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Volunteer officers give up time to police during the pandemic

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WHILE most people are staying home to stay safe, a small army of volunteers has been patrolling the streets to help protect communities.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Special Constabulary has boosted numbers on the frontline, giving up hundreds of hours to support their regular colleagues in dealing with crime and enforcing new COVID-19 legislation.

Special Inspector Haydn Bradley-Davies is one of the 46 unpaid officers to step up during the pandemic, logging a mammoth 2,500 hours and carrying out 287 duties between them in April.

For S/Insp Bradley-Davies, 280 hours have been spent on duty since March 21 – five times the hours he would usually volunteer in a month.

Despite the added risks of patrolling and coming into contact with members of the public, he did not hesitate in offering his time. As he heads back to his regular full-time job, he’s given an insight into the challenges and rewards of being a Special during this extraordinary time.

He said: “I felt it was really important that I was helping the force out during its time of need, managing the new legislation and public order.

“When the new legislation was announced back in March, the Chief Constable sent a letter to Specials asking for assistance, and I felt it was essential that I helped out as much as I could.

“I knew the new rules would mean extra challenges for regular officers, who would be committed with road checks and additional patrols, as well as dealing with reports of crime. It was important to me to be able to do my bit to help my colleagues.”

Since March 21, S/Insp Bradley-Davies has attached himself to the Aberystwyth response code he usually volunteers alongside. When he would usually be working his desk job with the Welsh Government, he’s been responding to calls from the public, updating victims of crime on enquiries, protecting vulnerable people and implementing the new legislation.

Specials across the force have made seven arrests and assisted in 28, attended 25 domestic calls, carried out 656 vehicle stops, recorded five drug seizures and conducted 322 stop checks.

S/Insp Bradley-Davies said: “Enforcing the regulations has mainly involved educating members of the public in the Aberystwyth and North Ceredigion area of the new rules and their own responsibilities, as well as helping them understand what they should all be doing to protect themselves and others,” he said.

“This has been mainly via foot patrol in hotspots where there are likely to be more people, and also conducting static road checks to make sure people are only travelling for essential reasons.

“Alongside this, we’ve responded to high risk missing persons calls, assisted with scene guard following a sudden death, reports of criminal damage, burglaries and domestic incidents.”

Despite having four years of Special experience under his belt, this is the first time S/Insp Bradley-Davies has followed a shift pattern of six days on and four days off alongside his colleagues. And although he has made the most of the opportunity, he admits it hasn’t been without its challenges.

“I have worked with Code E for the majority of my specials career, so to be there with them every shift, seeing the challenges they face day to day, and to support them as much as I have was a huge pleasure,” he said.

“I’ve felt I have become so much closer to my colleagues over the past seven weeks. It’s very much like being part of a family being on shift, which has been the most enjoyable part.

“As someone who works and has always worked flexible working hours, I have found the move to a shift work pattern quite different. I’m used to the occasional night shift with my Special Constable role, but working a full pattern is challenging.

“I have enjoyed the experience, but I think it has shown me that I am not a shift person and I want to continue as a Special Constable working alongside my full time role.”

Dyfed-Powys Police currently has 88 Special Constables, who work across the force area. Many carry out the role alongside full time work and family commitments. For S/Insp Bradley-Davies and his colleagues, the opportunity to support his colleagues full time, on paid and unpaid leave, would not have been possible without the backing of their employers.

He said: “My employers at the Welsh Government have always been supportive of my role as a Special Constable and volunteering in general. Since the announcement of lockdown they have been even more supportive than normal, and allowed me to be released in order to assist Dyfed-Powys with their work.”

Special Chief Inspector Chris Evans thanked all Specials for the work they have carried out in recent weeks.

He said: “DPP Specials have been fantastic during this period. A huge thank you to them for all that they are doing.

“Thank you also to the employers of Specials who have supported their communities by allowing Specials to be on duty with the Employer Supported Policing scheme.”

Health

Scientists issue urgent appeal for help on ground-breaking Covid genetic study

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SCIENTISTS involved in a ground-breaking COVID-19 genetic research study are urgently asking people across Wales who caught the virus to donate a small amount of blood to their project.

