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At least three more weeks of lockdown, First Minister confirms

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FIRST MINISTER Mark Drakeford said he hopes the country has entered the last three weeks of the “stay-at-home” requirement.

Mr Drakeford said any lockdown change depends on case rates falling and it was too soon to say if people will be able to travel beyond their local area.

He also said he hoped primary school children aged eight and over may be able to return to school from 15 March if Covid cases continued to fall. From Saturday (Feb 20) the number of people who can exercise together outdoors will be increased from two to four, although they must be from a maximum of two households.

Exercise must still start and finish at home. From Monday (Mar 1), licensed wedding venues will be able to reopen, in line with current rules for register offices.

Also more elite sport athletes will be able to return to training, and more visits to care homes will be considered Mr Drakeford said: “If in three weeks’ time the numbers are still falling, the positivity rate is falling, the R number’s below one, hospital pressures continue to reduce, then I hope we’ll be able to move beyond ‘stay at home’.”

He said it was “too uncertain” to say how far restrictions on movement might be eased, but he suggested a “stay local” arrangement, similar to local lockdowns which were imposed in the autumn, was a possibility.

While Wales’ case rate is at its lowest since September, the government said tight restrictions were still needed to ensure a safe return to school. The Conservatives called for a “road map to recovery” and for “rough timescales” for reopening some of the hardest-hit sectors.

Talks are taking place about reopening tourism in time for Easter, with bed and breakfasts and hotels with room service likely to be prioritised.

Talks will also begin with non-essential shops about the prospects of reopening.

Mr Drakeford warned there would not be a “wholesale” reopening of shops. Responding to the latest review of Coronavirus regulations by the Welsh Government, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said: “It is clear that we need to lift restrictions slowly and carefully.

While we all want to see an end to restrictions, the NHS in Wales is still coming under high levels of pressure. We need the capacity to be able to look after you and your families and get the Welsh population vaccinated as quickly as we can.

“The NHS in Wales recognises how important it is to get children and students back to school, but this needs to be done cautiously to ensure we don’t see an impact on infection rates.

“We continue to see positive signs that Coronavirus rates are falling in Wales, and we are starting to see a reduction in the number of patients in hospital with Covid. “As more of the most vulnerable groups receive their vaccinations, we can start to look towards a brighter future.

“We’re grateful to our frontline staff, our partners in the public sector and the Welsh public, who have all worked so hard to drive down the rate of infection. We know the restrictions are hard for people and we continue to encourage anyone to come forward for help if you need it, whether that be for your physical or mental health.”

Regarding schools, children aged between three and seven – those in the foundation phase – are returning to school from Monday.

The next review will look at all primary pupils, and some older students preparing for exams, returning to schools and colleges from 15 March. That includes years 11 and 13, and students doing similar qualifications in college, returning in a safe and ‘flexible’ way.

Reacting to news that the Welsh government will consider non-essential retail in a review on 11 March, James Barnes, Chairman of the HTA, said: “With the busiest season for horticultural businesses about to start, the First Minister’s statement today leaves us with very little room for manoeuvre  and anxious to see garden centres opened on 11 March.

“Our members – growers and retailers alike – need certainty around opening dates and the key trading occasion of Mother’s Day will be even more important after such a difficult period which will now include closure on St David’s Day.

“We recognise the part we have to play in seeing this pandemic brought under control and have revisited our Safer Trading Guidance so that garden centres, which naturally lend themselves to Covid-secure trading with open and airy spaces, continue to provide one of the safest retail environments.

“Plants and gardening contribute to health and wellbeing and provide activities which have helped people safeguard their wellbeing and kept them occupied at home during lockdown. We call on the Welsh government to recognise the valuable contribution horticulture has to make as the country begins the process of recovering from the pandemic, by enabling garden centres to trade again as soon as possible.”

Responding to the announcement by the Welsh Government, Dr David Bailey, BMA Cymru Wales council chair said: “We welcome the Welsh Government’s continued cautious approach to easing restrictions. Whilst there are hugely encouraging signs that we’re successfully tackling the virus with lower case rates and with the progress made on the vaccine roll out, we must continue to move slowly and be vigilant particularly with the threat of new variants.

“If we can contain the spread of new variants now there is less opportunity for them to create a new wave of cases which may also make the current vaccine less effective.

“Ultimately, we want to see more people vaccinated to protect our most vulnerable and reduce the pressure on the NHS before we can move forward to ensure there is capacity to treat severe COVID-19 infections, as well as successfully and safely providing non-COVID care to all those who need it.

“Alongside this we need to ensure rapid roll-out of the second dose of the vaccine for all healthcare workers to ensure maximum protection for staff and patients”

 

COUNCIL LEADER’S UPDATE

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update

He said: ‘Like me I’m sure you are finding time is marching on at such a rate that it is almost hard to believe we are now entering the last week of February.

