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Second fire-break lockdown is likely early next year says Deputy Economy Minister

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A SECOND fire-break lockdown is likely in Wales in early January or February, a Welsh Government minister has warned.

Deputy Economy and Transport Minister, Lee Waters, said the current firebreak was unlikely to be the last in Wales – with England “expected” to follow.

Wales is currently in the middle of a two-week national lockdown to try and control the spread of coronavirus, he said.

Speaking on BBC Radio Wales Sunday Supplement programme he said people should be prepared to come in and out of lockdowns until a Covid-19 vaccine is found.

He said: “This is not the last lockdown we are going to see the projections we published in a worst case scenario show it’s likely we are going to need another firebreak in January or
February.”

He added that Wales is now witnessing a second peak, with critical care admissions increasing by 57% this week alone, and that was why the Welsh Government has introduced this “short, sharp” intervention.”

Lee Waters thinks that one lockdown will not be enough

Plaid Cymru said it was vital the test and trace system was improved during this firebreak to break the cycle of “devastating” national lockdowns.
“It is concerning to hear talk of plans for future firebreaks at the start of this reset,” said shadow health minister Rhun ap Iorwerth.
“If the Welsh Government puts effective measures in place over the next fortnight, a new strategy for the months ahead, it should be aiming to avoid having to return to these tight nationwide restrictions.
“Ministers must resolve the issues within the test, trace, support and isolate system to enable the newly adopted zero-Covid strategy to be successfully implemented.”

Meanwhile, a 28-year-old man has been charged with criminal damage and contravention of coronavirus regulations after allegedly being filmed removing plastic from items in a Tesco store.

Gwilym Owen, 28, will appear before magistrates on November 24 following the incident in the Bangor Tesco Extra store on Friday.

North Wales Police said Owen, from Anglesey, has been further charged with several public order offences.

Owen allegedly posted the video of himself on his Facebook account. A man is heard saying “since when has clothes been exempt?”, “rip the f***ers off!” and “kids’ f***ing clothes, it is a disgrace.”

As staff attempt to challenge the man and to stop him, he swore at them. He can be heard saying: “Since when have clothes been non-essential?”

A spokesperson for Tesco said: “Under new restrictions set out by the Welsh Government, we are currently unable to sell ‘non-essential’ items in our stores.
“Our colleagues have worked hard to put these measures in place and we ask that customers please respect these restrictions.”

Despite a petition which has now more than 50,000 signatures, The Welsh Government said: “We are not reviewing the requirements for supermarkets not to sell non-essentials we are going to review how it’s working in practice. Clearly there are some bumps.”

On the Andrew Marr Show, Labour’s health minister, Vaughan Gething also confirmed that the Welsh Government’s ban on the sale of non-essential items in supermarkets will also remain in place.

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North Pembrokeshire school closures explained

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S education chief has explained the decision to keep six North Pembrokeshire schools closed today (Tuesday, 24th November).

The schools – which were also closed on Monday following the increased spread of coronavirus in South Ceredigion – are:

• Ysgol Preseli
• Ysgol y Frenni
• Ysgol Llandudoch
• Ysgol Eglwyswrw
• Ysgol Cilgerran
• Ysgol Clydau.

The Pembrokeshire schools are closed as a precaution as they share services – such as transport – with the Ceredigion schools.
Pembrokeshire County Council’s Director of Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said the decision to keep the schools closed was
based around a series of meetings yesterday involving the Authority, Ceredigion County Council and Public Health Wales.

He explained: “Due to the sheer volume of contact tracing work the Cardigan situation has resulted in – and the widespread nature of the cases now across the town – many contacts remain to be spoken to.

“The view of the Incident Management Team in Pembrokeshire was to keep the schools closed to allow the contact tracing teams time to get hold of everyone they needed to and then review the decision later today.

“Everyone can be assured that it is our intention to re-open the schools at the earliest opportunity once we are satisfied that there will be no individuals within school setting who should be self-isolating.

“There will be an announcement this afternoon about the status of the schools currently closed and teaching staff will be in touch with families to arrange blended and distant learning.

“Officers are working hard dealing with this situation and we do appreciate the inconvenience caused. However, our priority has always been tackling this pandemic and ensuring that we stop the spread of the virus.”

Mr Richards-Downes added that he was grateful to teaching staff, parents and pupils for their co-operation in what had been a challenging few days.

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Masks now advised in all secondary schools

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PUPILS across Wales are now being advised to wear facemasks in all communal areas of secondary schools (including playgrounds), colleges and on transport to and from places of learning by the Welsh Government.

Although not compulsory, the new recommendations have been made by ministers to ensure a consistent approach in tackling COVID-19 across Wales.

People picking up and dropping off children are also advised to wear face coverings too to minimise the risk of catching or passing on COVID-19.

The new guidance, aimed mainly at secondary schools, which the Education Minister has described as ‘easy to follow’ was announced today and now means that the only spaces where staff and pupils can safely remove their facemasks is in the classroom.

The majority of councils already require secondary pupils and staff to wear masks in corridors and on most school transport with those rules extended to primary pupils too in some areas.

Education minister Kirsty Williams said: “It is vital that young people, parents, adults and the workforce feel confident that all measures are being taken to ensure the educational environments are as safe as possible.

“We have been clear that we will keep every policy under review and will continue to follow scientific advice. The policy we are announcing today does just that”.

The new advice has been recommended by the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group (Tag), which has been looking at the “possibility of wearing face coverings for older age groups in more circumstances, including on public and dedicated transport” and could “even include in the classroom on a risk assessed basis…. balancing benefits with harms to overall wellbeing of students.”

Tag is also looking at how feasible a mass asymptomatic testing programme in schools and colleges could be, the Welsh Government has said it is considering that approach.

Debbie Thomas, Head of Policy at the National Deaf Children’s Society Cymru, said: “Face masks and coverings in communal areas could have serious consequences for Wales’ 2,500 deaf children, almost all of whom rely on lip reading and facial expressions to communicate.
“Socialising in corridors, break time chats and playground games are all rites of passage, but deaf young people now risk missing out because they can’t understand what others are saying. They’re also more likely to experience loneliness, isolation and bullying.
“Public health is the priority, but schools and colleges must move quickly to introduce reasonable adjustments to help deaf young people during this difficult time.”

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Two day centres to close temporarily as a precaution

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TWO north Pembrokeshire Day facilities for older people and people with learning disabilities are to close temporarily as a precaution following the rise in coronavirus cases in Ceredigion.

Bro Preseli Day Centre in Crymych and Wintern Day Centre, Goodwick, are to close temporarily from tomorrow (Tuesday, November 24).

The decision to close each site will be reviewed regularly.

It is emphasised that there have been no positive cases of Covid-19 detected at either site and the temporary closures have been put in place as a precaution.

 

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