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Health

Lockdown still in place but its now “Stay local” not “Stay at home”

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THE MESSAGE is changing from “Stay at home” to “Stay local” but the lock down, although relaxed is still in place, as part of what is being called “a careful, cautious and phased approach to relaxing coronavirus restrictions.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement at today’s press conference. (Friday, March 12)

From Saturday 13 March, four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in gardens. In addition, outdoor sports facilities, including basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses, can reopen, and indoor care home visits will restart, for single designated visitors.
From Monday, all primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring year 10 and 12 learners back and more learners will return to colleges.

There will also be flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils. All learners will return after the Easter break.

Hairdressers and barbers will re-open for appointments from Monday.

From 22 March non-essential retail will start re-opening gradually as the restrictions are lifted on what can be sold in shops which are currently open. Garden centres will also be able to open.

All shops, including all close contact services, will be able to open from 12 April – the same date as in England.

Some shops will be allowed to sell non-essential from next Monday, others will have to wait

The move is being seen as a snub to small businesses. Non-essential items will be for sales in supermarkets before they are for sale in small shops. Its a U-turn for the Welsh Government who previously said they wanted to be fair to everyone in businesses.

The First Minister said at the Friday press conference: “We are taking a phased approach to unlocking each sector – starting with schools.

We will make step-by-step changes each week to gradually restore freedoms. We will monitor each change we make, so we know what impact each change has had on Wales’ public health situation.”

The First Minister also announced an additional £150m to support businesses affected by ongoing restrictions.

The First Minister has announced that an extra £150m available to help businesses which are not yet able to open to help top up the non-domestic rates grants.

He said it means hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail businesses, which must remain closed will be eligible for a third payment of between £4,000 and £5,000 to help them meet ongoing operating costs while they cannot trade.

“This is in top of the announcement earlier this week extending the business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses for the whole of the next financial year,” Mr Drakeford added.

“We have made well in excess of £2bn available to businesses over the course of the last year to help them through the pandemic, which is over and above the support available from the UK Government’s schemes.

“This is the most generous business support scheme available in the UK. I’m very pleased we’ve been able to safeguard more than 160,000 jobs in these most difficult of times.”

There has been “false hope” for small firms, and insufficient warning given to businesses ahead of re-opening say Plaid Plaid Cymru. Plaid’s Leader Adam Price also urged Welsh Government to put “families first” before tourism re-opens. The Welsh Government has not given businesses that are allowed to open on Monday “sufficient warning” whilst giving false hope to those not allowed to open, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price has said.

Mr Price was responding to the announcement today from Welsh Government on lockdown easing.

The Plaid Cymru Leader added that there should be “some limited extended freedoms for families to come together” before tourism re-opens.

He added that there should be a “Wales wide consultation with the tourism sector” to establish whether it is viable for them to open to Welsh domiciled customers only over Easter and that case rates remained “stubbornly high” in many areas “attractive to tourists”.

Mr Price added that whilst “we all want the rules to be relaxed” this should be “the last lockdown, and to avoid another wave and further deaths in a few months.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS told The Herald: “We all want the rules to be relaxed but what we want even more is for this to be the last lockdown, and to avoid another wave and further deaths in a few months.

“The Welsh Government has not given those businesses allowed to open on Monday sufficient warning whilst giving false hope to those not allowed to open.

“We now need a Wales wide consultation with the tourism sector to establish whether it is viable for them to open to Welsh domiciled customers only over Easter.

“Case rates remain stubbornly high in many areas attractive to tourists and we must remember the huge pressures already facing local hospitals.

“After the sacrifices of the past year we should be putting families first and granting some limited extended freedoms for families to come together before tourism re-opens.

“With people’s wellbeing suffering during the pandemic allowing gyms to open would be welcomed by many, providing that they can do so safely.

“Clear and consistent communication from Ministers is essential to ensure adherence to the rules. If we all play our part, we look forward to greater freedoms when case rates allow

Ahead of the update on Covid-19 restrictions, Welsh Conservatives renewed calls on the First Minister to provide a roadmap out of lockdown for families, workers and businesses in Wales.