To help encourage as many people as possible to join the study, volunteers are now able to quickly and easily book an appointment for a nurse to visit their home and donate a sample.

The unique GenOMICC COVID-19 Study, which is being delivered in Wales through Health and Care Research Wales, analyses the genes of people who have had the virus to discover why some experienced mild or no symptoms while others became extremely ill. The study is already contributing to the fight again COVID, with preliminary results helping identify possible new treatments.

study open to anyone who caught COVID but didn’t need hospital treatment

However, for the study to continue to make progress, the scientists urgently need to recruit 2,500 more people from all backgrounds. Along with seeking the help of members of Asian and Black communities, they’re also keen for more men to volunteer.

The home appointment system has already proved popular when the scheme was launched in Scotland and Bradford earlier this year – and with lockdown restrictions beginning to be eased in Wales, organisers are hoping for a similar response from people across the country.

“This study has one key objective – to help us understand why COVID-19 has impacted different groups in different ways,” said Dr Matt Morgan, Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales and Specialty Lead for Critical Care at Health and Care Research Wales.

“Across the UK, a disproportionate number of people who ended up in hospital have been male as well as people with Asian and Black heritage – that’s why we need people from these groups in particular to join the study as soon as possible.”

“If you are eligible, please register and join the project. You’ll be making a direct contribution to helping improve our knowledge of the virus and discovering new ways of beating it.”

scientists issue urgent appeal for assistance to help them identify new treatments

Dr Kenneth Baillie, the study’s Chief Investigator, said: “We’re appealing for more volunteers from all walks of life to come forward and register. We need to find people who tested positive for COVID but experienced either mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment. To maximise the study’s potential, it’s important these volunteers are similar in age, gender and ethnicity of those people who were severely affected and hospitalised.”

Professor Sir Mark Caulfied, Chief Scientist at Genomics England added: “The quicker this research can be completed, the faster we can solve the COVID-19 puzzle and protect vulnerable people.

Genetic research into COVID-19 is now playing an increasingly important role in our fight against the virus, enabling us to identify new forms of the virus and develop treatments.

“The findings from the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study will improve the treatment, care and outcome for those most at risk and lower the number of deaths.”

Dr Nicola Williams, Director of Support and Delivery at Health and Care Research Wales, said: “It’s vital we learn as much as possible about COVID-19 and to do that we need people to volunteer to take part in research. By introducing an appointment booking system, the GenOMICC COVID-19 Study is giving people the opportunity to contribute to potentially life-saving research from their own homes. These contributions can help provide the evidence we need to give all patients the best possible outcome.”

The research project is open to anyone who tested positive to COVID-19 but experienced mild or no symptoms and didn’t require hospital treatment – volunteers can register online here.

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A Llanelli household is hospitalised following reports of an “unknown substance”

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REPORTS of an “unknown substance” at a Llanelli property led to a multi-agency operation.

Police, ambulance and the fire service descended on a property in a village, just outside of Five Roads, Llanelli,  following reports of members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an “unknown substance”.

Three members of the household in Five Roads, Llanelli, Carmarthenshire were taken to hospital as a precaution.

Emergency services were alerted to members of the household feeling unwell and the presence of an ‘unknown substance’ on Sunday, April 11 at 7.30am.

The ambulance service were first on the scene with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and the Hazardous Area Response Team and were supported by police and the fire service.

A spokesperson for the Welsh Ambulance Service said: “We were called to a residential property in the village of Five Roads, Llanelli at 7.30am on Sunday, April 11 to reports of three people needing medical attention.

“We responded with one rapid response vehicle, four emergency ambulances and our Hazardous Area Response Team.

“Three patients were taken to Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen, for further treatment.”

Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service (MAWWFRS) assisted the police and ambulance service, deploying a specialist officer and an Environmental Protection Unit to the property.

The service ventilated the property and remained on the scene until 5.29pm.

A MAWWFRS spokesperson said: “At 7:44am, crews from Llanelli were called to assist the ambulance service and police at an incident in a property in Five Roads, Llanelli.

“An unknown substance was found at the property and its occupants reported feeling unwell.

“The occupants were taken to hospital by the ambulance service.”

