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Lockdown still in place but its now “Stay local” not “Stay at home”

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THE MESSAGE is changing from “Stay at home” to “Stay local” but the lock down, although relaxed is still in place, as part of what is being called “a careful, cautious and phased approach to relaxing coronavirus restrictions.”

First Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement at today’s press conference. (Friday, March 12)

From Saturday 13 March, four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in gardens. In addition, outdoor sports facilities, including basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses, can reopen, and indoor care home visits will restart, for single designated visitors.
From Monday, all primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring year 10 and 12 learners back and more learners will return to colleges.

There will also be flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils. All learners will return after the Easter break.

Hairdressers and barbers will re-open for appointments from Monday.

From 22 March non-essential retail will start re-opening gradually as the restrictions are lifted on what can be sold in shops which are currently open. Garden centres will also be able to open.

All shops, including all close contact services, will be able to open from 12 April – the same date as in England.

Some shops will be allowed to sell non-essential from next Monday, others will have to wait

The move is being seen as a snub to small businesses. Non-essential items will be for sales in supermarkets before they are for sale in small shops. Its a U-turn for the Welsh Government who previously said they wanted to be fair to everyone in businesses.

The First Minister said at the Friday press conference: “We are taking a phased approach to unlocking each sector – starting with schools.

We will make step-by-step changes each week to gradually restore freedoms. We will monitor each change we make, so we know what impact each change has had on Wales’ public health situation.”

The First Minister also announced an additional £150m to support businesses affected by ongoing restrictions.

The First Minister has announced that an extra £150m available to help businesses which are not yet able to open to help top up the non-domestic rates grants.

He said it means hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail businesses, which must remain closed will be eligible for a third payment of between £4,000 and £5,000 to help them meet ongoing operating costs while they cannot trade.

“This is in top of the announcement earlier this week extending the business rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses for the whole of the next financial year,” Mr Drakeford added.

“We have made well in excess of £2bn available to businesses over the course of the last year to help them through the pandemic, which is over and above the support available from the UK Government’s schemes.

“This is the most generous business support scheme available in the UK. I’m very pleased we’ve been able to safeguard more than 160,000 jobs in these most difficult of times.”

There has been “false hope” for small firms, and insufficient warning given to businesses ahead of re-opening say Plaid Plaid Cymru. Plaid’s Leader Adam Price also urged Welsh Government to put “families first” before tourism re-opens. The Welsh Government has not given businesses that are allowed to open on Monday “sufficient warning” whilst giving false hope to those not allowed to open, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price has said.

Mr Price was responding to the announcement today from Welsh Government on lockdown easing.

The Plaid Cymru Leader added that there should be “some limited extended freedoms for families to come together” before tourism re-opens.

He added that there should be a “Wales wide consultation with the tourism sector” to establish whether it is viable for them to open to Welsh domiciled customers only over Easter and that case rates remained “stubbornly high” in many areas “attractive to tourists”.

Mr Price added that whilst “we all want the rules to be relaxed” this should be “the last lockdown, and to avoid another wave and further deaths in a few months.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS told The Herald: “We all want the rules to be relaxed but what we want even more is for this to be the last lockdown, and to avoid another wave and further deaths in a few months.

“The Welsh Government has not given those businesses allowed to open on Monday sufficient warning whilst giving false hope to those not allowed to open.

“We now need a Wales wide consultation with the tourism sector to establish whether it is viable for them to open to Welsh domiciled customers only over Easter.

“Case rates remain stubbornly high in many areas attractive to tourists and we must remember the huge pressures already facing local hospitals.

“After the sacrifices of the past year we should be putting families first and granting some limited extended freedoms for families to come together before tourism re-opens.

“With people’s wellbeing suffering during the pandemic allowing gyms to open would be welcomed by many, providing that they can do so safely.

“Clear and consistent communication from Ministers is essential to ensure adherence to the rules. If we all play our part, we look forward to greater freedoms when case rates allow

Ahead of the update on Covid-19 restrictions, Welsh Conservatives renewed calls on the First Minister to provide a roadmap out of lockdown for families, workers and businesses in Wales.

Andrew RT Davies has called for “windows of opportunity” to be provided for businesses in Wales, as well as a relaxing of restrictions on exercise if the data allows.

