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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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Ceredigion dog breeder fined for failing to comply with dog breeding licence

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A CROWN COURT has upheld a conviction that the dogs under the care of Mr. Jones were kept in overcrowded conditions in contravention of the minimum space standards required by the license conditions.

Other convictions were overturned.

On 27 November 2020, and 22December 2020, the Crown Court heard an appeal by Mr. Dorian Wyn Jones, of Dorwan Kennels, Penrheol, Talsarn, relating to convictions for failing to comply with dog breeding licence conditions. 

Mr. Dorian Wyn Jones had previously been convicted at Aberystwyth Magistrates Court of running a licenced dog breeding establishment far in access of the number allowed on his licence and that the dogs in his care were kept in overcrowded conditions.

The Court heard evidence that Mr Dorian Wyn Jones had been granted a licence for 33 dogs. However, during a visit undertaken by Ceredigion County Council’s Public Protection Officers on the 07 August 2019, they found 91 dogs at the premises excluding puppies, in breach of his license. The dogs were kept in pens of a size that were inadequate for the number of dogs kept within them.

On 9 February 2021, Dorian Jones was fined £1000 for the overcrowding offence, and ordered to pay legal costs amounting to £2500. 

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Prince Philip, The Duke of Edinburgh, dies aged 99

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The Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen’s ‘strength and stay’ for 73 years, has died aged 99.

Prince Philip’s health had been slowly deteriorating for some time. He announced he was stepping down from royal engagements in May 2017, joking that he could no longer stand up. He made a final official public appearance later that year during a Royal Marines parade on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.

Since then, he was rarely seen in public, spending most of his time on the Queen’s Sandringham estate in Norfolk, though moving to be with her at Windsor Castle during the lockdown periods throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and where the couple quietly celebrated their 73rd wedding anniversary in November 2020. He also celebrated his 99th birthday in lockdown at Windsor Castle.

The duke spent four nights at King Edward VII hospital in London before Christmas 2019 for observation and treatment in relation to a “pre-existing condition”.

Despite having hip surgery in April 2018, he attended the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle a month later and was seen sitting beside the Queen at a polo match at Windsor Great Park in June. He and the Queen missed Prince Louis of Cambridge’s christening in July 2018, but he was seen attending Crathie Kirk near Balmoral in August, and driving his Land Rover in the surrounding Scottish countryside in September.

It is expected that flags on landmark buildings in Britain will be lowered to half-mast as a period of mourning is announced.

The First Minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford has expressed his sadness on the news of the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh and offered condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and the Royal family on behalf of the Welsh Government.

He said: “It is with sadness that we mourn the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh. Throughout his long and distinguished life, he served the crown with selfless devotion and generosity of spirit.

We offer our sincere condolences to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, his children and their families on this sad occasion.

He will be missed by the many organisations that he supported as Patron or President over many decades of service”.Andrew RT Davies, the Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, has led tributes to Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, whose death was announced today.

In light of the sad news from Buckingham Palace, campaigning has been paused with immediate effect.

Mr Davies said: “This is a very sad day for the United Kingdom.
“The Duke of Edinburgh led a remarkable life, excelled himself with his career in the Royal Navy, was the strength and stay to Her Majesty The Queen, and has left a legacy to the nation through the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

“Dutiful, devoted, and diligent, his like will never be seen again, and Welsh Conservatives offer their deepest condolences to The Queen, and the rest of the Royal Family.”

Adam Price, leader of Plaid Cymru said: “On behalf of Plaid Cymru, I send my condolences to Her Majesty the Queen and her family. Many young people in Wales will have benefited from the Duke of Edinburgh’s award scheme, a reflection of many decades of his public service. Thoughts are with the Royal Family at this time.”

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Elin Jones calls for a plan to revive Aberystwyth town centre

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AS NON-ESSENTIAL retail re-opens on April 12, many of larger shops in Aberystwyth town centre will not be re-opening, with head offices scaling back on their presence on high streets across the UK.

In Aberystwyth, their absence will be particularly obvious with many of these retailers being located along Great Darkgate Street. Multiple retailers such as Burton, Dorothy Perkins, Clinton Cards, Edinburgh Woolen Mill, M&Co and Lloyds Pharmacy will not be reopening leaving a large proportion of empty properties.

These closures are in stark contrast to many independent retailers on Aberystwyth’s other streets looking to expand or start.

Commenting on this issue, Elin Jones said: “It’s time for a major rethink for Aberystwyth’s Great Darkgate Street.

“The multiple larger retailers are turning their back on our town centre and now we need to re-focus these large premises in order to make them more attractive and accessible to independent, local businesses. There have been smaller independent shops opening along other streets in Aberystwyth and throughout Ceredigion, so there is definitely businesses who could be persuaded to have a presence on the high street.

‘It would be great to see a partnership effort in the town to persuade the absentee landlords to give rent-free start up opportunities, to re-purpose the larger premises to suit smaller businesses and to ensure the buildings look attractive on the street.

‘Welsh Government has confirmed that no rates will need to be paid for this whole financial year and therefore now is a great opportunity to support small local businesses to reclaim their place on Great Darkgate Street.

‘It is the town’s largest street and needs to be a star attraction in Ceredigion.’

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