It is fantastic to finally say that the first COVID-19 vaccine has been given the green light. We know now that we have a safe and effective vaccine for use across the UK – this is the positive news I and so many across the country have been waiting for.
“All our NHS organisations across Wales have embraced the challenge presented to them and are at the advanced stages of planning for the arrival of a vaccine. We have tested distribution and storage arrangements to ensure we can get vaccine safely to every part of Wales.
“There’s still a few stages we need to work through but once all these safeguards are in place, vaccination can begin. There will only be relatively small amounts of the vaccine at first, those who have been advised as most needing the vaccine first, through approved delivery mechanisms. A full announcement around the timetable for roll-out in Wales will follow in the next few days.”
The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Today’s news is a small glimmer of light at the end of what has been a long and dark tunnel.
“We know some people within our communities are much more at risk than others from the serious complications of COVID-19, which is why the new vaccine is being prioritised to protect them first.
“Whilst these first doses are given at fixed sites and occupational settings, and to protect our NHS and social care services, we must all continue to do our bit to prevent the spread of coronavirus: regular hand washing, social distancing, and wearing a face covering where required to protect yourself and others.”
Andrew RT Davies MS – the Shadow Minister for Health said: “This is positive news in the battle against Covid but, as ever, the devil is in the detail of delivery.
“And so, today the Health Minister must today address a number of vital issues including:
- The ability of NHS Wales to start the vaccination process and when this will happen
- How many doses will be available to Wales in the first tranche and how they will be distributed
- Who the first recipients will be
- How, when other vaccines become available, NHS Wales will cope with the different procedures
“It will also require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine.
“The people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here.”
Mr Davies’ remarks allude to one substantial issue regarding the vaccine’s distribution.
Both Wales and Scotland have a higher proportion of their respective populations in vulnerable groups. However, thus far, the UK Government has targeted Covid support on a per-head basis and not by need.
Vice-chair of the COVID-19 Vaccine Programme Board, Richard Roberts from Public Health Wales, said: “It is a significant achievement that only 9 months after WHO announced the global pandemic that we now have the first safe and effective vaccine available for use in Wales, and other vaccines to follow.
“Everyone has been preparing for months to deliver the COVID-19 vaccine programme, and it is very exciting that we will be able to begin, once the final steps have been put in place so that the programme can be delivered safely.”
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