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Support workers forced to self-isolate, Ben Lake MP writes to Chancellor

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Call for furlough-like scheme for self-isolating workers following outbreaks in food processing factories

Plaid Cymru’s Treasury Spokesperson, Ben Lake MP, has written to the Chancellor to call for greater support for those forced out of work due to localised Covid-19 outbreaks.

In a letter to the Treasury, Mr Lake has urged the UK Government extend similar levels of financial support to those forced out of work due to Coronavirus.

The Plaid MP has made the call following a serious Coronavirus outbreak at a food processing plant in at 2 Sisters in Llangefni, Ynys Mon. So far 158 workers have tested positive. There have been similar outbreaks in food processing plants in Wrexham and Cleckheaton.

Concerns have been raised about staff in the sector, who are often in low-paid work, being forced to make a decision about whether they find work whilst they should be self-isolating in order to make ends meet.

In the letter, Ben Lake MP says:

“Whilst I welcomed the steps the UK Government took to lower the threshold for Statutory Sick Pay, I am concerned that the total payment of £95.85 per week is still not enough for many households the length and breadth of the UK. I note that the inadequacy of this regime was considered in breach of legal obligations by the European Committee of Social Rights in 2018, and therefore request that it is addressed as a matter of urgency.

“The danger posed by inaction is clear, most recently evidenced by the severity of Covid-19 outbreaks in meat processing plants in Ynys Môn, Wrexham and Cleckheaton. While there is need for more research on the relationship between facilities such as these and Covid-19, and that some of those workers in this outbreak will be supported by their employers with full pay, I am concerned that in future outbreaks employers may not be so generous. Should employers not consider this situation as precedent, we face the very real situation where workers in future outbreaks may be forced to conclude that they have no choice but to seek employment immediately elsewhere due to the inadequacy of Statutory Sick Pay.

“Workers in the food processing industry are particularly vulnerable, with a Low Pay Commission (LPC) report last year finding that around 6,700 workers – 11.8% of low-paid employees in food processing jobs – were paid lower than the national living wage. The closure of plants due to local outbreaks of Covid-19 will have a detrimental effect on thousands of families.

“The choice facing these workers is stark. How can a family who may have relied on the income of an individual working at one of these facilities now meet their needs living on less than £100 a week? I fear that the inadequacy of the Statutory Sick Pay scheme is asking individuals to choose between being able to put food on the table for their family, or risk transmitting the virus to others in the community.

“I therefore urge you to extend similar levels of financial support to organisations, and in-turn workers, who find themselves in this situation as that offered by the Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme. This would not only deliver further security for those in low-income work from the financial dangers posed by Covid-19, but would give employers and the workforce at large greater confidence as we move forward to more sporadic and localised outbreaks of the virus.”

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Two week national ‘Firebreak Lockdown’ announced for Wales from 6pm on Friday

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MARK DRAKEFORD, The First Minister of Wales has announced a two week ‘fire break’ lockdown from Friday October 23 at 18:00 HRS, to last until Monday November 9 at 00:01 HRS

Mr Drakeford said: “This firebreak is the shortest we can make it. It must be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus.”

All non essential businesses, including tourism businesses will be told to close.

Businesses have been told that they will be given £1000 each automatically to help with the economic impact of the shutdown.

Mr Drakeford added that children will be the priority and that childcare facilities will open as normal. Primary schools will open after half term.

Secondary schools will be closed for a week after half term to help control the virus.

Universities will offer a mixture of face-to-face learning and learning via video link. Students must stay at their university accommodation during the lockdown.

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement of a Wales-wide lockdown, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament, has called the lockdown “not-proportionate” and is calling on the Welsh Government to be “open and transparent” on the evidence to support a lockdown and if the First Minister is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns every month.

Paul Davies MS said: “Sadly, the First Minster has failed to get public support for this second Wales-wide lockdown, failing to be open and transparent about the evidence to justify this lockdown and what his actions will entail for the future.

“The Welsh Government also has to be honest that this road they are taking us down is committing Wales to rolling Wales-wide lockdowns. This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year. The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.

“However, the main concern is that this national lockdown is not proportionate. The impact on businesses in areas such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, who have the lowest rate of Covid-19 cases in Wales, will be severe at a time when they are desperately struggling to recover from the pandemic so far this year.

“The First Minister needs to urgently come to the Welsh Parliament and answer these questions, to face effective scrutiny by elected representatives and not run his government by media.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP, Stephen Crabb told The Herald: “The evidence to support an all-Wales lockdown is weak and I am sceptical that this so-called ‘fire-break’ will tackle the situation in those parts of Wales where infection rates have been out of control. The key issue for Welsh Government to address is what will be done differently after the firebreak ends in those parts of Wales where infection rates have spiralled out of control. Otherwise the whole of Wales risks being dragged back into a series of rolling lockdowns.

