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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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Changes to bus services in Ceredigion confirmed by local authority

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THERE will be changes to local bus services in Ceredigion from Tuesday 3 January 2023.

The tenders received as part of a procurement process for operating several services have shown significant cost increases. This has resulted in substantial increases in subsidy levels being requested at a time when public finances are under tremendous pressure. The higher costs are largely reflective of particular challenges affecting the bus industry currently which includes considerable increased operating costs, lack of qualified and available drivers, uncertainty around future funding mechanisms as well as declining passenger numbers and changing travel behaviours.

Bus passenger numbers have been in decline across Wales and essentially halved in the period between 1982, where there were 181 million passenger journeys and 2019/20 where there were 91 million passenger journeys. This has been severely compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw a drop to 26 million passenger journeys in 2020/21, that has further impacted on the viability of local bus services.

The 22T (Aberystwyth-Devil’s Bridge), 27T (Penrhyncoch-Penbontrhydybeddau) and T29 (Tregaron Circular) demand responsive services will stop at the end of December 2022. This is due to the significant costs associated with providing them and the very low level of usage, which equate to unviable levels of public subsidy per passenger journey.

There will be changes to the timetables on the 525 (Aberystwyth-Ponterwyd), 526 (Aberystwyth-Penrhyncoch) and 585 (Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter) services. The timetables for these services, subject to submission by the operators and approval by the Traffic Commissioner, are attached. These timetables are based on proposals provided by the local bus operators and reflect what is operationally deliverable with the resources available, in terms of buses and drivers, at this time.

The T21 (Aberystwyth-Llanafan-Tregaron) and 552 Cardi Bach (New Quay-Cardigan) services will continue as currently.

All these contracts have been awarded on a 6 month basis to allow for a wider review.

Councillor Keith Henson, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environmental Services and Carbon Management said: “I would like to thank the local bus companies for their ongoing engagement in what is very challenging operating environment. We continue to work with them and in partnership with the other key stakeholders including the Welsh Government and Transport for Wales, seeking possible solutions and a way forward. Bus services and networks are dynamic and subject to change. Further changes are likely as the reality is that, in addition to the sparsity of resources, the amount of subsidy now required to provide the services is unaffordable, unjustifiable and unsustainable in the current financial climate.”

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Urgent police appeal for missing Ceredigion man

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POLICE in Ceredigion are appealing for help to find Dyfed who is missing from the Talybont area.

He was last seen at his home address in the Ceredigion village at around 10.30pm or 11pm on Saturday, 3 December.

Dyfed is described as being 5ft 10ins, of medium build, with short mousey brown hair with short ginger beard, and was wearing grey waterproof trousers over jeans, a blue-check padded shirt and woolly hat and wellies.

Have you seen Dyfed, or do you have info that might help us find him? Please, let us know:

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New Rural Health Economics Professor builds on University healthcare provision

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AN ACADEMIC who played a key role in decision-making in the adoption of medicines in NHS Wales and NHS England has been appointed as Professor of Rural Health Economics at Aberystwyth University.

Professor Murray Smith, an expert in the use of economics and statistics to predict outcomes in health and health-related behaviours, joins Aberystwyth Business School.

His recent research has centred on the quality of use of pharmaceutical medicine, with one project exploring the use of an inhaled analgesic for acute pre-hospital trauma pain, and others on topics that have spanned medicine use across a number of chronic disease areas.

After beginning his career in Australia, Professor Smith moved to the United Kingdom in 2007 and has worked at the universities of Aberdeen, Nottingham and Lincoln.

Professor Smith said: “I am delighted to join Aberystwyth Business School. Health economics is a vital subject because it provides methods and tools to help decision makers in the choices they face when trying to deliver high quality healthcare in a modern resource-limited economy.

“I am excited about adding to Aberystwyth Business School’s existing portfolio of expertise in research and to being given the opportunity to continue to use my skills to help the NHS to identify and deliver cost-effective healthcare and services to the people of mid Wales.”

Professor Elizabeth Treasure, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University said: “It is vital as a society that we continue to innovate in our approaches to healthcare and Aberystwyth University is stepping up to the challenge with the launch of our first ever nursing degrees in September 2022 and through interdisciplinary research into combating diseases, using artificial intelligence to improve patients’ health, and exploring new techniques to improve human health through diet.

“The appointment of Professor Smith demonstrates our continuing commitment to developing and delivering high quality healthcare education and research at Aberystwyth. His expertise will focus on the economic aspects of healthcare, and his teaching and research will benefit our students and beyond.”

Professor Smith’s appointment coincides with the awarding of Honorary Professorships to three executives from Hywel Dda University Health Board, further strengthening Aberystwyth University’s expertise in healthcare as well as building on its partnership with the local health board.

Dr Helen Munro, Consultant in Community Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare at the Board; Dr Leighton Phillips, the Board’s Director of Research, Innovation and University Partnerships, and Huw Thomas, its Director of Finance collectively have decades of expertise in the health sector in the United Kingdom.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda University Health Board, added: “On behalf of the Board I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to Helen, Leighton and Huw on their appointment as Honorary Professors at Aberystwyth University. Our partnership with Aberystwyth University continues to go from strength to strength and we look forward to continuing our vital work together in the future.”
Professor Elizabeth Treasure added: “I am delighted to welcome our new Honorary Professors, who together will bring decades of experience to our research and teaching. Their expertise will further contribute to the role we have to play as a University in helping improve healthcare provision for everyone.”

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