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Welsh Government considering tourism announcement for July

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PEMBROKESHIRE’s tourism businesses, so badly hit by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, were given a small measure of hope for the summer season on Wednesday (June 10).

Tourism in Wales is collectively responsible for over £6.2Billion to Welsh GDP and over 172,000 jobs.
During the Welsh Government’s daily media briefing, Minister for the Economy Ken Skates cautiously pencilled-in July 9 as the date when the Welsh Government could announce the easing of lockdown restrictions for tourism in Wales.

He did so after reminding the public the five-mile limit on travel could be tailored to local needs. For example, if the nearest supermarket is ten miles away, ten miles is ‘local to you’.

Addressing a question from ITV Wales’ Adrian Masters, Ken Skates referred to the consistent approach of the Welsh Government to easing lockdown restrictions and highlighted the perils of making policy ‘on the hoof’ in the way the Westminster Government did over schools’ reopening.

He said that non-essential retail should have taken a hint on timelines from the last restriction review, which gave a date at which non-essential retail restrictions could be eased.

Mr Skates said the important factor was that the public needed confidence that it was safe to reopen tourist attractions so, when the time came, the public would be ready to go to them.

A subsequent question from Paul Martin from BBC Wales picked up the Minister’s words on tourist attractions and asked when restrictions on travel might be lifted.

Mr Skates responded: “As we look to reopen the tourism sector, we will have to review our current guidance. We must not ruin the prospects of the visitor economy for 2021 by prematurely opening up the economy in the summer of 2020. We have a regular rhythm of reviews.

“The next review point is on June 18 and the date of the next on July 9. In other parts of the UK, the dates being considered for reopening the tourism sector on July 4; in Northern Ireland, the date under consideration is July 20. There is no significant difference between us, other devolved governments, and the UK Government on the timing of reopening some parts of the tourism and hospitality sector. Our review dates are fixed and we hope to have positive news for that sector.”

Later the same afternoon, Conservative leader Paul Davies raised tourism with First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Referring to Mr Drakeford’s weekend comments which warned that Wales would remain closed to visitors until the Welsh Government’s scientific advisors approved a change in approach, Mr Davies said: “Your comments were met with some anger and frustration by some tourism operators across the country, who, understandably, fear that this could lead to the collapse of the Welsh tourism sector.”

Mr Davies spelt out his and his party’s understanding that public health concerns remained paramount, and asked: “Will you and your Government take the opportunity today to spell out exactly what the Welsh Government’s current plans are for the tourism industry here in Wales? And can you also tell us what discussions you’ve had with representatives of the tourism industry to ascertain how your Government can better support them throughout this pandemic? And will you commit to providing further support to tourism operators across Wales until they can reopen, to ensure their viability for the future?”

Mr Drakeford responded: “The future of the tourism industry is very much in my thoughts and in the work that we do within the Welsh Government. I absolutely appreciate what an enormous impact the virus has had on that sector here in Wales.”
He continued: “There are some ways in which we might yet be able to resume some tourism activity during the current season, but it will have to be, as Paul Davies has rightly said, with safety at the forefront of our thinking. We have very regular contact with tourism organisations and interests in Wales.
“I had a meeting only yesterday with the Minister responsible (Dafydd Elis Thomas), with senior officials here, reporting on those conversations and thinking ahead to what we might be able to offer in terms of lifting the lockdown.
“If it is possible, then, beginning with self-contained accommodation, where people are not sharing kitchens and toilets and showers and so on, seems to be a sensible and safe way of thinking about how we can resume activity in the tourism industry.”
In a debate on economic recovery later in the same session, Ken Skates said the Welsh Government’s message to tourism businesses – and all businesses – was clear: “You’ll be able to plan for reopening, where we believe that it can be carried out safely and that those physical adaptations that are required for a business to reopen, or an attraction to reopen, can be implemented in a timely fashion.”

Education

Delight as foundation phase learners return to class

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PEMBROKESHIRE Headteachers have reported very positive returns to school for Foundation Phase Learners.

All Foundation Phase Learners returned to schools on Monday, March 1st and attendance has been reported at almost 90% since.

The Council’s Director for Education, Steven Richards-Downes, said: “A wide range of council services have worked together to ensure that Foundation Phase pupils have been able to return
safely to school.

“I am particularly grateful to all school staff and families for ensure that learning is now available for our youngest learners face to face.”

Headteachers remarked how schools have filled with smiles and laughter following the safe and phased return of Foundation Phase learners.

Cora O’Brien, Headteacher at Waldo Williams School in Haverfordwest emphasised how quickly learners have settled back in to a routine.

“It has been an absolute joy to hear their laughter in the playground and to observe their love of learning face to face once again. I thank everybody in the Waldo Williams School
community for working so hard to ensure that the transition went smoothly.”