“As we saw earlier in the year, lockdowns come with huge costs in terms of harm to the economy and to people’s emotional and mental wellbeing. With the Welsh Government asking UK Government to fund this lockdown, I hope that as many businesses as possible get support they need quickly. Pembrokeshire’s hospitality businesses will be hit particularly hard by these latest restrictions and I will be fighting hard again to see that they are protected as the lockdown kicks in.”

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Drakeford to make decision on ‘fire-break’ lockdown in Wales by Monday

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WALES is facing a national lockdown lasting at least two weeks in plans described as a “fire-break” by the first minister.

He said a decision was likely to be made on Monday, while talks continue with health officials, scientific advisors and councils over the weekend.
“Doing nothing is not an option,” he said.

Responding to the speculation First Minister, Mark Drakeford, is set to announce a ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in Wales, Welsh Conservative health spokesperson, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “I implore the First Minister to think again before heading down this path.

“The decision to lockdown Wales once again will have devastating consequences – from an economic and public health perspective – and should be the last resort.

“Only yesterday, the former director of communicable diseases at Public Health Wales, Dr Roland Salmon, said a circuit-breaker is likely to fail and the Welsh Labour Government should listen carefully to his warning.

“Earlier this week, Welsh Conservatives called for the urgent resumption of shielding in Wales with a substantial package of support to ensure the financial, physical and mental well-being of those most at risk is protected.

“This should be the immediate action taken by ministers along with prioritising PPE and testing in the problem areas in Wales such as hospitals, care home, universities and meat factories.

“It’s not too late for the Labour Government to reconsider and choose a different approach in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford warned that 2,500 people were now being infected with coronavirus every day in Wales, with critical care units in hospitals full.

“A successful fire-break would re-set the virus at a lower level,” he added.

Together with a new national set of rules for the whole of Wales after the fire-break period we would have slowed the virus down enough to get us through to Christmas.”
Plaid Cymru has been calling on Mr Drakeford to introduce the circuit-breaker without delay, while Labour at Westminster says a similar approach should be adopted in England.

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Ceredigion pub to be issued with a closure notice

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A Ceredigion premises has been closed down over breach of coronavirus regulations.

A closure notice has been served on Ffostrasol Arms in Ffostrasol, Llandysul by Public Protection Officers due to continuing non-compliance with the Coronavirus Regulations. An Improvement notice had previously been served on the premises, but it was established that further contraventions of the regulations had been identified and in order to protect the public, a decision was made to close the premises. The Ffostrasol Arms will remain closed until they can demonstrate that they have made improvements and meet the requirements of the Coronavirus Regulations.

Ceredigion County Council, supported by Dyfed-Powys Police, continue to step up their enforcement of businesses that are failing to keep their customers safe and to ensure that Covid-19 cases do not increase in the County.

There is growing evidence across the country that where there are insufficient controls in pubs, clubs and bars, that these premises increase the risk of Covid-19 spreading in the community. The Council will issue further closure notices where necessary to ensure compliance with the Regulations. The Council will act decisively if any business is found guilty of breaking Covid-19 Regulations. In the interest of public safety, all businesses need to ensure that they are compliant with the Regulations at all times.

Improvement notices are also being served on premises advising them to take action or face similar consequences. However, the Council is pleased to see how many businesses are operating well to provide a safe environment for their customers. Many of those visited in recent weeks have made further improvements following the advice of the council’s public protection team.

During the compliance visits, officers are checking that businesses are complying with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions)(No.2) (Wales) Regulations 2020, and have the power to close, force improvements of review the premises licence or club premises certificate.

All pubs and clubs must ensure that:

· A Test, Trace, Protect system is in place to accurately record all visits to the premises so that customers can be easily contacted in the event of a positive case linked to the venue. This includes customers’ name and telephone number.

· Social distancing of 2 metres is maintained, with adequate signage, distance between tables and seating, and procedures for managing walkways and toilet areas.

· All premises must provide table service only i.e. no ordering at the bar.

· All food and drink must be consumed at tables.

· Customers are not drinking and standing at the bar.

· Customers are not drinking alcohol whilst standing, unless they are standing at a tall table – in all other instances they must be seated.

· There is no live music, and that recorded music is only played at a low background level.

· Hospitality businesses, including pubs, cafes, restaurants and casinos, to close at 10pm.

Ffostrasol Arms Premises Closure Notice came into force on 15 October 2020 at 16:40. The notice can be seen on the Coronavirus web page, under Improvement and Closure Notices: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/coronavirus

Information for businesses is available on the Council’s website: http://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/business/covid-19-supporting-ceredigion-s-economy/

Any business who is unsure of their responsibilities is urged to check the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/taking-all-reasonable-measures-minimise-risk-exposure-coronavirus-workplaces-and-premises-open

Any business that requires further information or guidance can contact the council’s Licensing Team at 01545 570881 or clic@ceredigion.gov.uk

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