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First Minister announces further steps to unlock Wales

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ALL NON-ESSENTIAL shops in Wales will be able to re-open from Monday (22 June) as part the biggest unlocking of the coronavirus regulations to date, First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced today (Friday 19 June).

Retailers will be able to resume trading if they can take all reasonable measures to comply with the physical distancing duty in Welsh law to reduce the spread of coronavirus and protect shop workers and shoppers.

The changes are part of a comprehensive package of measures being introduced step by step every Monday over the next three weeks. Pupils will return to schools on 29 June and the requirement to stay local will be lifted, if conditions allow on 6 July.

The First Minister will today also alert the visitor and tourism industry to start preparations to reopen if the spread of the virus continues to decline.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The threat of coronavirus hasn’t gone away but thanks to the efforts we have all made over the last few months, the number of people contracting coronavirus each day in Wales is falling, so too is the risk of meeting somebody with virus.

“Given the progress we have made, we are able to take some additional cautious steps to further unlock our society and economy. This includes more retailers being able re-open their businesses, as long as they take measures to minimise the risk to their staff and to the customers who visit their stores.

“Our focus continues to be on the health risks of the outbreak, but we can now begin to cautiously focus much more squarely on the wider economic and societal impact the virus is having.

“We have provided a huge amount of support to businesses and jobs as they hibernated during the pandemic – now we start to take these careful steps to restart our economy.”

On Monday, a series of changes will be made to the coronavirus regulations – the main change will be to enable non-essential retail businesses to open.

They follow the fourth statutory review of the coronavirus regulations by Welsh Ministers, using the latest scientific and medical evidence from the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) and the advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.

Monday’s changes include: Enabling private prayer in places of worship where social distancing is maintained and gatherings do not take place;
Restarting the housing market by enabling house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed;
Lifting the restrictions on outdoor sports courts but social distancing must be maintained. No contact or team sports will be allowed;
Enabling non-professional elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, to resume training.
On June 29, pupils will be returning to schools to check in, catch up and prepare for summer and September under plans announced by Education Minister Kirsty Williams.

The requirement to stay local and not generally travelling more than five miles from home remains in place. However, new guidance will make it clear people are able to travel outside their local area on compassionate grounds. This includes seeing people at a care home or a youth offender institution – when these visits are allowed. People who are eligible to vote in overseas elections, where voting must be done in person, will also be able to travel.

Ministers have decided to lift the requirement to stay local on 6 July, provided the conditions allow. With the requirement lifted, people will be able to travel to tourist attractions across Wales.

The First Minister will today signal to some businesses and the visitor and tourism industry to use this period to begin to make preparations for reopening.

At the next review on 9 July, the Welsh Government will consider a range of specific options for opening:

Self-contained holiday accommodation;
Personal care services, such as hairdressing and beauty, by appointment.
Discussions will also be held with the hospitality sector about the potential phased reopening of pubs, cafes and restaurants while maintaining strict social distancing.

The First Minister added: “I know the wider tourism industry is keen to reopen and to salvage some of this summer’s season. I am therefore signalling owners of self-contained accommodation should use the next three weeks to prepare to re-open, working with their local communities.

“But I want people to know coronavirus has not gone away. We have some headroom to make this package of changes to the regulations, which will be introduced in a phased and cautious way in Wales.

“Many aspects of daily life in Wales will be moving into the amber zone in our traffic light system. But we all need to continue to take steps to protect ourselves from the virus – that means working from home wherever possible; avoiding unnecessary travel; only meeting with one other household outdoors; maintaining social distancing and washing your hands often. It may also mean wearing a face covering in some situations.

“It is thanks to the efforts of everyone in Wales that we have slowed the spread of coronavirus but we can’t stop now. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus and to keep Wales safe.”

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Health

Ambulance delays as heart attack victims left waiting one hour 57 minutes

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FREEDOM of Information requests reveal the worst ambulance delays out of 22 local authorities in Wales.

Postcode lottery revealed with patients in some areas waiting over double the amount of time for life-threatening calls

The average wait time for amber calls, which includes heart attack and stroke victims was 1 hour 57 minutes. In Swansea, it was 2 hours 33 minutes.

Shocking figures have unveiled the local areas in Wales with the longest ambulance delays, revealing a stark “postcode lottery” for response times to life-threatening calls.

Figures were provided by local authority giving a more local breakdown of the usual Health Board data.

Potential heart attack and stroke victims in the worst-hit areas are now waiting an average of one hour and 57 minutes for paramedics to arrive.

The figures, uncovered by the Liberal Democrats through Freedom of Information requests, reveal how patients whose lives are in immediate danger are waiting twice as long in some rural areas than urban ones. In Anglesey, patients waited an average of 12 minutes and 22 seconds for category 1 calls compared to 6 minutes 31 seconds in Newport.