Andrew RT Davies has called for “windows of opportunity” to be provided for businesses in Wales, as well as a relaxing of restrictions on exercise if the data allows.

Speaking ahead of the First Minister’s announcement, Davies also warned Labour ministers not to reimpose the “five-mile rule” with an easing of travel restrictions expected.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “Labour should use this review to provide some hope and above all a detailed plan for families, workers and businesses across Wales.

“As a priority, this should include dates and windows of opportunity for businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. It’s the least those sectors deserve.

“I believe it’s important we see a greater acknowledgement from ministers over the importance of exercise to the mental and physical wellbeing of so many people in Wales, and where data allows, we should look to reopen gyms and ensure our sporting fields are once again occupied, particularly for our children.

“Given the great national effort, it’s also the right time to end the “stay at home” regulation but encourage people to “stay local”, but without reintroducing the arbitrary five-mile rule.

“The great British and Welsh vaccination story has improved the situation considerably and as Welsh Conservatives we are unapologetic about our focus on getting Wales back on track after this gruelling and painful ordeal for our country.

“That should now start with a roadmap out of lockdown. And for the sake of families, workers, and businesses across Wales, I hope Labour ministers listen.”

Responding to the Labour Government’s latest lockdown announcement, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “We await the full details, but it appears Labour have missed another opportunity to provide clarity and a detailed roadmap out of lockdown for people across Wales.

“Labour’s U-turn on the opening of non-essential retail at such short notice will be a hammer blow for many businesses, and the decision to now align with England in that area shows we could’ve adopted a similar roadmap weeks ago.

“The ongoing refusal by Labour ministers to do so will only increase frustration in the sectors worst hit by the pandemic and will put more Welsh jobs at risk.

“Sadly, the scant details are reflective of a Labour government that doesn’t trust the people of Wales and which we found out this week believes that Welsh people…“if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile.”

“People in Wales fully understand the pandemic can change course and Labour ministers need to start treating us like adults, cut out the political games, and provide a clear path and roadmap forward.”

The “stay at home” rule will become “stay local” and the Labour have said people should stick to a five-mile rule. Commenting on that aspect, Davies said: “I welcome the end of the “stay at home” regulation, which is possible due to the collective hard work of people across Wales.

“People are fully capable of understanding the “stay local” message and as such the arbitrary five-mile rule is unnecessary.”

Reacting to the announcement from the First Minister for Wales that garden centres can reopen from 22 March, the Chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, James Barnes, said: “This is the news the industry has been waiting for. We are delighted the Welsh Government recognised that garden centres provide enhanced safe retailing with light, airy and outdoor spaces.

“The many benefits of plants, gardening and nature are well documented, and this decision means that people in Wales can once again easily access everything they need to maximise those benefits as we can all start to look to a happier Spring”.

HTA Council representative for Wales, and owner of Pugh’s Garden Village in South Wales, Nicola Pugh, said: “We are delighted by the news we can reopen our doors on 22 March. We are ready and waiting and have been working hard to ensure safe shopping for all our wonderful customers and growing a selection of beautiful plants locally at our nurseries to ensure that our benches are full to welcome gardeners back to our centres.”

Travel restrictions should be eased with “caution” with the “stay local” messaged introduced for as long as is “necessary” Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price has said.
The Plaid Cymru Leader was speaking ahead of the announcement.

Mr Price said that relaxation of restrictions should be done “slowly and steadily” and stressed the need for the “clearest plan possible” out of lockdown for businesses.

Adam Price MS said: “Travel restrictions should be eased with caution and the sensible approach is to reintroduce the “stay local” message for as long as is necessary – ensuring that guidance is tailored depending on where people live. Stay Local can mean different things in different parts of Wales – particularly rural Wales.

“Any relaxation of restrictions need to be done slowly and steadily. After all, we all want this lockdown to be the very last lockdown that we face.