Speaking ahead of the First Minister’s announcement, Davies also warned Labour ministers not to reimpose the “five-mile rule” with an easing of travel restrictions expected.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “Labour should use this review to provide some hope and above all a detailed plan for families, workers and businesses across Wales.

“As a priority, this should include dates and windows of opportunity for businesses in the retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism sectors. It’s the least those sectors deserve.

“I believe it’s important we see a greater acknowledgement from ministers over the importance of exercise to the mental and physical wellbeing of so many people in Wales, and where data allows, we should look to reopen gyms and ensure our sporting fields are once again occupied, particularly for our children.

“Given the great national effort, it’s also the right time to end the “stay at home” regulation but encourage people to “stay local”, but without reintroducing the arbitrary five-mile rule.

“The great British and Welsh vaccination story has improved the situation considerably and as Welsh Conservatives we are unapologetic about our focus on getting Wales back on track after this gruelling and painful ordeal for our country.

“That should now start with a roadmap out of lockdown. And for the sake of families, workers, and businesses across Wales, I hope Labour ministers listen.”

Responding to the Labour Government’s latest lockdown announcement, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “We await the full details, but it appears Labour have missed another opportunity to provide clarity and a detailed roadmap out of lockdown for people across Wales.

“Labour’s U-turn on the opening of non-essential retail at such short notice will be a hammer blow for many businesses, and the decision to now align with England in that area shows we could’ve adopted a similar roadmap weeks ago.

“The ongoing refusal by Labour ministers to do so will only increase frustration in the sectors worst hit by the pandemic and will put more Welsh jobs at risk.

“Sadly, the scant details are reflective of a Labour government that doesn’t trust the people of Wales and which we found out this week believes that Welsh people…“if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile.”

“People in Wales fully understand the pandemic can change course and Labour ministers need to start treating us like adults, cut out the political games, and provide a clear path and roadmap forward.”

The “stay at home” rule will become “stay local” and the Labour have said people should stick to a five-mile rule. Commenting on that aspect, Davies said: “I welcome the end of the “stay at home” regulation, which is possible due to the collective hard work of people across Wales.

“People are fully capable of understanding the “stay local” message and as such the arbitrary five-mile rule is unnecessary.”

Reacting to the announcement from the First Minister for Wales that garden centres can reopen from 22 March, the Chairman of the Horticultural Trades Association, James Barnes, said: “This is the news the industry has been waiting for. We are delighted the Welsh Government recognised that garden centres provide enhanced safe retailing with light, airy and outdoor spaces.

“The many benefits of plants, gardening and nature are well documented, and this decision means that people in Wales can once again easily access everything they need to maximise those benefits as we can all start to look to a happier Spring”.

HTA Council representative for Wales, and owner of Pugh’s Garden Village in South Wales, Nicola Pugh, said: “We are delighted by the news we can reopen our doors on 22 March. We are ready and waiting and have been working hard to ensure safe shopping for all our wonderful customers and growing a selection of beautiful plants locally at our nurseries to ensure that our benches are full to welcome gardeners back to our centres.”

Travel restrictions should be eased with “caution” with the “stay local” messaged introduced for as long as is “necessary” Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price has said.
The Plaid Cymru Leader was speaking ahead of the announcement.

Mr Price said that relaxation of restrictions should be done “slowly and steadily” and stressed the need for the “clearest plan possible” out of lockdown for businesses.

Adam Price MS said: “Travel restrictions should be eased with caution and the sensible approach is to reintroduce the “stay local” message for as long as is necessary – ensuring that guidance is tailored depending on where people live. Stay Local can mean different things in different parts of Wales – particularly rural Wales.

“Any relaxation of restrictions need to be done slowly and steadily. After all, we all want this lockdown to be the very last lockdown that we face.

“But above all, we support measures that aim to keep people safe, based on evidence, but people and businesses need the clearest plan possible about the road ahead of us.

“However, loneliness and isolation remain also a real challenge for many people, and we hope that the government will put a sharp focus on when and how it will be safe to return to extended household bubbles. We also cannot ignore the mental health crisis which has been brought about because of the pandemic. It is vital that everything possible is done to enable gyms to be among the first facilities to reopen.

