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What you need to know about higher level restrictions to control coronavirus

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FOLLOWING the four UK Nations meeting earlier today the Welsh Government announced that the higher level restrictions, alert level 4 would come into force from midnight tonight on Saturday 19 December 2020 for the whole of Wales.

Originally, it was noted that restrictions would be introduced after a five-day relaxation period over Christmas, but because the number of cases is currently increasing very rapidly, and concern that a much more infectious variant of the virus is spreading more quickly the Welsh Government decided to introduce the restrictions immediately.

From today changes have been introduced that affect businesses and residents of Pembrokeshire as follows:

  • All non-essential retail businesses, including close contact services, all leisure and fitness centres and all hospitality sites will close at the end of the day.
  • Tighter restrictions on mixing between households will change from tonight.  Two families can create a bubble on Christmas day only. It will not be possible to do so over the 5 days as originally stated.  However, a single person household will be able to join with one other household throughout the level 4 period.

Mark Drakeford said that Saturday was one of the days where new information required an immediate response.

“Changing our plans at short notice is going to be very difficult for us all”, he said, “but we can only overcome this by working together.  It is essential that we respond immediately to this danger.”

To play our part and to keep each other safe, it is important that we abide by the rules and remember to:

  • Adhere to the rules of keeping a social distance with people who do not live with us or who are not in our support bubble
  • Wear face covering (if we can) in all indoor public places
  • Stay at home
  • Not forming an extended household (adults living alone or single parents are allowed to join one other household to create a support bubble)
  • Don’t meet anyone indoors except for the people we live with or who are in our support bubble
  • Don’t meet anyone but our household or support bubble in a private garden
  • Don’t meet anyone but our household or outdoor support bubble
  • Work from home if we can
  • Not travelling without reasonable excuse
  • Not travelling abroad without reasonable excuse.

If you have any COVID-19 symptoms, however mild, you must self-isolate at home and arrange an immediate test, leaving your home for a test only. You can order a test online or by calling 119.

Be aware of the symptoms of COVID-19. The symptoms of COVID-19 include high temperatures, a new continuous cough and experiencing loss or change in sense of smell or sense of taste. But also, the early symptoms can usually include headaches, fatigue and general flu-related pains. So we encourage people who feel unwell to be very careful, especially to wash hands and keep a distance, and if in doubt, order a test.

Together we can keep Pembrokeshire safe.

Responding to the news that Wales is going into lockdown, Darren Hughes, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation said: “The message today from the First Minister is a sobering one for us all. Over the last few weeks we have warned that our hospitals in Wales are becoming overwhelmed with people suffering from Coronavirus. As the prevalence within our communities continues to grow, the knock on effect we have seen in terms of staff absences has been very significant putting services under extreme pressure.  These members of staff live in, work in and treat people within these same communities.

“It is clear we needed to take steps now to get the virus under control, the NHS in Wales simply could not cope if we followed the current trajectory and transmission rates. Unfortunately, we need another huge and difficult national effort to help us get through the worst of this. We need everyone to please respect the restrictions and help us overcome this virus over the coming weeks.

“There is light at the end of the tunnel with the emergence of the vaccine, and of course we are working round the clock to make sure that is delivered as quickly as possible.”

“Nobody within the NHS wants to see these restrictions in place. We know there are harms which are caused by the measures. However, the price we would pay if we let the virus get out of the control would be even greater.”

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Simon Hart MP says that First Minister is ‘reckless’ to say that the UK is ‘as it is, over’

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THE SECRETARY OF STATE FOR WALES, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire MP Simon Hart, said that the First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford is wrong to suggest that the United Kingdom has had its day in its current form.

The First Minister’s exact words were “the UK as it is; is over”.

Mr Drakeford’s has said a new union should be created to reflect a “voluntary association of four nations”.

In his conference speech, the Welsh Labour leader called for “home rule for Wales in a successful United Kingdom”.

In a strong rebuke of Mark Drakeford’s comments Simon Hart MP said on the BBC’s politics Wales programme on Sunday (Mar 7) that his suggestion was “reckless” and “an overt act of flirtation with Plaid Cymru.”

Mr Hart added: “I think he realises if he wants to remain first minister he has to do a deal with Plaid, it’s the only option on the table. He hasn’t denied that, I’ve heard.

“In order to do that he has to start making noises about the union that has to appeal to his Plaid Cymru colleagues. I think it’s quite a reckless thing.”

Mr Hart explained that the UK “benefits” Wales and that the UK-wide procurement of Covid-19 vaccines proves this. He added: “It demonstrates just one example that the UK is a positive influence but it doesn’t mean that some of the other arguments are not valid”.

Plaid Cymru wants to hold a referendum on Welsh independence if it wins May’s Senedd election, but the power to do so lies at Westminster.

There has been a growing interest in more independence for Wales in the last few years, with a huge surge in membership of the non-political Yes Cymru group since the start of the pandemic.

Plaid leader Adam Price, speaking on the same programme, said: “We sincerely believe that independence is ultimately the only sustainable way whereby Wales can achieve its incredible potential as a nation that isn’t being delivered at the moment and whereby we can achieve social and economic justice for everyone that lives in Wales.”

Giving evidence to the Welsh Affairs Select Committee on Thursday, which The Herald was invited attended via a Zoom, Mr Drakeford explained said his idea of home-rule meant “the powers we have, and the devolution settlement we develop, would be guaranteed and would not be interfered with in the way we have seen so vividly in recent months”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I do think the effect of the pandemic and last 12 months has been to polarise opinion in Wales about how Wales should be governed.

“There are some people who take a lesson that we would be better off handing Wales back to Whitehall, there are some Conservative candidates standing in the Senedd elections who apparently take that view.

“It has undoubtedly strengthened interest in those people who believe Wales should be taken out of the United Kingdom altogether.”

The company which runs The Pembrokeshire Herald, Herald News UK, has recently launched a national news website for Wales which is sympathetic to Welsh independence.

This is something which could not have happened without a shift in feeling by many in Wales that as a nation it should have more autonomy.

Speaking on ITN’s News at Ten on Thursday (Mar 4), Herald.Wales South and West Wales Editor, Tom Sinclair said: “From our test marketing we can see that there certainly is a huge appetite for news that is about Wales, made in Wales, and owned by a company which is actually Welsh.”

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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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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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