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Health Bill fails after ‘cheap date’ slur

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Cheap date: Leighton Andrews

A MAJOR piece of legislation failed to be passed, following an unfortunate remark by Labour Minister Leighton Andrews.

Plaid Cymru had originally offered members a free vote on the Public Health (Wales) Bill, which has caused some controversy due to its stance on ‘vaping’. The original draft Bill called for a ban on vaping which would have matched the current smoking ban.

However, opposition parties united against the proposals, which meant that Health Minister Mark Drakeford offered a compromise, which restricted the use of e-cigarettes in schools, restaurants, public transport, premises which provide childcare, and transport hubs.

It was thought that some Plaid Cymru AMs, including Shadow Health Minister Elin Jones and Llyr Gruffydd, would have voted in favour of the Bill following these compromises, and as late as Wednesday afternoon, most commentators assumed that the Bill would be passed.

At this point Public Services Minister Leighton Andrews angered Plaid members. Referring to the help he had received from them in passing the Local Government Bill previously, he referred to the party as ‘a cheap date,’ which led Simon Thomas AM to want that he ‘may come to regret that remark.’

Plaid Cymru voted with the Conservatives and the Lib Dems against the Bill, which also provided a plan to licence tattoo artists, banned ‘intimate piercings’ for under-16s and called on councils to provide a ‘local toilets strategy.’

This meant that the vote was tied on 26 apiece, and following tradition, Presiding Officer Dame Rosemary Butler voted against.

After the meeting, Professor Drakeford said he was ‘disappointed that the Bill had been voted down: “It puts to waste five years of careful preparation and constructive work with a very wide range of stakeholders and supporters,” he added.

It was suggested that Plaid Cymru’s response was somewhat over-the-top, especially given that Elin Jones had been instrumental in the Bill reaching its present state.

However, Ms Jones hit back over social media: “I worked with Labour on a fair compromise on e-cigs, but my party is not their ‘cheap date’,” she said.

Conservative Shadow Health Minister Darren Millar’s party had consistently opposed the Bill, focusing on the positive effects of e-cigs on those giving up smoking: “I have long argued that introducing this ban would be a huge step backwards for smoking cessation and efforts to improve public health, and I’m delighted that pressure from the Welsh Conservatives and other opposition parties yielded results in the end,” he said.

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams said: “This is a decision that will affect thousands of people, yet Plaid decided to vote based on whether they were a ‘cheap date’ or not. While that is utterly bizarre and somewhat farcical, I of course welcome their u-turn.

“Labour’s illiberal plan flew in the face of medical evidence. E-cigarettes are a useful way for smokers to give up on tobacco and there is no doubt they have saved lives.”

It is worth pointing out that under the amended legislation, vaping was only banned in areas with high concentrations of children, people eating, or public transport.

Richard Hyslop, Chief Executive of the Independent British Vape Trade Association said:

“We are delighted that a majority of Welsh Assembly members have chosen to vote against the Welsh Government’s public vaping ban.

This ban was not based on any credible evidence, and it was clear by the wide coalition of organisations opposing this ban, that it lacked any significant support within the public health community or the wider Welsh population.

If this ban had been supported today, it would have resulted in fewer smokers switching to vaping, and many vapers sadly returning to smoking. We are delighted that this will now not be the case.”

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Covid-19 vaccination venues and timeline announced for everyone locally over 50

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EVERY person in JCVI priority groups 5 to 9 will be offered a COVID-19 vaccination by 18 April, Hywel Dda University Health Board has confirmed.

While the health board’s vaccination programme has the capacity to offer a vaccine to everyone in groups 5 to 9 by the original target date of 4 April, the delivery plan has had to be adjusted based on confirmed vaccine deliveries.

Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, and Pembrokeshire residents in priority groups 5 to 9 can expect to receive their vaccine as follows:

  • Group 5, people aged 65 – 69 years – delivered by GP practices between 15 February and 12 March
  • Group 6, people aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions and unpaid carers – delivered by GP practices between 22 February and 4 April
  • Group 7, people aged 60 – 64 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 8 March
  • Group 8, people aged 55 – 59 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 22 March
  • Group 9, people aged 50 – 54 years – delivered by mass vaccination centres starting 5 April

The health board currently has mass vaccination centres located in Aberystwyth, Cardigan, Haverfordwest, Tenby, Carmarthen and Llanelli.

Group 6 is significantly the largest cohort to be vaccinated to date and we understand that many in this group will be anxious to receive a vaccine. Please do not contact your GP or the health board to ask about your appointment, you will be contacted directly when it is your turn and we thank you for your patience.

People in groups 7, 8 and 9 will receive a letter with an appointment date and time. Please arrive as close to your appointment time as possible. The letter will include a phone number to contact the health board should you need to rearrange or cancel your appointment but please make every effort to keep your allocated appointment time.

Steve Moore, Chief Executive of Hywel Dda UHB, said: “While  our programme has had to slow  due to supplies, we want to reassure everyone in groups 5 to 9 that our amazing teams of vaccinators and GP practices have the capability and flexibility to deliver our vaccine supplies as they arrive into the region.

“Vaccine supplies will start to increase again from mid-March, and we are confident that everyone living in our three counties in the top 9 priority groups will be offered a vaccine by mid-April.

“In Hywel Dda we have an older population compared to some other health boards and so over 50% of our adult population will have been offered a vaccine by milestone 2.

“To be able to say that as we approach the anniversary of the first national lockdown is nothing short of extraordinary.

“And again, I must say thank you to everyone living in our three counties who continue to come forward in substantial numbers for the vaccine. Uptake remains remarkably high and we hope to see this continue through groups 5 to 9 and into group 10.”

People are asked, wherever possible, to use their own private transport to attend an appointment. Lifts can be accepted from someone in their household or support bubble, but not from anyone else due to the risk of transmission of the virus.

The health board has put in place transport support for anyone who may have difficulty attending their vaccination appointment. If you have no other means of travel, please contact the health board on 0300 303 8322 and we will be happy to assist.

Everyone in priority groups 1 to 4 should have received an offer of a vaccination. If you have not been contacted, or have changed your mind, please contact your GP at the earliest opportunity. No one will be left behind.

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Nolton Haven: Man hospitalised after getting into difficulties in sea

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A MAN was taken to hospital after getting into difficulties in the sea off Nolton Haven on Friday.

Emergency services were alerted at 2.40pm on February 26 by a 999 call to the control centre.

The Little Haven RNLI lifeboat, Broad Haven Coastguard, an ambulance crew and a Coastguard rescue helicopter assisted police in the operation.

The male casualty was stabilised on the beach and shortly before 4.30pm, was then transported to Withybush Hospital.

A police spokesman told The Herald: “We were called to a male who had got into difficulties in the water at Nolton Haven shortly before 3pm.

“He was taken to hospital by ambulance.”

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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