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Ceredigion and the Coronavirus – One year on

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AS we mark the one year lockdown of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, we reflect on the work that has been done to attempt to control the virus in Ceredigion.

From the outset, our priority was to protect the county’s population, minimise who would contract the coronavirus and the number of deaths from it. At the beginning, Public Health Wales projections indicated a reasonable worst case scenario of 600 deaths in the county by June 2020 and this was not acceptable to us.

Ceredigion County Council put in place a strategy that enabled the workforce to work as one team to actively try to suppress the virus. The staff were willing to undertake whatever duties were asked of them and with the co-operation of the citizens of Ceredigion, the worst case scenarios were never realised.

Day of reflection

Everyone has been impacted by this virus, and our communities have felt the impact of illness and the tragic loss of life.

The Castle, Alun R. Edwards Building and the Bandstand in Aberystwyth will be lighted yellow to note the first anniversary of UK lockdown.

To show support for those who are grieving, everyone is invited to take part in the national minute’s silence at 12pm on 23 March.

Thank you

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge the 72,000 residents of Ceredigion who have adhered heroically to the challenges set by the restrictions and lockdown. We thank the residents of the county for following guidance so rigidly and diligently, ensuring that the number who have been infected by the coronavirus has been kept relatively low.

Team Ceredigion

We have continued to provide a lot of our essential frontline services running for the people of our county. Many of these services have been supported by staff from other services who volunteered to be re-deployed. Their willingness to assist has been essential in maintaining these services, including waste management, supporting our residential care homes and the Childcare Hubs.

The first steps were to get Ceredigion down to its core population, which meant working with tourism sector and the Universities to close their facilities in a controlled and safe manner. We are grateful to those who worked with us to close temporarily, meaning the population was reduced by 35,000.

Prior to the first official lockdown, we closed the doors to our care homes. We worked closely with the private care homes to ensure the safety of our most vulnerable people and have continued to do so. Our ICT Team established video conferencing facilities in the homes to enable the residents to speak with their loved ones on a regular basis. 

An initial in-house contact tracing system was developed by the Council at the beginning of April, which was then integrated with the national system. The Contact Tracing Team continues to perform to a high standard – making that critical first contact with the majority of those who have had a positive test result within 24 hours.

Schools have been closed for around eight months of the last year and teachers have adapted to support children and young people to learn remotely. Childcare for children of frontline service workers was provided across the county.

A Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Hub was set up to coordinate the equipment for services within the county. A number of our staff across all secondary schools in Ceredigion produced face-shields. This ensured that this critical element of the coronavirus response was undertaken to keep frontline workers and service users safe.

Grants have been available by Welsh Government with £36.6 million allocated and distributed by the Council staff to Ceredigion businesses who are vital to the economy of the county. Businesses have also been supported and advised by the Public Protection Team in order to ensure compliance with regulations.

Those medically vulnerable and shielding were contacted by Council staff to ensure they were safe and that they received food and medication. 900 locally sourced weekly food boxes were provided to our most vulnerable citizens during the first lockdown. Support was provided to keep the homeless from the streets and in temporary accommodation.

We wanted to create safe, inviting towns for people to come shopping and to enjoy. With the slow easing of the lockdown in the county and with social distancing requirements still being important, it was necessary to make adjustments for public health reasons. Safe zones were implemented in Aberaeron, Aberystwyth, Cardigan and New Quay in July.

Our support services have ensured that work continued safely and effectively from home. There has been a great deal of communication activity in ensuring that residents and businesses have been receiving key messages in a timely manner through the Council website, on social media and by working in partnership with the local press and media. 

From the outset, the Council has worked in close conjunction with the Hywel Dda University Health Board, Dyfed-Powys Police, Aberystwyth University, University of Wales Trinity Saint David, Coleg Ceredigion, businesses and numerous voluntary and charitable groups to ensure effective collaboration and communication.

We believe that the combination of all of these interventions, as well as many other contributing factors, have played a part in supporting our residents in Ceredigion and may have contributed to the relatively low number of cases in the county.

Challenges

As a county, we have experienced many challenges over the year with incidents and outbreaks in our communities, in our Care Homes and at Aberystwyth University. However, the willingness of partners to work with us to address these challenges swiftly and decisively has enabled us to control the spread within our communities.  We have also had to act quickly to ensure school bubbles and contacts self-isolate when positive cases are identified in schools.

The Council has made swift and decisive decisions and taken action with our partners to minimise the spread of the virus as much as possible to protect the citizens of Ceredigion. We acknowledge the sacrifices that individuals and families have had to make over the last year.

Moving forward

Hywel Dda University Health Board is making good progress with the rollout of the vaccine through the priority groups in Ceredigion, as well as the second dose being provided. They are supported by the Council, Aberystwyth University and of course the volunteers who helped at the Mass Vaccination Centres.