‘I have really noticed that the days are drawing out which is always a sign that spring is on its way. Spring time brings us all hope that better days are ahead, it has been a very long year with so many restrictions in our daily lives.

‘However, we have all worked hard together and we need to continue in the same direction.

Council Leader, David Simpson:

‘It is pleasing to see so many people now receiving the vaccine and the rate of vaccination in Pembrokeshire continues to highlight the huge effort put in by everyone.

‘As of Wednesday 33,828 vaccinations have been carried out in Pembrokeshire. That is 26.9% of the population. We are getting there steadily.

‘Today (Friday) we have had an update from the First Minister in relation to the restrictions and the current situation in relation to the pandemic.

‘As set out by the First Minister it is clear that although we are seeing an improvement there is still a long way to go and we all need to continue to keep safe.

‘As an authority we will now be reviewing the latest Welsh Government guidance and I will update you next week on our position.

‘Next week we will also see our schools reopening to Foundation Phase learners. Our education team will be reviewing and keeping a close eye on how the phased re-opening goes and reviewing any further guidance from the Welsh Government.

‘The best place to find details about what will be happening at your child/children’s school will be on their school website and social media.

‘With the vaccinations continuing and the first learners going back to school things are improving, but we still need to follow the guidance and keep driving infections down.

‘I want to wish you all a nice weekend, soon it will be time to start working on the gardens and enjoy seeing flowers and trees bloom – better days are ahead.

 

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Plaid’s Dafydd Llywelyn re-elected as Police and Crime Commissioner

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THE NEW Police and Crime Commissioner for the Dyfed Powys Area has been announced.

Incumbent, Dafydd Llywelyn, of Plaid Cymru – The Party of Wales, has been re-elected for a second term.

The election was held Thursday, 06 May 2021, at the same time as the Senedd Cymru elections.

In order to follow all coronavirus regulations, the count for this election was held on Sunday, 09 May 2021.

The announcement was made in Ceredigion, at the Ysgol Bro Teifi, Llandysul.

Dafydd Llywelyn, was first elected as one of the two new Plaid Cymru PCCs during 2016’s election and is the PCC for Dyfed-Powys Police. 

The force covers over half the land mass of Wales and during the PCC elections had the highest turnout of all PCC elections at 49%.

Mr Llywelyn is a former Principal Intelligence Analyst and worked within Police Intelligence for many years before, in 2014, moving to Aberystwyth University to lecture on Criminology. His career has provided him with considerable insight into core policing issues as well as an understanding of what the public want from the service. He has pledged to reinvest in CCTV and prevention activities and has refused to appoint a deputy.

Standing against him were three other candidates – Jon Burns (Conservative); Philippa Thompson (Labour) and Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats).

The results for Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner’s elections were as follows:

1st Round

Jon Burns (Conservatives); 69,112

Dafydd Llywelyn (Plaid Cymru); 68208

Philippa Thompson (Labour): 48033

Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats) 17649

2nd Round

Jon Burns: 8209

Dafydd Llywelyn: 26280

This was the third time police and crime commissioner elections have been held. The election was originally due to take place in May 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new PCC term begins on Thursday, May 13, 2021.

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:

  • secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

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Counting underway following police and crime commissioner vote

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COUNTING is under way to find out who will be the four police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in Wales today (Sunday, May 9).

Polls were held on Thursday for South Wales Police, Dyfed-Powys Police, North Wales Police and Gwent Police alongside the Senedd election on Thursday (May 6).

With the exception of the North Wales Commissioner, all the incumbents are running again.  

The rules of the election are that unless a candidate gets more than 50% of votes in the first round of counting, then all but the top two candidates are eliminated from the election, and secondary votes on the ballot paper are then counted.

In Pembrokeshire the count is taking place for the Preseli constituency and the West Carmarthenshire and South Pembrokeshire constituency at the County Show Ground.

When will the news Commissioner be sworn in?

The swearing of the oath will also take place today, Sunday (May 9), and the elected Police and Crime Commissioner’s new term in office will start on May 13.

“The Police and Crime Commissioner Elections (Declaration of Acceptance of Office) Order prescribes the form of words that the elected Police and Crime Commissioners will be required to declare before they take office,” said a PCC spokesperson.

“The term of a person elected as a PCC at an ordinary election begins on the seventh (calendar) day after the day of the poll, and ends with the sixth (calendar) day following the subsequent poll.

“The term for incumbent PCCs should cease on May 12, and the newly or re-elected PCC will commence in office on May 13.

What is a Police and Crime Commissioner?

Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) were elected In 40 force areas across England and Wales. Every force area is represented by a PCC, except Greater Manchester and London, where PCC responsibilities lie with the Mayor.

The role of the PCCs is to be the voice of the people and hold the police to account. They are responsible for the totality of policing.

PCCs aim to cut crime and deliver an effective and efficient police service within their force area.

PCCs have been elected by the public to hold Chief Constables and the force to account, effectively making the police answerable to the communities they serve.