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Health

Give someone “the best gift” this Christmas by giving blood in West Wales

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A MOTHER who needed in-the-womb blood transfusions during her pregnancy and a man who depends on regular, lifesaving blood donations are encouraging communities across Wales to give “the best gift” this Christmas by donating blood.

The Welsh Blood Service is preparing to face Winter pressures on its services and is hoping their new Christmas campaign, “the best gift” will raise awareness about the importance of donating blood and the lifesaving difference it makes.

Last December over 900 donations of blood and blood products were needed across Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire to provide care to patients at Prince Philip, Withybush, Bronglais and Glangwili hospital. 

These donations play a vital role by supporting a range of treatments from helping recovering accident victims and patients with blood cancers to supporting mothers and new-born babies during childbirth.

Blood donations were needed during both pregnancies for mother of two, Shelley Parry. After her own life was saved during her first pregnancy, Shelley received several more blood transfusions directly into her womb to keep her youngest daughter alive.

Shelley explains: “Receiving blood is truly the best gift we have ever received. We’re forever indebted as a family to those who have taken the time to donate. Without the generosity of blood donors, quite simply, we wouldn’t be parents. Thanks to their selfless act, we can look forward to Christmas together as a family.

“It only takes one hour of your time to donate, if you can, please consider donating.”

Also supporting the campaign is blood recipient Giggs Kanias. Since birth, Giggs has received over 1,000 blood transfusions as part of his treatment for beta thalassaemia major, a severe blood disorder. Thanks to blood donors, Giggs is looking forward to celebrating Christmas with his family.

Giggs said: “I am so thankful to the incredible people who give blood. When I’m in hospital, I stare at the bags of blood being transfused into me and always wonder, who is the person that has helped me?

“I know the difference these people have made to my life and I’m so grateful to each and every one of them. Without their generosity, I wouldn’t be here today, I wouldn’t be a dad, or have had the opportunity to see my daughter grow up. Receiving blood is truly the best gift anyone could ever receive.”

Alan Prosser, Director of the Welsh Blood Service, said: “For patients like Giggs, receiving blood will be the best gift they receive this Christmas. It truly is the best gift you can give.

“Blood products have a short shelf life and is needed by hospitals 365 days a year, including Christmas day, to help support patients in need, which is why we can’t stop collecting.”

The Welsh Blood Service provides lifesaving blood products to 20 hospitals across Wales and four Wales Air Ambulance aircraft for use in emergencies.

Giggs and his daughter

Alan continues: “It is critical the service prepares. We need to build up blood stocks ahead of a potentially challenging winter, where seasonal illnesses and Covid-19 may exacerbate the usual winter pressures faced by the NHS.

“We are reaching out to communities across Wales to ask them to make a lifesaving blood donation and give “the best gift” this festive season.”

Do something amazing this Christmas. Give someone the best gift. Give blood. If you are aged 17 or over, book to give blood at: www.wbs.wales/Xmas21 or call 0800 252 266 today.

Appointments are available in Pembrokeshire on 7 December and January 6 and 20 in Tenby, 16 December and 27 January in Crymych, 20 December and 17 January in Haverfordwest, 10 January in Letterston Village Hall and 21 January in Milford Haven. 

Appointments are available in Carmarthenshire on 10 December in Pontyberum, 29 December and 13 January in Carmarthen, 28 January in Kidwelly Community Hall, 23 and 24 December and 4, 12 and 25 January in Parc Y Scarlets and 31 January in Llandeilo.

Appointments are available in Ceredigion on 14 December in Newcastle Emlyn, 14 January in Aberaeron and 18 January in Lampeter.

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Health

First Minister encourages people to get the flu vaccine as he gets the jab

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Mark Drakeford receiving his flu vaccine

THIS week, First Minister Mark Drakeford, got his flu vaccination and encouraged others to take up the offer this winter to help keep people safe and well.

This year will be Wales’ largest ever flu vaccination programme, with people aged 50 and over and all those eligible for a free vaccine being invited to have their jab.

The school’s flu vaccine programme has also been extended this year to include all those in secondary school in years 7-11.

The Welsh Government has also extended the free flu vaccine to all primary care workers in Wales.