Vicky Hart-Griffiths, Headteacher of Ysgol Hafan y Mor in Tenby, said: “It has been wonderful to welcome all our Foundation Phase learners back to school. They are thriving, being amongst
friends and back to a school routine.  

“All the pupils have spoken about how happy they are to have returned and it’s an absolute pleasure to welcome them back and we can’t wait until we have all our pupils back in school.

“The school feels alive again and there’s a positive buzz and laughter once again echoing throughout the school.”

Gareth Lewis, Headteacher at Broad Haven CP School said children had returned “with real enthusiasm, and have been very keen to meet up with their friends.”

Mr Lewis added: “Our parents have been very supportive and positive about the return, and those with older children are very much looking forward to a wider return to schooling.”

Mr Richards-Downes said plans were now turning to more learners returning to schools in the near future.

“We are looking to the next phases of the re-opening of schools on the 15th of March as long as the government guidelines allow.”

Further details will be released in due course.

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Pembrokeshire County Council: This week’s Leader’s coronavirus update

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 5th March as follows:

‘Welcome everyone to my weekly update.

“It is with rather a heavy heart that I tell you that it’s almost 12 months since my first statement on the coronavirus pandemic.

“On 9th March 2020, I addressed our Cabinet meeting with the following words:

“Further to the news yesterday that two people in Pembrokeshire had tested as positive for the Covid 19 virus, I am sure you will join me in wishing them both a speedy and full recovery.

“I can reassure you that our services will continue as usual, and all our employees can continue to attend to their work, appointments, schools and services as they normally would.

“We should all help protect ourselves and our communities by following Public Health Wales advice, particularly around washing hands and using a tissue for symptoms associated with cold and flu and then safely disposing of it.

“I am grateful to the co-operation and hard work of all of our staff and we will provide further updates and information when we have them.

“In the meantime I can confirm that detailed planning arrangements, both internally, with partner agencies and through the Dyfed Powys Local Resilience Forum, are well underway to ensure that the Council and Pembrokeshire are as well placed as possible for whatever challenges we may face. Thank you.”

“I am sure you will join me while I take a moment now to remember all those people in Pembrokeshire and further afield, who, very sadly, passed away since I made that announcement.

“I continue to be incredibly grateful, as I’m sure you are, to everyone who is helping to beat this pandemic, working so very hard now for over a year.

“We are fortunate now to be in a position where the vaccine programme is protecting older members of our community and starting to roll out among one of the biggest groups – the over 65s and those with underlying health conditions.

“This time next week (12th March) the Welsh Government will have notified us of their plans for the next three weeks.

“In the meantime, we remain in Alert Level 4 and the stay at home message continues to be more important than ever as we reach the threshold of better times.

“I wish you all a good weekend and thank you once again to the vast majority of wonderful Pembrokeshire residents who are doing the right thing and waiting patiently at home for restrictions to lift.

“We do really appreciate your efforts and determination to help bring this pandemic to an end.”

 

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Sergeant Hillier ‘died doing the job he loved’, says his heartbroken father

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THE ARMY SERGEANT who died after being injured in a live firing exercise, has been named locally.

The incident occurred at Castlemartin Training Area, and led to the death of Sgt Gavin Hillier, who was in the Welsh Guards.

In a post on social media, his father wrote: “Absolutely devastated to be writing this post, probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“At 3.45am this morning I received a phone call that will forever change my life. My eldest son Gavin Mark Hillier was in a fatal accident yesterday in the army (the job he loved).

“Sleep tight & rest in peace son. I’m so proud of you. Goodnight and god bless, love your heartbroken dad.”

An Army spokesperson said: “It is with great sadness we can confirm the death of a soldier on March 4.

“Our thoughts are with his family and friends at this tragic time.

“The circumstances surrounding this death are being investigated and it would be inappropriate to comment any further.”

It is understood that Sergeant Hillier, who served as part of the Welsh Guards’ motor transport platoon, was due to be deployed to Iraq and had previously been awarded a Long Service and Good Conduct medal by Prince Charles, the regiment’s Colonel in Chief, in 2019.

The tragic incident is the latest in a number of accidents at Castlemartin.

In 2017, The Herald reported that two soldiers died in a tank explosion, which a coroner ruled was due to a design flaw.

The following year, an Army captain was jailed in July 2018 after a 21-year-old soldier was killed by a stray bullet during an exercise at the range in 2012.

An investigation has been launched into the death of a soldier at Castlemartin RAC Range following a military exercise.

Police were called to the site at just before 10.45pm on March 4.

Sadly, a man was pronounced dead shortly after. Our thoughts are with his family, who have been informed of the incident and are being supported by specialist officers.

An investigation is underway led by Dyfed-Powys Police. Officers are liaising with the Health and Safety Executive and MoD.

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