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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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Aberystwyth CID appeal following serious assault

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ABERYSTWYTH CID are investigating a serious assault that occurred in the Castle Street area of Aberystwyth at approx. 4.45pm on Tuesday, June 15 2021. Following medical treatment the victim is recovering at home. Police are appealing for any witnesses to the assault and anyone in the vicinity around this time, or immediately prior to the incident, that may have witnessed people acting suspiciously.

Anyone with information that could help officers with their investigation is asked to report it to Dyfed-Powys Police, either online at https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, by emailing 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or by calling 101. If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908. Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously by calling 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org. Quote reference: DP-20210615-268

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New Quay RNLI’s special artwork to honour local volunteers is unveiled

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ON SUNDAY (June 13) saw a special artwork unveiled at New Quay Lifeboat Station by RNLI’s Director of Lifesaving Operations, John Payne. The artwork was created by local amateur artist and wife of New Quay RNLI’s Lifeboat Operations Manager, Mrs Tina Couch who wanted to pay tribute to the special job the volunteers do, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Mrs Couch talking about the artwork said, “Last year some of the volunteers went above and beyond and worked hard in the community by delivering food parcels and medicines to those shielding in the area. I wanted to pay tribute to all the volunteers at New Quay Lifeboat Station so decided to paint a mural with a portrait of each volunteer. This artwork is to recognise all the hard work they did during the lockdown, as well as being on call 24/7 to save lives at sea.” 

John Payne, RNLI’s Director of Lifesaving Operations added, “It was an honour to unveil this wonderful piece of artwork, a great end to celebrating Volunteers’ Week. Our communities benefit enormously from our volunteers’ selflessness and this is a special way to reflect on their achievements. I would like to thank every one of you who make the RNLI what it is today, and recognise the sacrifices and efforts undertaken in giving your time, energy and positivity to the organisation.”  

While Mr Payne was visiting New Quay Lifeboat Station he had another presentation to make, a certificate of thanks to Steffan Williams who raised over £2,200 for the RNLI’s Mayday Mile campaign. Steffan, aged 12, a pupil in Ysgol Bro Teifi, paddleboarded not just one mile but accomplished 10 miles in under four hours and smashed his target of £100.  

Mr Payne said, “This is a great achievement for someone so young. Steffan has shown his determination in being a lifesaver, and he is definitely someone to watch in the future as he continues his volunteering within the RNLI.”  

Steffan recieving award

Steffan said, “I am so pleased that I’ve raised so much for the RNLI and want to thank everyone who has donated. It is a charity close to my heart as my Dad is a crew member and I want to join when I’m older too. They are all volunteers and need our help to pay for equipment and lifeboats.” 

If you would like to volunteer for the RNLI please visit the website to find out more: https://rnli.org/support-us/volunteer/how-you-can-volunteer/be-a-lifeboat-station-volunteer

Or if you would like to donate to New Quay RNLI to help the volunteers save lives at sea please visit: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/new-quay-wales

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Strategic plan to strengthen Welsh medium education

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A CONSULTATION period will be held during the autumn term this year to increase the number of pupils in Ceredigion who will be able to develop and learn through the medium of Welsh.

During a Cabinet meeting held virtually on Tuesday, 15 June 2021, members discussed the Welsh in Education Strategic Plan for 2022-2032. The plan is a 10 year strategy which sets out the requirements to reach the Welsh Government’s target of achieving one million Welsh speakers by 2050.

Cabinet Members agreed to hold a consultation period during the autumn term of 2021 for eight weeks, incorporating views by pupils, parents, schools and governing bodies.

The strategy outlines aims which include increasing the number of nursery and reception age pupils in Welsh medium education; encourage more learners to study Welsh as a subject and subjects through the medium of Welsh; increase the provision of Welsh medium education for pupils with additional learning needs and increase the number of teaching staff who can teach Welsh as a subject and subjects through the medium of Welsh.

Councillor Catrin Miles, Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, Support and Intervention, said: “The Welsh in Education Strategic Plan reinforces Ceredigion County Council’s aspiration to strengthen the position of the Welsh language through its Language Strategy. I’m pleased to see that a consultation period will be held this autumn to gather ideas in order to plan and develop Welsh medium education in our county.”

Councillor Ellen ap Gwynn, Leader of Ceredigion County Council, added: “I welcome this draft document which aims to create more opportunities for pupils across the county to take full advantage of Welsh medium education.”

Following the consultation period, feedback will be considered and the plan will be reintroduced to the Healthier Communities Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the full Council for consideration and final decision. The proposal supports the Council’s Strategic Objectives and the Welsh Government’s Million Speakers by 2050 Strategy.

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