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Crabb calls for clarity on county vaccination centre   

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PRESELI MP Stephen Crabb has called for clarity on when Pembrokeshire will see its own Covid-19 vaccination centre open.

Currently, there are two vaccination centres operating in the Hywel Dda Health Board region, Carmarthen and Ceredigion, both of which are administering the Pfizer vaccine. Pembrokeshire currently has no vaccination centre and NHS staff are required to travel to Carmarthen to receive their vaccinations.

However, in response to concerns raised by constituents about the lack of local vaccinations, the Preseli MP has written to Hywel Dda Health Board’s Chief Executive. Concerns have also been raised by some frontline NHS staff about the difficulties in accessing a vaccination slot through the Health Board’s website.

 Stephen Crabb commented: “There is understandably a high level of interest among local people about the roll-out of the vaccine. As we saw earlier in the year with testing, asking people to travel to Carmarthen creates a real barrier. I have been told that Pembrokeshire must wait until the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine gets approval before a vaccination centre will open in our County. That could be weeks away.

“It isn’t at all clear why Withybush is not deemed suitable for the Pfizer vaccine when it is being used so widely now. In other parts of the country we are even seeing the Pfizer vaccine administered from GP surgeries.”

Commenting on the roll out of the Covid-19 vaccine in Wales, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, Andrew RT Davies MS, said: “A growing number of people, especially those over 80 years old, are getting concerned about when they are going to be receiving the Covid-19 vaccine, with many reporting to us that they haven’t received any information about receiving their first injection.

“The vaccination programme is stuttering into life in Wales with some real concerns around lack of access for care homes and the over 80s compared to other parts of the UK.

“To keep confidence Welsh Labour Ministers need to get a grip. Otherwise, there is a risk, given the scale of the vaccination programme, the public will lose confidence in the Welsh Government’s ability to deliver it, replicating their shambolic handling of the virus to date.”

Meanwhile, The Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales have criticised the Welsh Government for failing to provide clarity on support available to vulnerable people this winter.

In its ‘Traffic Light’ framework of lockdown restrictions, published last Monday, the Welsh Government failed to give clear guidance for those who are Clinically Extremely Vulnerable (formerly known as Shielding).

Instead, the document promised to publish further advice for those who are in the CEV category and simply restated the fact these people were vulnerable. Now, over a week later, many are still waiting to hear what support will be available to them.

The Welsh Government’s webpage entitled Guidance on protecting people defined on medical grounds as extremely vulnerable from coronavirus (COVID-19) – previously known as ‘shielding’ has not been updated since November, with their FAQ page for Tier 4 restrictions stating that people do not need to shield again but offering no information about support available.

The Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Chris Jones, once again promised the guidance would be updated, but failed to say when this would occur – only stating that it was “under discussion”.

In response, Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales have once again restated their calls for a full system of support for Clinically Extremely Vulnerable people until mass rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine has been achieved.

Joseph Carter, Head of Asthma UK & British Lung Foundation Wales, said: “It’s deeply disappointing that it’ now been over a week since the new lockdown guidance was published, but we are still yet to get any clarity from the Welsh Government about what support is being made available for vulnerable people this winter.

“Over the initial lockdown during the summer, the supported offered to those needing to shield was a vital lifeline for many. It allowed them to access priority shopping, get vital prescriptions delivered, and enabled them to stay at home instead of going to work.

“With a cold and bleak winter ahead, alongside a Wales wide lockdown and changes to the Christmas regulations, many people who were formerly shielding risk being left cut off and isolated. This is frankly unacceptable, and people deserve better.

“The Welsh Government must announce, before Christmas, what support will be offered to vulnerable people, provide clear guidance on this through both letters and online webpages, and ensure this support continues until mass rollout of the vaccine has been achieved.

“Anything less than this represents a serious neglect of vulnerable people and could put lives at risk. This cannot be allowed to happen.”

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‘Reach out to friends and family’ says Council Leader

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THIS week’s update from Cllr David Simpson, Leader of Pembrokeshire County Council:

‘Hello everyone, I hope you are all keeping well and safe.

‘I’d like to highlight that this week is Mental Health Awareness Week.

‘I’m very aware that the last 15 months has had a huge impact on our lives and, in some cases, our wellbeing.

‘Mental Health can be a hidden issue and we all need to be aware that some people may need some extra support.

‘On a personal level the lockdown restrictions have reminded me of the importance to talk to people and to ensure people are supported.

‘Supporting your friends and family can be as simple as a phone call to say hello. A quick hello can ensure people are ok and managing and can give someone a huge uplift.

“Our communities have done a fantastic job of supporting each other so please, Team Pembrokeshire, continue these efforts.

