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New Covid vaccination strategy published for Wales

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ALL eligible adults will be offered a Covid vaccine by the autumn, under ambitious plans published by the Welsh Government on Monday (Jan 11).

Health Minister Vaughan Gething published the Covid-19 Vaccination Strategy, which sets out three key milestones.

It comes as the latest figures show more than 86,000 people have received the vaccine. Wales will publish daily vaccine figures from today.

The three milestones set out in the plan are:

  • By mid-February – all care home residents and staff; frontline health and social care staff; everyone over 70 and everyone who is clinically extremely vulnerable will have been offered vaccination.
  • By the Spring – vaccination will have been offered to all the other phase one priority groups. This is everyone over 50 and everyone who is at-risk because they have an underlying health condition.
  • By the autumn – vaccination will have been offered to all other eligible adults in Wales, in line with any guidance issued by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).
    In total, around 2.5m people throughout Wales could be offered Covid vaccines by September, depending on further advice from the JCVI.

The strategy depends on sufficient and regular supplies of the vaccines being delivered. It will be kept under review in line with supply of the vaccine and any further advice from the JCVI.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said: “The Covid vaccines offer our best hope of a return to the normality we are looking forward to after such a difficult year, which has turned all our lives upside down.

“Delivering this vaccination programme to the people in Wales is a huge task but an enormous amount of work is going on to make it a success.

“We are making good progress with thousands more people being vaccinated every day.

“Over the coming week we will see the programme pick up further speed with more clinics opening and the first vaccines to be given by pharmacists.”

To reach as many people as safely and as quickly as possible, we are continuing to accelerate the vaccination programme as more supplies of the two vaccines become available.

This includes:

  • The number of mass vaccination centres increasing to 35 over the coming weeks, with at least one in each county. We started with seven, five weeks ago.
  • Military support in the mass vaccination centres – there are 14 immunisers and 70 other personnel providing support.
  • 100 GP practices providing clinics by the end of this week.
  • The first pharmacies to provide the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine will start vaccinating in North Wales in the next week.
  • 14 mobile units, run by community nurses, which are taking the vaccine to care homes.
  • Text message vaccination appointment reminders.

Dr Gillian Richardson, who leads the Covid vaccination programme in Wales, said: “This is the biggest vaccination programme Wales has ever seen and the NHS is working incredibly hard to get the vaccine to as many people as possible, safely and as quickly as we can.

“People will be invited to come and have a vaccination at a clinic close to their home or at one of the mass vaccination centres. I know everyone is really keen to get their jab but please wait until you are contacted for your turn.

“Vaccination will give us a path out of this pandemic but it will take us a little while to protect all the people in Wales who need it – this is why it’s so important everyone continues to take steps to protect themselves and their families from coronavirus.”

Data for the number of COVID-19 vaccines administered in Wales will be available every week day from today.

The daily release accounts for the total number of vaccines given until 10pm the previous day, which have been recorded on the COVID-19 Welsh Immunisation System. Actual figures will be higher due to ongoing data entry.

Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire’s candidate for the upcoming Senedd elections has raised concerns over the vaccination rollout in Wales.

Welsh Conservative candidate and Pembrokeshire County Councillor Samuel Kurtz said Wales was ‘falling behind’ in the vaccine rollout following a BBC Wales report.

In the BBC Wales report it is confirmed that while the Welsh Government have received 275,000 doses of the two approved Covid-19 vaccines, only 70,000 people had received their first dose after the first month of rollout.

Senedd Candidate Samuel Kurtz feels Wales is ‘falling behind’ in the vaccine rollout (Pic S Kurtz)

Commenting on this report, Cllr Kurtz said: “A month into the vaccination rollout and the Welsh Government have yet to administer half of the vaccines they’ve received. It really does feel like Wales is falling behind.

“While Mark Drakeford may want to say the rollout is not a race, people are rightly looking towards the vaccines as a way to bring this hugely difficult chapter in our history to an end and, more importantly, to save lives.

“We’ve known for months that a mass vaccine rollout will be needed, yet it feels like the Welsh Government have been caught off guard and ill-prepared.

“I’m pleased to see local GP surgeries preparing to deliver the vaccine to their patients and urge the Welsh Government to provide them with all the support they may need to make this rollout a success.”