“The incident was contained to one property and there were no concerns for the wider community of Five Roads.”

A Dyfed-Powys Police Spokesperson confirmed the force assisted in the multi-operation incident.

A spokesperson said:: “Members of one household in the village were feeling unwell, and were taken to hospital for assessment.

“They were found to have no medical concerns.

“Following examination of the scene by a number of agencies, there was no cause for further investigation into the incident.”

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Everything you need to know about the current coronavirus restrictions in Wales

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THE GOVERNMENT guidelines in Wales are changing today (Apr 12).

There are major changes coming into force today across the country as the government coronavirus guidelines are starting to relax.

The changes affect household bubbles, non-essential retail, education and travel.

As of Monday, April 12, the following changes have come into force:

  • Six people from two different households (not counting children under 11) can meet and exercise outdoors and in private gardens
  • Households or support bubbles can holiday in self-contained accommodation – including hotels with en-suite facilities
  • All pupils and students can now return to school, college and other education
  • All shops and close-contact services can open
  • The ban on travelling in and out of Wales has ended
  • Driving lessons can resume and some driving tests (Remainder on April 22)

Non-essential retail are able to open up today for the first time since the country was put into a national lockdown with non-essential retail ordered to close in December of last year.

With infection rates falling and the national vaccine rollout success, the Welsh Government have set out a road map of restriction easing.

Unlike England, the hospitality industry in Wales will have to wait until April 26 to open their doors to customers, but only for those who can operate in an outdoor space such as beer gardens.

The current guidelines in force for Wales are as follows:

Meeting friends and family

From May 3:

  • Two families can once again form an “extended household” and meet indoors.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Six people from two different households (not counting children under 11) can meet up outdoors, including gardens.
  • If you are an adult living alone or you’re a single responsible adult in a household (a single parent, for instance), you can form a support bubble with one other household.
  • You can also end it and form another support bubble with a different household, as long as you leave a 10-day gap between.

Going to work

  • You must work from home if you can. The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible.
  • Tradespeople can work in someone else’s private home, as long as it is managed in a safe way and both the worker and household members are well and have no symptoms of coronavirus.

Schools and nurseries

  • All pupils will return to face-to-face teaching at school from 12 April.
  • From that date all students can return to further education and training centres.
  • University campuses will be able to open for blended (face-to face and online) learning for all students.
  • Internal GCSE, A-level and AS-level assessments have been cancelled.

Leisure time

From April 26:

  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, will be allowed to reopen.
  • Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants, but indoor hospitality will remain restricted.

From May 3:

  • Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people can again take place.
  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. This will include individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Self-contained holiday accommodation, including hotels with en-suite facilities and room service, can open to people from the same household or support bubble.
  • Outdoor sports facilities such as golf, tennis and basketball are open. A maximum of six people from two households can take part.
  • Organised outdoor sport for under-18s can now take place.
  • All gyms and leisure centres are closed.
  • Professional sports will continue but stadiums are closed to fans.
  • Bars, restaurants, cafes and pubs are closed – except for takeaway and delivery.
  • The outdoor areas of some historic places and gardens can reopen in a limited way.
  • Libraries and archives can reopen

Shopping

From April 12:

  • All shops can reopen.
  • All close contact services such as hairdressers or beauty salons can open, including mobile services.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Hairdressers and barbers are open for business – by appointment only.
  • Non-essential shops remain closed.
  • Garden centres are now open.
  • Alcohol cannot be sold in shops between 22:00 and 06:00 BST.
  • Face coverings must be worn by customers and staff.
  • Indoor shopping should be done alone, or with people in your household.

Other

From April 12:

  • You can travel anywhere in the UK or the Common Travel Area (Ireland, Isle of Man and the Channel Islands)
  • Outdoor canvassing for the Welsh elections can begin.
  • Driving lessons can resume and some driving tests (remainder on 22 April).

From April 26:

  • Weddings receptions can take place outdoors, but will be limited to 30 people.

The following rules currently apply:

  • Weddings and civil partnerships can take place at licensed venues, but receptions are not allowed.
  • Care home residents can receive one designated visitor.
  • You can travel anywhere within Wales.
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