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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.

Community

A reminder to residents and visitors as the number of Delta cases increase

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CEREDIGION is starting to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Ceredigion and across Wales over recent days. The Delta variant has been detected in Ceredigion; a different variant which causes a wider range symptoms than previously, the Council has said.

We are becoming increasingly concerned about this increase; the current rate per 100 thousand of the population is 33 and this is likely to increase further over the coming days. This is a significant rise, considering at the beginning of June the rate per 100 thousand of the population was as low as 2.8 per 100 thousand.

The new variant of COVID-19 is in all parts of Wales. It spreads faster and we need to be more vigilant and ensure that we follow the most recent guidelines which are as follows:

·       Only members of your extended household can enter your home.

·       Face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that are open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), and on public transport and in taxis.

·       People should try and work from home if they can.

·       People should maintain social distancing, including outdoors, and don’t mix with too many different groups of people.

·       People should wash their hands regularly and follow other advice on hygiene.

·       People must self-isolate when told to do so by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect or as soon as you develop symptoms

·       Book a test if you experience any of the symptoms.

Symptoms of the Delta variant of coronavirus include a headache, followed by sore throat, runny nose and fever. We are urging people who feel unwell with ANY of these symptoms to book a test, be extra cautious, social distance, and maintain good hand hygiene.

As everybody is making the most of a summer with more relaxed restrictions than at the start of the year, it’s still vital for everyone to remember we’re still battling this virus and trying to prevent the threat of a third wave. Limiting your contacts is essential for keeping the infection rate down and it’s how we will ultimately protect each and every one of us.

In Ceredigion, over 68% have received the first vaccine and over 44% have now received the second vaccine. A first dose of the vaccine is now available to everyone over 18. The second vaccine significantly improves your immunity, so it is important that you get your second dose to complete your course of vaccinations.

Getting both vaccine doses and following COVID-19 guidelines will protect us all against the new variant. Hywel Dda University Health Board (HDdUHB) are now running walk-in clinics for first and second dose vaccination from Monday 21 to Sunday 27 June. More information on the HDdUHB website.

Together, we can keep Ceredigion safe.

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Health

Coronavirus cases in Wales still lowest in UK says Health Minister

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WALES continues to have the lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today. 

The minister said the number of confirmed cases in Wales is currently 9.3 per 100,000 people. 

Eluned Morgan said: “The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is at the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  We have recently seen a period of 10 days where no new deaths from the virus were recorded – sadly Public Health Wales reported one death yesterday.

“These achievements reflect the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Over recent weeks we have however seen very troubling developments in relation to the so-called India variant of concern – or as the World Health Organisation has re-named it, the delta variant.  This is further proof that coronavirus has not gone away. 

“We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England.   We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.  

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK.  We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty.  It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June. 

“Whilst Wales is moving to alert level one as previously signalled, we will now do this in a phased way.  

“Changes to the regulations from 7 June therefore focused on easing restriction on outdoor events and activities.  The risk of transmission is much lower outdoors and these changes will allow people to take advantage of the summer.”

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.

Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated can also now take place.  This includes concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups. All organisers must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

Finally, provision now allows for extended household to be made up of three households who can meet and have contact indoors.  This is an increase from two households previously. 

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.   In line with the coronavirus control plan, at alert level one this would mean the rule of six would apply for meeting indoors in private homes and in holiday accommodation.

We will also consider increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.

This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of the delta variant to become available.  It will also allow time for more people to be vaccinated, which remains our best route out of the pandemic.

I am extremely grateful to Health Board vaccination teams, local partners and the many volunteers across the country for the incredible progress of our vaccination programme. 

At this rate, and subject to supply, we expect to have offered all adults 18 and over their first dose by early next week and to have hit our 3rd milestone of an uptake of 75% in all of the age ranges by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.  In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

We are currently recognised as the world Leader amongst countries over 1 million inhabitants.  We have vaccinated more than 86.5% of the adult population with their first dose and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

Yesterday I published an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. 

The updated strategy looks back at what has been achieved to date and sets out preparations for what comes next, potentially including a booster for our most vulnerable citizens and a vaccine for children and young people. We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.

Wales’ successful Test, Trace, Protect service was established a year ago.  The Welsh Government has allocated an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing this financial year to £92m.

On 2 June we also published a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy setting out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.   This includes strengthening and enhance the tracing of variants of concern, as well as the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries.

On 20 May I set-out plans for a £100m investment to kick-start the health and care system’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This money will provide for new equipment, staff, technology and ways of working to help health boards increase capacity and cut waiting times. 

As we begin resuming non-emergency care following the pandemic we have an opportunity to create a health and care system fit for the future.

Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine. 

Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.   It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.

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Health

Helping to deliver clinical services to the people of Ceredigion

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HYWEL Dda University Health Board (UHB) has published its Research and Innovation Strategy, which will help deliver clinical services to the people of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

The strategy, which is part of Hywel Dda UHB’s long-term health and care strategy, A healthier Mid and West Wales: Our Future Generations Living Well, seeks to improve the profile, quality and quantity of research and innovation activity within Hywel Dda UHB.

Additionally, while the COVID-19 pandemic has had devastating impact on communities across mid and west Wales, it demonstrated the vital link between research, innovation, and decision making at every level of the health care system. This includes the immediate importance of translating research and innovation into health benefits.

The Research and Innovation Strategy will focus on setting the direction and committing to the delivery of practical steps to move the health board’s research, development, and innovation agenda forward. This will be achieved through four strategic goals:

  • Improve the quality and impact of activities.
  • Invest in staff and facilities to encourage the development of a virtuous funding cycle.
  • Grow research and innovation activity in areas of strength and opportunity.
  • Develop strong and effective partnerships with academic, healthcare, industry and research organisations.

Leighton Phillips, Director for Research, Innovation and University Partnerships for Hywel Dda UHB, said: “Our vision is to produce and collaborate in high quality health and care research and innovation, to improve services and health outcomes for our public, patients and staff. This strategy details how we aim to improve our research and innovation capabilities, which will have a direct benefit on the communities we serve in the three counties.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown just how critical research and innovation is to deal with the worst public health crisis of our time. Excellent research and innovation contribute to improved health outcomes, because it embeds a culture of the highest standards of health and care delivery, underpinned by evidence and by attracting high quality employees.

“Implementing this strategy will be done in collaboration with a wide variety of partners, from our existing funders, local authorities and Welsh Government, to private sector organisations and industry, and the health board’s clinical and managerial teams.”

If you wish to review the strategy or discuss it further with the research and innovation team, please email HDd.Research-Development@wales.nhs.uk.

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