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Andrew RT Davies called for a “vaccine army,” led by a Welsh Government Vaccine Minister.

“For weeks now we have been highlighting the slow rollout of the Covid vaccine in Wales and yet still the Welsh Government dither and delay,” he said.

“Instead of getting on and actually delivering what they need to do, we just get told that we need to be patient and this isn’t a sprint.

“The Welsh Government has the vaccine doses and they have the power to get it out to the people that need it the most. They’ve been caught off guard and yet still don’t seem to be in any rush.

“We need a Government Minister to have the single job of delivering their vaccine with the full resources of the Welsh Government alongside NHS Wales, GPs, Pharmacists and anyone else that can help. We need a vaccine army, backed up by our Armed Forces, to get the job done. We cannot afford any more delay.”

In an open letter to the Health Minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, health spokesperson for Plaid Cymru, also called for greater clarity on the vaccine deployment programme, in order to build public trust.

Mr ap Iorwerth raised “real concerns” over the pace, transparency and communications of the programme, and says that the public “simply want to know when they might expect the vaccine.”

He called for a dashboard of information that would allow the public to track progress for themselves, including volume of doses delivered and administered by health board and by priority group.

He said it would “go far” in helping to restore public trust.

Using examples of international good practice, Mr ap Iorwerth asks whether the Health Minister would consider measures such as:

Vaccination centres open 7 days a week

The widespread availability of drive-through style vaccination centres

Reducing wastage by allowing prepared vaccines to be given on a ‘first come first served’ basis at the end of the day.

“There are real concerns about the vaccine deployment programme, not least regarding the pace, transparency and communications during these initial stages. People simply want to know when they might expect the vaccine,” Rhun ap Iorwerth said.

“Setting out targets in Welsh Government’s vaccination plan, and including a dashboard of information which answers questions around how the numbers of doses by health board and priority group, will go far in helping to build public trust, as they will be able to track progress for themselves.

“We have a short period of weeks before the damage of strict conditions, in particular school closures, become even more significant. We also currently have a virus infecting more people every week than are receiving the vaccine. Expanding the pace and scale of vaccination is thus essential, as is restoring public confidence that governments have a plan for winning this battle against the virus.”

 

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Tesco shoppers asked to check bank statements after some charged three times

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ANYONE who has shopped in Tesco since Friday, June 11 has been urged to check their bank account and make sure they have been charged the correct amount.

The advice comes as some Tesco customers paid up to three times more for their shopping this weekend after a payment software glitch affected some card payments.

Shoppers who paid via online bank Monzo were charged twice on Friday, according to consumer website MoneySavingExpert.

However, another payment problem struck over the weekend when some shoppers tried to pay for their purchases using contactless payments, only to be told it had been declined.

They then tried to pay again, which worked, only to find that they had been charged twice – or even three times. Some customers on social media said they had to spend “endless time” on their day off talking to their bank.

Following the news that, Libby James, co-founder of www.merchantadviceservice.co.uk, commented: “This software glitch customers experienced in Tesco over the weekend could be down to a host of technical issues varying from an intermittent internet connection, to too many transactions being processed at once – it’s hard to pinpoint the problem. However, shoppers who purchased goods from Tesco over the weekend should thoroughly check their online bank transactions to ensure they have not been overcharged. For those who were affected, they should directly contact the merchant for a refund. Although technology has failed Tesco customers on this occasion, to avoid this where possible in future instances, try not be too hasty when it comes to contactless payments and wait for the transaction to be authorised, rather than tapping again to be safe.”

If you do require more information from Merchant Advice Service, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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Public urged to have say on second homes and empty properties policies

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL has begun a consultation exercise on the authority’s policies relating to second homes and long term empty properties.

Reducing the number of second homes and long term empty homes is seen as desirable as increasing the supply of affordable housing across Pembrokeshire is a priority.

Second homes and empty properties reduce the number of houses available to local residents.

Pembrokeshire currently has the second highest rate of second or empty homes in Wales and in 2017 the Council introduced a 50% Council Tax premium on second homes and a premium of up to 100% on long term empty homes.

