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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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Permit applications open for Tenby pedestrianisation scheme

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now accepting applications for vehicle access during this year’s Pedestrianisation of Tenby.

The scheme, which is due to start on Monday, July 5 and conclude on Friday, September 10, will again see the walled town divided into three ‘zones’, each having varying degrees of vehicle access.

Whilst all necessary plans are being put in place for it to start and finish on the above dates, the scheme will remain under constant review in light of Government guidance relating to Covid-19, and the Council will provide any updates as necessary.

Possession of an ‘access permit’ does not provide any exemption from Government restrictions, and any regulations relating to travel and the occupation of holiday accommodation or second homes must be observed at all times.

Following the success of last year, the permit application process will continue online, with paper application forms and guidance notes no longer being delivered to residents and businesses.

The application form and guidance notes are available from pembrokeshire.gov.uk/tenby-pedestrianisation

Residents and business within Tenby are encouraged to complete the application process as soon as possible, to ensure that there is sufficient time for the application to be processed.

Permits will be issued approximately 7-10 days prior to the start of the scheme.

For enquiries, e-mail tenby.pedestrian@pembrokeshire.gov.uk

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Join the Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Panel as an independent member

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THE Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel is looking for two members to join them in their work to support and challenge the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Commissioner.

The Panel is made of up of members nominated by Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys county councils along with at least two independent members.

Opportunities have now arisen for two independent members to join the Panel and carry out key statutory roles that will support the Commissioner exercise his role effectively.

Members will be expected to attend and take part in regular meetings and take part in decision making, creating reports and making recommendations to the Commissioner.

They will review the Commissioner’s annual draft Police and Crime Plan and annual draft budget, review and scrutinise his decisions and actions, and if necessary review the proposed appointment or removal of the Chief Constable and other senior police force appointments.

Applicants will need to demonstrate that they can take a balanced and objective approach in supporting the Panel and the Commissioner, make strategic and well-informed decisions, and interpret and question financial, statistical and performance related information.

They will also need to be able to act as a ‘critical friend’, challenging views or proposals for change constructively.

Applications close on May 31, and appointments to the Panel will be made until October 31, 2024. 

For further information, visit www.dppoliceandcrimepanel.wales

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Successful Fire Service and Health Board partnership to enhance COVID-19 vaccine roll out comes to end

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TUESDAY 11 May 2021 marked the end of a hugely successful partnership between Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service and Hywel Dda University Health Board, initiated to enhance the roll out of the COVID-19 vaccine to the communities of Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

Since February, Community Safety Staff from Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service have transported 125 passengers over 9450 miles to ensure they were able to receive their COVID-19 vaccination.

Chris Davies, Chief Fire Officer for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service said: “Recognising the configuration of our Service, the areas we cover and indeed the people we employee, this seemed an ideal opportunity for us to widen our response to the pandemic and support our partners in safeguarding our communities.

“Whilst we already collaborate with the Welsh Ambulance Service Trust, this opportunity enabled us to expand our assistance further within the health arena. This partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board was the first of its kind for Fire and Rescue Services in Wales and paved the way for a number of similar partnerships for us and the other Fire and Rescue Services in Wales.

“I am extremely proud of our staff who have participated in this collaboration and have made a huge difference to the lives of so many people. Their contribution has without doubt had a positive impact on our response to this global pandemic”.

Mydrian Harries, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, coordinated the Service’s response to this call for assistance.

“Our communities are at the heart of our core business. Knowing we were in a position to make an impact, we put in place a robust solution in record time, to not only ensure the safety and wellbeing of our staff, but to also safeguard those who were eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination, but may have had barriers preventing them from attending their appointments.

“Using this partnership as template within which we could expand, we have since been able to offer our assistance to other Health Boards across the Service area. Indeed, a group of 10 vaccine heroes from our Service have joined Powys Teaching Health Board’s vaccination team, playing their part in distributing vaccines at mass vaccination sites in Newtown and Builth Wells. This is another fantastic example of how working together has been vital in our ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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