Our focus now is to manage the adjustment phase and the long term resilience of Ceredigion in conjunction with all of our partners, whilst continuing to be vigilant in order to limit any future outbreaks. Work is ongoing to plan for the recovery phase, with the county’s economy a priority. We all hope that the rollout of the vaccine, the decrease in the number of cases and as we approach the summer that things will get back to something closer to ‘normality’.

Again, we extend our thanks to the people of Ceredigion. This has and continues to be a team effort, and the coronavirus has shown what a team we have in Ceredigion.

Further information relating to the coronavirus can be found on the Council website: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/coronavirus

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Health

Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales

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A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.

The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.

Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital. 

These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.

Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.

Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.

“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”

Giggs and his daughter

Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.

Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?

“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.

“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”

The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.

Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”

Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.

Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven. 

Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.

Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.

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The west Wales family on standby to save lives at sea this Christmas

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VOLUNTEERING with the RNLI is a real family affair for the Barbers from Cardigan, with all four family members prepared to swap turkey and tinsel for turbulent seas this Christmas.  The RNLI is calling on the public to support them and the thousands of other volunteer crew on call by giving to the charity’s Christmas appeal.

For mum Amanda and daughter Madeleine, 18, it will be their very first Christmas on call. Both have followed in the footsteps of proud dad Tony who has volunteered on the crew of Cardigan RNLI for the past 12 years and son Leo, 20, who joined the RNLI following his 17th Birthday. The family will be spending their Christmas Day at nearby ‘New Life Church’, ensuring those who are in need of a meal on 25 December have food and company. However, they will have the perfect excuse to leave the washing up should they all have to leave in a hurry to respond to an emergency at sea.

Later in the afternoon, they plan to get together and enjoy a Christmas meal at home, but with a watchful eye on their pagers.

Madeleine says: ‘I realise our Christmas may not be a traditional one and to my friends it seems strange that we may all have to dash down to the station whatever time of day or night the call may come. I don’t really give it a second thought; I’m actually looking forward to being on call for the first time this Christmas and being able to help someone in need.

‘Previously when the pager goes off, dad, Leo and I have left mum at home. She’s so proud of us all but obviously is filled with apprehension as to when we may be back. We’re thrilled she’s decided to join us too and volunteer as part of the shore crew.

‘Being part of the RNLI is something Leo and I have always wanted to do as soon as we turned 17. Hearing dad talk about successful shouts has really motivated us all to want to get involved. We’re so thankful for all the support we have from the community and it is humbling to think people give so generously to enable us to do what we do.’

I would like to thank everyone in advance who gives towards our Christmas appeal this year.

‘This year, I hope people can do what they can to support the Christmas campaign and help the RNLI to save every one.’

The family run a boat trip business not too far away from the station, which means they are all ideally placed to be close by should the pagers sound. In the winter months, Madeleine works opposite the station at a local café, Crwst, who are very supportive allowing her to leave and attend shouts whilst at work.

Amanda says: ‘With the rest of the family on the crew, I know how vital, challenging, yet rewarding volunteering with the RNLI is. After many years of watching Tony run from the house at a moment’s notice and in the years that followed Leo, then Madeleine; I no longer had a reason not to join them. Now, rather than waiting and wondering what the outcome of a shout is, I can be on hand at the station supporting them and the rest of the team together, serving the mission of saving lives at sea. This Christmas if the pagers go off at least I won’t be left home alone holding the turkey!’

Over the past decade, RNLI lifeboats have launched over 1,200 times during the festive period. But these rescues would not be possible without donations from the RNLI’s generous supporters, helping to fund the essential kit, training and equipment needed by lifeboat crews all year round.

With thousands of volunteers around the UK and Ireland, each RNLI crew member signs up to save every one from drowning – it has been the charity’s mission since 1824.

Matt Crofts, RNLI Lifesaving Manager for Wales says: ‘With the increase in staycations and more people than ever heading to the coast, it has been an exceptionally busy year for our crews.

‘Even at Christmas, our lifesavers are ready to drop everything at a moment’s notice and rush to the aid of someone in trouble on the water. At this time of year, the weather’s at its worst and lives are on the line.

‘We know that every time our crews go out they hope for a good outcome, but sadly this sometimes isn’t the case. We hope that this year’s Christmas appeal will show people just how tough it can be, but also that with their help we can get so much closer to our goal of saving every one.’

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Health

Council makes available wellbeing and mental health support for social care providers

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The programme will run until March 2022

IN RECOGNITION of the important work of the social care sector and impact of the Covid pandemic on social care providers and their staff, Ceredigion County Council has made available a programme of wellbeing and mental health support sessions.

The programme consists of Wellbeing and Mental health Awareness, Mental Health First Aid (Adults and Youth) and also offers facilitated support sessions.

The programme of events will run from December through to March 2022.

Any social care provider, carer or personal assistant can request more information or book a place on these sessions by emailing Dysgu@ceredigion.gov.uk

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