However, the figures for amber calls painted a much starker picture with an average arrival time of 1 hour 57 minutes in Wales, with the worst in Swansea, where the average wait was 2 hours 33 minutes.

Overall, 13 out of the 22 local authorities in Wales had an average wait of over 2 hours for amber calls.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for action on the social care crisis in order to free up hospital beds and stop ambulances waiting outside hospitals.

Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS said:

“These figures are heart-breaking, but not necessarily shocking to anyone who has had to call on an ambulance in recent months.

“Far too many people are being left to wait too long in an emergency across every region of Wales. The length of amber calls, which includes stroke and heart attack victims in particularly concerning.

“None of this is the fault of our hardworking ambulance staff who are doing their utmost in extremely difficult conditions.

“We must see an end to the postcode lottery in emergency care, it shouldn’t matter where you live, you should be able to get timely medical attention when you need it most.

“Every day we hear more and more devastating stories of pensioners left stranded for hours, or families watching a loved one die before a paramedic could reach them.

“This cannot continue, the Welsh Labour Government must bring forward extra support to get ambulance services through winter as well as a long-term strategy to ensure people can get emergency care when they need it. That means addressing workforce shortages, fixing the social care crisis and ending the shortage of hospital beds, all of which are leaving patients in ambulances stuck outside A&E for hours.”

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Ceredigion MS’ back striking Uni staff

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LOCAL Plaid Cymru politicians stood in solidarity with striking university staff at the Senedd this week, as over 70,000 staff from over 150 universities across the UK undertook three days of striking action over attacks on pay, working conditions and pensions.

The strike, organised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU), was the biggest in the history of higher education, and saw protestors gather en masse in London and Cardiff, as well as picket lines on university campuses, including in Aberystwyth and Lampeter.

The strikes come after UCU members overwhelmingly voted ‘yes’ to industrial action in September in two historic national ballots over attacks on pay and working conditions as well as pension cuts.

In September, Aberystwyth University, along with other employers, offered a standard three per cent pay increase. UCU’s demands, however, include a pay uplift of 12 per cent or Retail Price Index (RPI) plus two per cent, an agreed framework to eliminate insecure work practices such as zero hours contracts, and action to address dangerously high workloads.

The protest at the Senedd on Wednesday 30th November brought together a range of university staff, students and supporters, as well as many politicians.

Elin Jones, Member of the Senedd for Ceredigion said:

“I welcomed the opportunity to stand in solidarity with striking university staff. As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, it’s clear that the current pay offer to university staff does not go far enough, and many will struggle financially over coming months.

Whilst staff in Aberystwyth and Lampeter are working hard to deliver an exceptional experience for their students, more and more are struggling as a result of falling pay, pension uncertainty and insecure work.”

Cefin Campbell, Member of the Senedd for Mid & West Wales concluded:

“Universities’ roles as vital employers across Mid & West Wales cannot be understated. No-one – including the university staff – wants industrial action, however the fact that the strike took place indicates the strength of feeling and frustration within the sector. At this time of growing financial hardship, I stand with the UCU staff and hope their demands will be met by universities.”

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Children’s Commissioner for Wales helps deliver powerful messages from children

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ENCOURAGING safeguarding professionals and practitioners to engage with and listen to children and young people was at the heart of an event hosted by the Mid and West Wales Regional Safeguarding Board for children, as part of its National Safeguarding Week activities and program for 2022.

The event which took place on 18 November 18 at Parc-y–Scarlets stadium in Llanelli, was attended by professionals who play a key role in safeguarding children, including police officers, nurses, social care staff and education professionals, and by children and young people from across the region, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire and Powys.

A safeguarding training resource and animation developed and created by the Regional Safeguarding Board’s Junior Group CADW, was officially launched as part of the event, by the Children’s Commissioner for Wales Rocio Cifuentes.

The training resource designed to be used in all mandatory multi-agency safeguarding training across the region, gives powerful messages to professionals about what is important to children and young people when practitioners and professionals may need to intervene in their lives to support or protect them.

Jan Coles, Head of Children’s Services at Carmarthenshire Council, which led and facilitated the event of behalf of the Mid and West Wales Safeguarding Board, said: “It is empowering and extremely inspiring for the children and young people from across our region to see so many safeguarding professionals and practitioners to support the fantastic work they have done.

“The messages in the animation are very powerful and we will take this forward as a regional safeguarding board and ensure they are embedded into core safeguarding practice.”

The resource as well as supplementary information and materials can be viewed here: www.cysur.wales/training/animation-training-resource/

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