PCCs ensure community needs are met as effectively as possible, and are improving local relationships through building confidence and restoring trust. They work in partnership across a range of agencies at local and national level to ensure there is a unified approach to preventing and reducing crime.

Who are the candidates?

Standing again: Dafydd Llywelyn

The incumbent, Dafydd Llywelyn, was elected as one of the two new Plaid Cymru PCCs during 2016’s election and is the PCC for Dyfed-Powys Police. 

The force covers over half the land mass of Wales and during the PCC elections had the highest turnout of all PCC elections at 49%.

Hoping to be re-elected, Dafydd is a former Principal Intelligence Analyst and worked within Police Intelligence for many years before, in 2014, moving to Aberystwyth University to lecture on Criminology. His career has provided him with considerable insight into core policing issues as well as an understanding of what the public want from the service. He has pledged to reinvest in CCTV and prevention activities and has refused to appoint a deputy.

Standing against him are three other candidates – Jon Burns (Conservative); Philippa Thompson (Labour) and Glyn Preston (Welsh Liberal Democrats).

Under the terms of the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011, PCCs must:

  • secure an efficient and effective police for their area;
  • appoint the Chief Constable, hold them to account for running the force, and if necessary dismiss them;
  • set the police and crime objectives for their area through a police and crime plan;
  • set the force budget and determine the precept;
  • contribute to the national and international policing capabilities set out by the Home Secretary; and
  • bring together community safety and criminal justice partners, to make sure local priorities are joined up.

How the voting works

If there are more than two candidates, the Police and Crime Commissioner is elected under the supplementary vote system: 

  • A voter can vote for a first and second choice candidate they want to elect.
  • If a candidate obtains more than 50% of the first choice votes, they will be declared elected.
  • If no candidate obtains more than 50% of the first choice votes, all candidates except for those in first and second place are eliminated.
  • The ballot papers showing a first preference for one of the eliminated candidates are checked for their second preference.
  • Any second preference votes for the remaining two candidates are then added to their first preference votes and the candidate with the most votes is elected.

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Multiple RNLI lifeboats launched to aid yacht in distress

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THE NEW QUAY RNLI lifeboat has rescued a stricken yacht, with the casualty evacuated by helicopter. 

On Saturday (May 8) New Quay lifeboat ‘The Frank and Lena Clifford of Stourbridge’, was paged at 9.06am by HM Coastguard to search for a yacht in difficulty 10 miles west of Aberystwyth with two persons on board. 

The Mersey class lifeboat launched at 9.20am with seven volunteer crew members on board to search for the 9m vessel, which had travelled up from Pembrokeshire, in a moderate south-westerly wind. 

The yacht, on passage from Fishguard to Aberystwyth, was experiencing mechanical and communications problems, and had failed to berth in Aberystwyth marina due to the tide. The severely fatigued crew had raised the alarm by mobile phone when they realised they were in trouble, struggling with the winds and poor visibility.  

Daniel Potter, New Quay RNLI Coxswain said, “We proceeded to the position given but on arrival another position was given 10 miles further north, and then again 5 miles north east. We searched for over an hour for the vessel as they had become lost in the deteriorating weather conditions. Barmouth lifeboat was also requested to launch but stood down as we located the vessel.  

“When we located them, we had to act quickly as we found her close to shore and in danger of going aground on the reef near Tywyn. I had one opportunity and we took it, we set up a tow and pulled her into deeper water.  

“We then requested to launch Aberdyfi’s lifeboat to assist us with getting crew on board as we had concerns over the health and wellbeing of the stricken vessel’s crew. Two volunteer crew from Aberdyfi and one from New Quay boarded the yacht. They assessed the casualty and it was decided as a matter of urgency to evacuate one of them. We requested an immediate helicopter evacuation, and HM Coastguard Rescue Helicopter 936 arrived and transferred the casualty to Ysbyty Glan Clwyd. 

“It was quite an ordeal for the yacht, but it wasn’t over as we had to get the last of the crew members and the boat to safety. Aberdyfi lifeboat then transferred another one of our crew onto the yacht when they took theirs off and returned to station, and we began the tow to Aberystwyth.  

“On approach to Aberystwyth we requested assistance from Aberystwyth lifeboat who launched and met us outside the harbour to transfer the tow into the marina, and to deliver us much needed supplies, fish and chips! 

“We then headed home and returned to New Quay by 6pm, nine hours after launching. It was a very long day in difficult conditions. However, it was a fantastic effort by everyone, and we want to say a big thank you to all lifeboats and crew involved, and the helicopter. It was an amazing team effort by all.” 

Roger Couch, New Quay RNLI Operations Manager added, “We would like to give our thanks to all the lifeboat stations involved. It was a great joint endeavour by Cardigan Bay lifeboat stations. The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea and our volunteer crew are on call 24/7. Remember if you find yourself or see anyone else in trouble at sea or on the coast call 999 and ask for the Coastguard.” 

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