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Strengthened measures to keep Wales safe as Omicron strikes

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THE MEASURES are a revised version of alert level 2 to respond to the new omicron variant and are designed to help keep businesses open and trading and protect customers and staff.

The regulations bring back protections in hospitality businesses, including licensed premises, and in cinemas and theatres when they re-open after the festive period.

Strengthened guidance will be issued to help people stay safe in their own homes and when meeting others.

£120 million will be available for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the move to alert level 2 – double the new £60 million package announced last week.

The Economy Minister will announce further details tomorrow (23 December).

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious omicron variant is headed our way.

“This new form of coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupting daily lives and businesses and could cause an increase in the number of people who need hospital care in the coming weeks.

“We will do everything we can to protect people’s health and livelihoods in Wales – this means taking early action to try and control its spread.

“We are changing the rules for businesses and some public spaces, where lots of different people mix daily and issuing strong and clear advice to help people stay safe in their own private homes and when meeting others.”

From Boxing Day, the alert level two measures will mean:

  • A general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable.
  • The rule of 6 will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
  • All licensed premises will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collecting contact details.
  • Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.
  • Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors.
  • There will be an exception for team sports, up to 50 spectators will be able to gather, in addition to those taking part. There is also an exception for events involving children.

Last week new measures were announced for workplaces and retail – these will now come into force on Boxing Day. Nightclubs will also close on Boxing Day.

The Welsh Government will not be making new rules about mixing in people’s private homes, including gardens, in holiday accommodation or meeting outdoors. Instead guidance will be issued to help people stay safe.

To help you stay safe in your own home, we strongly advise everyone follows these 5 measures:

  • Limit the number of people visiting your home.
  • If people are visiting, make sure they take a lateral flow test in the morning before the visit.
  • Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
  • Space out any visits.
  • And don’t forget about social distancing and washing your hands.

There will be a separate offence for large gatherings – more than 30 people indoors or 50 people outdoors – in private homes and gardens.

The First Minister added: “The most important thing we can all do to protect ourselves against omicron is to be fully vaccinated – that means also having the booster. If you are eligible for a booster then please make getting it a priority in the coming weeks.

“As we enter our second winter of the pandemic, we have high vaccination coverage and tens of thousands of extra boosters are being given every day.

“We also have access to the rapid lateral flow tests to help us all identify signs of infection without symptoms.

“Both of these, together with everything we have learned over the last 2 years will help to keep us safe at home without the need for new rules and regulations about mixing at home.”

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Ceredigion public transport services arrangements challenging

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WORK is ongoing to provide sustainable and affordable travel opportunities by bus.

A procurement process is currently underway to secure statutory learner transport requirements as well as opportunities for the general public to travel by bus on a number of routes in Ceredigion.

With the current arrangements coming to an end on 31 December 2022, tenders received for local bus routes are being evaluated. There is particular focus on their affordability taking into account the significant increases in tendered prices.

Unfortunately, no tender has been received for operating the 585 service, Aberystwyth-Tregaron-Lampeter. Unless a last minute contract can be negotiated, the non-school journeys on this route will not operate as of January 2023.

Opportunities for the general public to travel on some learner travel services will continue from January 2023 onwards. This is due to the integrated nature of the bus network in Ceredigion.

Councillor Keith Henson, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member with responsibility for Transport Services said, “It is a very difficult time for the bus industry with spiralling costs, a lack of qualified Public Service Vehicle (PSV) drivers, uncertainty around future funding arrangements and low passenger numbers. The number of people using buses in Wales has been in decline for a number of years. This has been made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic which has led to the amount of public funding required to subsidise local bus services rising dramatically on already stretched public finance budgets.

The Council will continue in its efforts to work with key stakeholders including local bus operators, Welsh Government and Transport for Wales to provide sustainable and affordable travel opportunities by bus. However, in the short term at least, it has to be recognised that the outlook is very challenging.”

Further updates will be provided in due course while officers focus their attention on providing the best level of travel opportunities possible.

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Flood warnings issued in parts of Ceredigion

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FLOOD warnings have been issued in Borth, Borth River Leri and the tidal area at Aberystwyth seafront.

The high tide is expected at 8:15pm on Thursday 24 November 2022 at Borth. Wave overtopping at the seafront is expected to occur between 7:15pm and 9:45pm. The properties closest to the sea front are most at risk.

If you are worried or experiencing flooding, call Floodline on 0345 988 1188.

You can visit Natural Resources Wales website to see the current flood warnings in force, check the river and sea levels or keep an eye on the 5-day flood risk forecast: https://naturalresources.wales/?lang=en

You can also follow Ceredigion County Council, Natural Resources Wales and the Met Office on social media for updates on the weather situation.

Any further details will be updated on this page: www.ceredigion.gov.uk/novemberfloodwarnings

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Winter Fuel Support Scheme open for applications

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ELIGIBLE households are reminded to apply to the Winter Fuel Support Scheme for support towards paying winter fuel bills.

Welsh Government has re-launched the Winter Fuel Support Scheme for 2022 – 2023 as part of a £90m support package to address immediate pressures on living costs.

To date, Ceredigion County Council has assisted over 5,000 households with these payments, and paid out in excess of £1million. So, if you are facing increased fuel bills and think that you may qualify, please submit your application as soon as possible. Eligible households can claim a one-off £200 payment to provide support towards paying their energy bills for their primary residence in Wales.

The scheme is open to households where the applicant or their partner is responsible for paying the energy bills and is in receipt of one of the following benefits (at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023):

Income Support
Income Based Job Seekers Allowance
Income Related Employment & Support Allowance
Universal Credit
Working Tax Credits
Child Tax Credits
Pension Credit
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Carers Allowance
Contributory Based/New Style Job Seekers Allowance
Contributory Based/New Style Employment & Support Allowance
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement

If the applicant or their partner who is liable for the fuel costs does not receive any of the above qualifying benefits then they may still be eligible for a payment if a qualifying person lives with them. A qualifying person must meet all the following:

occupy the applicant’s or partner’s home as their primary residence, and
is a dependent child or an adult living with the applicant or their partner, and
is in receipt of one of the following benefits (at any time between 1 September 2022 and 31 January 2023):
Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
Attendance Allowance
Armed Forces Independence Payment
Constant Attendance Allowance
War Pension Mobility Supplement

The payment will be available to all eligible households regardless of whether they pay for their energy on a pre-payment meter, by direct debit or by paying a bill quarterly. The fuel received can be on or off grid.

Councillor Gareth Davies, Cabinet Member with responsibility for Finance and Procurement Services, said: “I would encourage people facing higher fuel bills to check if they are eligible for the Winter Fuel Assistance Scheme to get invaluable help with fuel bills when it is most needed.”

Applications can be made up until 5pm on 28 February 2023 on the Council website: https://www.ceredigion.gov.uk/resident/benefits/winter-fuel-support-scheme/

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