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Update on Lockdown easing measures from First Minister Mark Drakeford

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WELSH MINISTERS are required to review the need for the requirements and restrictions and their proportionality every 21 days.

The scientific and medical advice continues to show the level of coronavirus transmission in Wales remains low. However, the rise in cases we can see in other parts of the UK and further afield continues to remind us that the threat from the virus has not gone away. We are learning the lessons from those places, which indicates people meeting indoors remains a significant risk.

It is a priority for Welsh Government that schools in Wales should be able to open in September as planned. All the easements we make to restrictions have a cumulative effect on transmission rates and the headroom we have available. We will use the headroom we have to ensure children can resume their education next month.

In line with advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales and the scientific evidence of the risks from indoor settings, the conditions still do not permit me to ease the general restrictions on the ability of people to meet indoors. This is kept under continuous review and changes will be made when it is safe to do so.

This still means that we must not visit someone else’s home indoors unless we are part of an extended household with them or providing care. It also means we can only visit a business or premises indoors, such as a pub or restaurant, with members of our own household or extended household. It is, of course, possible to meet different people outdoors as long as social distancing is maintained.

Mr Drakeford said “We fully appreciate how difficult these continued restrictions can feel and the negative effects they might have on people’s wellbeing. Therefore during this review period I am keen to provide relaxations to recognise the vital importance everyone places on being able to spend time with family and friends.”

The First Minister said that he can confirm that up to four households will be able to join together in an extended household from Saturday 22 August. This might take the form of two existing extended households joining together, or households not already part of one to join existing or new extended households.

Extended households have enabled families be reunited and helped those suffering from loneliness and isolation. They have also supported caring arrangements. I know families have had to make difficult choices however in deciding with whom they should form their extended household.

This change will benefit those previously not able to form an extended household as well as providing opportunities for people to meet with more friends and family. More people can visit each other indoors, go out and do things together, and stay overnight without social distancing.

Changes will also be brought forward to the Regulations to allow for some limited indoor celebrations following a wedding, civil partnership, or funeral for up to 30 people from 22 August. For now, these will be limited in scope, such as an organised meal in a hotel or restaurant, and must take place in a regulated setting. This will ensure that all reasonable measures are taken to limit the risks of infection and spread of coronavirus. We will learn the lessons from this relaxation to consider how they might be applied to other events in the future.

The risk from coronavirus is much lower outdoors, which has led to us easing restrictions more quickly in those areas. Our approach throughout this process has been to plan, where necessary pilot activity to learn lessons, and then ease restrictions further. Over the next few weeks we will pilot some limited outdoor events for up to 100 people.

With an aim to do this through proposals that are in development for:

• Outdoor theatre events organised by Theatr Clwyd (over weekends beginning Friday 27 August);

• Small scale car rally at Trac Mon on Ynys Mon; and

• Welsh Triathlon’s planned ‘Return to Racing’ competition at Pembrey Country Park.

To be clear, no other outdoor events of this sort will be allowed during the next three weeks. These pilots are being trialled to enable us to learn lessons, in the hope that more such events can be permitted in future.

Looking forward to the remainder of the three weeks of this review, we will use this time to look at how we can safely restart more activity indoors. This is important preparation for the autumn and winter when options to meet outdoors become less possible.

A number of people, including the Older People’s Commissioner, have raised the growing concern about the impact restrictions on visiting care homes is having on people’s emotional, mental and even physical health. I understand the distress this is causing.

The Welsh Government has been working closely with partners, to develop guidance that sets out the stringent considerations that care home providers should take in order safely to resume indoor visits. Everybody is concerned to ensure we prevent the spread of the virus amongst our most vulnerable citizens.

The intention is to provide for indoor visits to recommence from Saturday 29 August subject to the strict controls set out in the guidance and conditions remaining favourable.

Subject to the completion of final preparatory work, casinos in Wales will also be able to reopen on Saturday 29 August.

Mark Drakeford said: “Once again I am grateful to the people of Wales for their support as we collectively Keep Wales Safe.”

We will publicise a summary of all the key dates as soon as we have the information.

Pembrokeshire County Council Leader, Councillor David Simpson, has provided a further coronavirus update for Friday, 21st August, as follows:

‘Hello to you all. I hope you are all keeping well.

‘The last week we have seen mixed weather across our county and we are now seeing Storm Ellen battering our county.

‘It can be argued that we have been dealing with Storm Covid-19 since March; this has been a long road and testing for all of us.

‘I do feel the last few weeks has given us all hope and it is nice to see people enjoying themselves across the whole county. However, without sounding to critical or authoritative, we all need to maintain social distancing.

‘As I said last week, we are all making small steps but these steps are moving us forward to a more normal position.

‘I suppose going back to normal is something that will take a long time so we are now carving out for ourselves a new normal and we have to adjust to different ways.

‘I’m very pleased to hear that visitors are spreading themselves across all of the county and relieving pressures on our traditional tourist “hot spots.” We have a beautiful county, so please explore all of it.

‘This week as an Authority we have seen some of our services re-opening such as fitness suites at our leisure centres and access to computers in our libraries.

‘I would like to congratulate all our students, on their recent exam results.

‘Awaiting the results is always a stressful time, so I want to thank all our students for the way they changed and adapted the schooling regime during Covid-19. As an Authority we are preparing and looking forward to the new school term in September.

‘I also want to thank the team in our Contact Centre who have carried on dealing with calls, emails and service requests throughout the pandemic.

‘I appreciate that at times they receive a high volume of calls and customers can be in a queue.

‘Just to remind everyone, we can also handle service requests via the My Account facility on our website:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/my-account
or by asking Penfro, the Council’s chatbot, which appears on all of our website pages.

‘You can also pay your Council bills online at:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/make-a-payment
or by using our automated payment line on 01437 775164 available 24 hours, seven days a week.

‘So once again, we head into another weekend and I hope you all have time to relax and enjoy days out.

‘The following coronavirus-related press releases have been issued since my previous update last Friday:

• County Views With A Safety Message:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/stunning-county-views-with-a-message

• Keeping Care Providers Safe:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/pride-at-hard-work-to-keep-county-care-providers-safe

• Hospitality Outlets Reminded About New Grant:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/bars-cafes-and-restaurants-urged-not-to-miss-out-on-new-grant

• Haverfordwest Airport Partially Re-Opens:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/airport-partially-re-opens-to-visiting-pilots

• Schools Re-Opening Information:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/keep-up-to-date-with-school-re-opening-information

• Childcare Grants:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/council-offers-childcare-grants

• Promoting Social Distancing:
https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom/banners-promote-social-distancing

‘Public Health Wales is updating and adding to their resources regularly. Please find all assets here: https://phw.nhs.wales/topics/latest-information-on-novel-coronavirus-covid-19/coronavirus-resources/

‘Also, please keep an eye on our newsroom at: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/newsroom

‘For service updates visit: https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/emergency-planning/service-changes
‘And to get daily email updates, log onto our website and sign into My Account at:
https://myaccount.pembrokeshire.gov.uk

‘Remember, please travel safely.’

Useful links:

www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/coronavirus
www.sir-benfro.gov.uk/coronafeirws
https://phw.nhs.wales/
• Iechyd Cyhoeddus Cymru – Coronafeirws Newydd (COVID-19) – Cyngor hunan-ynysu
https://gov.wales/coronavirus

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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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News

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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News

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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