‘I urge you all to pick up the phone and say hello to your friends and family, as we all need to play our role in everyone’s wellbeing – talking about issues does make a difference.

‘If you are suffering from Mental Health or general wellbeing issues please reach out, do not struggle on your own, your friends and family can help and make a difference.

‘Please also take the opportunity to also view the website at https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week which has much more information and support.

‘I now want to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in last week’s elections.

‘Elections take a phenomenal amount of organisation at the best of times but even more so in a pandemic situation.

‘To all those who ensured the smooth running of the elections process, thank you.

‘Congratulations to all the successful candidates and I look forward to working with them to further improve the lives of Pembrokeshire people.

‘We have now had further updates from Welsh Government and the next phase of the unlocking road map has been unveiled.

‘From Monday, 17th May, indoor hospitality can re-open.

‘Up to six people from six different households will be able to meet indoors in pubs, cafes and restaurants.

‘We have so many fantastic hospitality venues in Pembrokeshire who we know will be giving their customers a big welcome after so long away.

‘The opening of indoor hospitality will be a major landmark in our emergence from the pandemic and towards recovery.

‘While out and about please remember social distancing rules are still in pace, consider your actions on others, remember your footprint has an impact on our communities, so please tread lightly.

‘When you go home, leave with a smile – enjoy your days out, enjoy seeing your families and most importantly enjoy our beautiful county and please support us in keeping Pembrokeshire special – play your part and please be responsible.

‘I want to wish you all a lovely weekend and I look forward to talking to you all again next week through my update.

‘Thank you everyone.’

You can keep up to date with all the Council’s press releases here: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom

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Plan to rescue rare butterfly from extinction in Pembrokeshire

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THE PEMBROKESHIRE Coast National Park Authority is stepping up efforts to save the marsh fritillary butterfly, which was once widespread in Wales but is now close to extinction in Pembrokeshire.

Funded by the Pembrokeshire Nature Partnership, the new landscape scale strategy aims to improve the fortunes of the rare species, which relies on networks of flower rich marshy grasslands across the landscape.

Much of this habitat, which is home to the favourite food of its larva – the devil’s bit scabious (succisa pratensis), has been lost due to drainage, inappropriate tree planting and the neglect of traditional management of grasslands through light grazing with heavy animals such as cattle.

National Park AuthorityBiodiversity Officer, Sarah Mellor said: “The marsh fritillary in Pembrokeshire is now in a very precarious position. We think it has already become extinct in a number of areas in its former range and it has not been seen on the St Davids Peninsula since 2013. The population around Keeston and Tiers Cross is also now thought to be extinct.

“We must find a way to make space for wildlife in our landscape to ensure that nature can thrive for future generations. It is quite sobering to think this species could disappear from Pembrokeshire in my lifetime. We have a responsibility not to let this happen on our watch.

“Even in those areas where it remains we have seen dramatic declines, for example around Mychanchlogddu it used to be recorded from 32 sites, but since 2015 it has only been seen at seven sites.”

The National Park Authority has already stepped up its action to rescue the rare butterfly by assisting landowners to bring sites into suitable management through grant aid and providing suitable grazing animals through the Pembrokeshire Grazing Network and the Conserving the Park Scheme.

The new strategy will include mobilising Park Authority staff and volunteers to undertake targeted surveys at sites across the county, as well as helping landowners to manage their land in a sensitive way to help ensure the future of this rare butterfly.

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Santander turns away customers due to nationwide computer glitch

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CUSTOMERS of Santander in Haverfordwest were being turned away this morning by branch staff saying that they were unable to make transactions due to a computer glitch. It is understood that branches use the same computer systems which run the bank’s other systems.

Problems arouse last night when computer updates which the bank was implementing did not go to plan.

Some Herald readers contacted the news room to speak of their surprise that they were not able to access their funds.

One reader, who had gone to the bank to withdraw funds to pay rent on his home was told that there was nothing that could be done.

Website and App transactions are also being affected at the high street bank, and card transactions are being declined

The head of money at consumer magazine Which?, Gareth Shaw, said many customers will be stressed, “with people reporting that they have been unable to make online payments or in some cases purchase food in their local supermarket”.

“Customers can incur fines, penalties and fees when they’re not able to access their finances, so the bank must offer compensation to all those who have been impacted in this way”.

Santander told customers they can “access cash from other banks’ ATMs, at the Post Office and can get cashback where that’s available”.

A service status page on its website said planned maintenance was due to be performed on the Santander mobile banking app overnight on Friday. It is not known whether this prompted Saturday’s problems.

On Twitter, a Santander spokesperson said: “We’re sorry that a technical problem is affecting our services, our teams are working hard to fix it.

“You can access cash from other banks’ ATMs. Please check back here for further updates.”

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