“But above all, we support measures that aim to keep people safe, based on evidence, but people and businesses need the clearest plan possible about the road ahead of us.

“However, loneliness and isolation remain also a real challenge for many people, and we hope that the government will put a sharp focus on when and how it will be safe to return to extended household bubbles. We also cannot ignore the mental health crisis which has been brought about because of the pandemic. It is vital that everything possible is done to enable gyms to be among the first facilities to reopen.

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Health

Information on the All Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone

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Keepers with more than 500 birds will also be required to take extra biosecurity measures

ON NOVEMBER 1 2021, the Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales confirmed a case of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in a small backyard flock of chickens in Wrexham. This was following a case at a wild bird rescue centre in Worcestershire on the 27 October 2021.

A risk assessment has been prepared in light of these findings, and on 01 November, the UK risk level for disease incursion in wild birds was raised from medium to high. Additionally, the risk to poultry has been increased from low to medium, where biosecurity is inadequate. Effective biosecurity measures play a vital part in helping to reduce this risk. 

Prevention Zone

As a precautionary measure, in response to the increased risk level and to mitigate the risk of infection to poultry and other captive birds by wild birds, it has been declared that an all Wales Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, under Article 6 of the Avian Influenza and Influenza of Avian Origin in Mammals (Wales) (No. 2) Order 2006 has been put into place. The Prevention Zone applies from 17:00 on 03 November 2021.

From 00:01 on 8 November 2021, no gatherings of poultry, galliforme or anseriform birds are permitted. Galliforme birds include pheasants, partridge, quail, chickens, turkey and guinea fowl. Anseriform birds include ducks, geese and swans. See the following guidance for more information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/bird-gatherings-licences

The Prevention Zone will require all keepers of poultry and other captive birds, irrespective of how they are kept, to take appropriate and practicable steps, including:

  • Ensure the areas where birds are kept are unattractive to wild birds, for example, by netting ponds and by removing wild bird food sources;
  • Feed and water your birds in enclosed areas to discourage wild birds;
  • Minimise movement of people in and out of bird enclosures;
  • Clean and disinfect footwear and keep areas where birds live clean and tidy;
  • Reduce any existing contamination by cleansing and disinfecting concrete areas, and fencing off wet or boggy areas.
  • Keep domestic ducks and geese separate from other poultry.

Keepers with more than 500 birds will also be required to take extra biosecurity measures, including restricting access to non-essential people, changing clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures and cleaning and disinfecting vehicles.

This Avian Influenza Prevention Zone will remain in place until a reduction in risk levels indicates it is no longer required. The Zone will be kept under regular review.

Councillor Gareth Lloyd, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for Finance and Public Protection Services, said: “We strongly encourage all poultry keepers, even those with fewer than 50 birds, to sign up to the Poultry Register. This will ensure you can be contacted immediately, via email or text update, in an avian disease outbreak, enabling you to protect your flock at the earliest opportunity.”

Further information

The following link provides guidance on how to register your flock: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/poultry-including-game-birds-registration-rules-and-forms

Information on the requirements of the Avian Influenza Prevention Zone, guidance and latest developments will be available on the Welsh Government website: https://gov.wales/avian-influenza

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Community

Join the team that’s changing lives in Ceredigion

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Royal Voluntary Service in Ceredigion is encouraging more people in the area to discover the joys of volunteering

ROYAL Voluntary Service in Ceredigion is encouraging more people in the area to discover the joys of volunteering whilst keeping their local community healthy and happy. 

The Royal Voluntary Service has been providing invaluable support to people in need in Ceredigion both before and during the coronavirus pandemic. With the support of players of People’s Postcode Lottery, the charity and its volunteers are able to improve health and wellbeing, resilience, confidence and connections of some of Ceredigion’s most vulnerable people.

One of the ways in which local volunteers are improving the lives of people in Ceredigion is by offering Community Transport to help them stay active, independent and social, perhaps by driving them to a community club, an appointment, or taking them home after a stay in hospital. 