The money raised in Pembrokeshire is used to support the development of affordable housing, such as a long-term housing project in Solva, as well as providing grants to local projects through the Enhancing Pembrokeshire Grant fund.

The consultation asks respondents to give their views on potential options from April 1, 2022, which include varying the Council Tax premium for second homes and long term empty properties.

The consultation is available here: https://haveyoursay.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/review-of-second-and-long-term-empty-homes

The closing date for responses is Monday 26th July.

If you are unable to complete the survey online, please call 01437 764 551 to request a hard copy response form.

The responses provided will be compiled into a report to be considered by Cabinet before a final decision on the options will be made by full Council on 14th October 2021.

Cllr Bob Kilmister, the Cabinet Member for Finance, urged Pembrokeshire residents to take part in the consultation.

He added: “The more feedback we get on this matter the better. The issue of second homes and empty properties is one that cannot be ignored.

“While people from elsewhere in the UK find it relatively easy to afford property in Pembrokeshire, it is much more difficult for those living and earning locally.

“A high proportion of second homes in a community also poses a threat to the viability of local schools and opportunities to nurture and grow the Welsh language.

“While further possible actions on second homes and long term empty properties are being considered by the Welsh Government, the Council is currently only able to consider the level of Council Tax premium.

“I would ask all Pembrokeshire residents to provide feedback on the options for Council Tax premiums on second homes and empty properties so we have as many viewpoints as possible to consider ahead of future decisions.” 

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Tributes to victim as police confirm fatal workshop fire in Sageston

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POLICE have confirmed that a workshop fire in Sageston over the weekend was sadly fatal and is now being investigated by the Health and Safety Executive.

A spokesperson for the force said: “Dyfed-Powys Police was called to a fire at a workshop at a property in Sageston at shortly after 10am on Saturday, 12 June.

“Sadly, a male was pronounced dead at the scene.

“The Health and Safety Executive and HM Coroner has been informed.”

Mr Scourfield, 56, was in his workshop in the grounds of his home at Sageston on Saturday morning when a fire broke out.

Four fire crews rushed to the south Pembrokeshire village and brought the blaze under control, but sadly, Mr Scourfield died at the scene.

A spokesman for the Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “On Saturday June 12 at 10.02am, Joint Fire Control received reports of a fire in a workshop in the village of Sageston in Pembrokeshire and crews from Pembroke Dock, Tenby, Milford Haven and Haverfordwest were mobilised to the incident.

“A total of four appliances and a water bowser were in attendance of the incident.

“The fire was brought under control swiftly by the action of the initial attending crews and a joint investigation has already begun between the Service’s fire investigators and colleagues from Dyfed-Powys police to establish the cause of the fire.

“Due to the unstable nature of the building, Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s Urban Search and Rescue Team (USAR) were deployed to the incident to provide support in securing the scene as part of the investigation.

“The fire service left the incident at 06.11pm.

Tributes have poured in for Mike.

He was a great supporter of Carew’s sports teams and all three of the club’s cricket games were cancelled on Saturday.

Carew Cricket Club posted on Twitter on Sunday: “The thoughts of everyone associated with the club are with the Scourfield after yesterday’s tragic news.

“Michael was an integral part of the club for decades and his support and sponsorship played a major role in helping the club get to where we are today.

“Over the years he held pretty much every role within the club, from scorer to chairman, and cared deeply about the club.

“There are no words to express the shock and sorrow felt around the club yesterday.

“His loss leaves a massive hole, and he will always be remembered.”

Other clubs also sent their condolences to Carew and to the Scourfield family.

Cresselly Cricket Club posted: “Such devastating news, our thoughts and condolences to all of the family and everyone connected in the community from everyone at Cresselly CC.”

Neyland Cricket club added: “Condolences from all at Neyland CC to the Scourfield family and to all at Carew Cricket Club on this devastating news. Mike epitomised all that was good about cricket. Our thoughts to all at this incredibly sad time.”

Kilgetty Cricket Club also posted: “We’re really saddened to hear the news about Michael. All our thoughts go out to the Scourfield family, Carew Cricket Club and the whole of the Carew community.”

Cresselly seconds also held a minute’s silence for Mike before their game with Laugharne on Saturday.

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