Those eligible for the free flu vaccine also include pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions.

The COVID booster programme will also be co-administered to those who are eligible where appropriate to do so, in an effort to improve efficiency and increase uptake of both vaccines. Both vaccines can be administered in succession without delay so there is no need to postpone either appointment once booked

First Minister for Wales, Mark Drakeford, who received his flu vaccine this week, said:

“Unlike last year, we are expecting a significant amounts of flu to circulate this winter and Covid is still with us. It’s very important people take up their offer of the flu vaccine as well as the Covid booster. Data suggests this winter flu season could be 50% to 100% higher than a typical season.

“As we have seen with COVID, vaccines play a huge role in helping to help protect us.  They are the best way to keep everyone safe and help stop the spread of the virus.

“We want to protect as many people as possible, particularly those who are most vulnerable in our community, and reduce the pressure on our NHS.”

Anne McGowan, Nurse Consultant for Public Health Wales’ Vaccine Preventable Disease Programme said:

“Having a flu vaccine every year is one of the most effective ways to protect against flu.”

“Getting it is simple, and for most eligible groups is available from either their General Practice or a Community Pharmacy, with separate arrangements in place for school-age children and NHS staff.

“To help extend protection against infection it is very important to get your COVID-19 booster vaccine when offered. It is available to those eligible groups that completed their primary course of the vaccinations earlier this year.

“COVID-19 booster vaccinations are offered by invitation at existing local mass vaccination centres. Please get yours when you are invited.”

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Health

Covid-19 rule changes in Wales

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As the Welsh Government attempts to curb the country’s high Covid rates, self-isolating laws are changing in Wales.

Welsh restrictions are being revised in the latest three-weekly review.

In light of the First Minister’s warning that if rates don’t fall in the next three weeks restrictions will be reinstated at the next review on November 19.

What is changing in Wales?

• If someone in your household tests positive or has Covid symptoms you’ll now need to isolate until you’ve had a negative test.

• You’ll need a Covid Pass in theatres and cinemas from November 15. 

• Headteachers will be helped to introduce measures if case rates are high locally.

• Shops have been encouraged to get people to stick to the rules to wear masks.

• Businesses encouraged to resume working from home.

Self-isolation: what’s changing?

It is currently not necessary to self-isolate if you are double vaccinated and living with someone who tests positive, unless you have symptoms or a positive test yourself.

When someone in a household has symptoms or tests positive for Covid-19, the Welsh Government’s new guidance recommends that adults who are fully vaccinated, and children and young people aged five to 17, should isolate themselves until they have received a negative PCR test.

If you are not vaccinated, you will need to self-isolate for ten days following contact with someone who has tested positive, including close household contacts.

It is important that you self-isolate until you have taken a PCR test if someone in your household tests positive for the disease. Once the test is negative, you do not need to isolate.

If it is positive, you too will have to isolate. Also, you will have to isolate while you await the results of the test.

Besides that, what else is changing?

From November 15, you’ll need a Covid Pass to go to the cinema or theatre, meaning they are now needed in more places in Wales.

Staff and secondary school students will also be encouraged to take twice-weekly lateral flow tests to help keep coronavirus out of schools.

Retailers have been asked to ensure that people are wearing their masks indoors.

Welsh Government has also encouraged people to work from home “wherever possible”.

What are the latest figures for Wales?

The latest figures for Wales, released on Thursday, showed another 12 people in Wales have died with coronavirus.

New figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) published on Thursday, October 28, which cover the last 24-hour period, show the total number of Covid-related deaths in Wales is now 6,134.

There were also 2,664 new positive cases recorded in today’s update, bringing the total number since the pandemic began to 432,395.

The latest seven-day infection rate across Wales based on the cases for every 100,000 people (for the seven days up to October 23) now stands at 671.3 – a fall from the 699.7 reported on Wednesday and a second consecutive day where rates have fallen. 

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said the rates must drop in the next three weeks, or restrictions will be considered again.

The four UK chief medical officers have asked the Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation for urgent advice about reducing the interval between the second dose of the vaccine and the booster.

Welsh Government said that almost 400,000 people have had their autumn booster since the programme was launched and more than 40% of 12 to 15-year-olds have had their vaccine.

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