People are also being encouraged to sign up for a new Emergency Response Volunteer role, to form a team of standby volunteers who will be ready to come to the aid of their communities and their NHS when urgent needs arise. However, it’s not just the people on the receiving end of the support that benefit from volunteering.

As a result of donating their time, Royal Voluntary Service volunteers report better physical health; mental health and wellbeing, with 81% of pandemic volunteers reporting an improvement in this*; new skills and work experience; and a sense of connection to others in their community. In a recent report more than a third (38%) of Royal Voluntary Service volunteers said that volunteering has also improved their confidence**.

More volunteers are needed to continue providing life changing support to vulnerable and isolated people in Ceredigion as we head into autumn. Royal Voluntary Service is encouraging anyone that wants to make a positive difference to their community and experience the countless benefits of volunteering to step forward and find out about roles in their area at royalvoluntaryservice.org.uk/volunteering.

Karyn Morris, Commissioned Service Operations Manager for Royal Voluntary Service in Ceredigion said: “The feedback we get from the people that we support is often that the help of our service and our volunteers is a real lifeline for them. Our volunteers are changing and improving people’s lives in Ceredigion every day. They volunteer completely selflessly, but it’s incredible to see how much their service changes their lives too. If you’d like to join our close-knit team of amazing volunteers, any time you can offer will go a long way to supporting your community and you’ll meet some fantastic people along the way.”

Laura Chow, Head of Charities at People’s Postcode Lottery, said:  “Volunteering your time is one of the best things you can do for your community and for yourself. The numerous benefits of volunteering work both ways. By stepping forward this autumn, not only will volunteers be helping those that need extra support to get through the toughest months, but they’ll be boosting their own physical and mental health and wellbeing too.”

Royal Voluntary Service is one of Britain’s largest volunteering charities with volunteers supporting the NHS and thousands of vulnerable people in the community. During the crisis the charity has delivered the NHS Volunteer Responders programme for NHS England enabled by the GoodSAM app with volunteers responding to over 2 million requests for support so far. The charity has also worked in local communities through the crisis running home libraries, companionship support, home from hospital services and patient transport. Its Virtual Village Hall provides live classes and tutorials on Facebook to promote well-being and keep people active and occupied through the pandemic.

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Health

First Minister encourages people to get the flu vaccine as he gets the jab

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Mark Drakeford receiving his flu vaccine

THIS week, First Minister Mark Drakeford, got his flu vaccination and encouraged others to take up the offer this winter to help keep people safe and well.

This year will be Wales’ largest ever flu vaccination programme, with people aged 50 and over and all those eligible for a free vaccine being invited to have their jab.

The school’s flu vaccine programme has also been extended this year to include all those in secondary school in years 7-11.

The Welsh Government has also extended the free flu vaccine to all primary care workers in Wales.

Those eligible for the free flu vaccine also include pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.

The COVID booster programme will also be co-administered to those who are eligible where appropriate to do so, in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines. Both vaccines can be administered in succession without delay so there is no need to postpone either appointment once booked

First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, who received his flu vaccine this week, said:

“Unlike last year, we are expecting a significant amounts of flu to circulate this winter and Covid is still with us. It’s very important people take up their offer of the flu vaccine as well as the Covid booster. Data suggests this winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season.

“As we have seen with COVID, vaccines play a huge role in helping to help protect us.  They are the best way to keep everyone safe and help stop the spread of the virus.

“We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community, and reduce the pressure on our NHS.”

Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant for Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme said:

“Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.”

“Getting it is simple, and for most eligible groups is available from either their General Practice or a Community Pharmacy, with separate arrangements in place for school-age children and NHS staff.

“To help extend protection against infection it is very important to get your COVID-19 booster vaccine when offered. It is available to those eligible groups that completed their primary course of the vaccinations earlier this year.

“COVID-19 booster vaccinations are offered by invitation at existing local mass vaccination centres. Please get yours when you are invited.”

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