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Coronavirus cases in Wales still lowest in UK says Health Minister

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WALES continues to have the lowest rate of coronavirus cases in the UK, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said today. 

The minister said the number of confirmed cases in Wales is currently 9.3 per 100,000 people. 

Eluned Morgan said: “The number of people in hospital with coronavirus is at the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.  We have recently seen a period of 10 days where no new deaths from the virus were recorded – sadly Public Health Wales reported one death yesterday.

“These achievements reflect the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

“Over recent weeks we have however seen very troubling developments in relation to the so-called India variant of concern – or as the World Health Organisation has re-named it, the delta variant.  This is further proof that coronavirus has not gone away. 

“We have been carefully monitoring this new variant, which appears to be spreading in many parts of England.   We have identified a growing number of cases here in Wales, including a large cluster of cases in Conwy which is under close investigation.  

“This delta variant has the potential to become the next dominant strain of the virus in the UK.  We hope we can contain cases and prevent this variant spreading further but we expect the number of cases in Wales will continue to increase.

“Whilst the public health situation therefore remains good in Wales, the delta variant brings a new level of uncertainty.  It was in this context the most recent review of the coronavirus restrictions took place on 3 June. 

“Whilst Wales is moving to alert level one as previously signalled, we will now do this in a phased way.  

“Changes to the regulations from 7 June therefore focused on easing restriction on outdoor events and activities.  The risk of transmission is much lower outdoors and these changes will allow people to take advantage of the summer.”

Up to 30 people can now meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.

Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated can also now take place.  This includes concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups. All organisers must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

Finally, provision now allows for extended household to be made up of three households who can meet and have contact indoors.  This is an increase from two households previously. 

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.   In line with the coronavirus control plan, at alert level one this would mean the rule of six would apply for meeting indoors in private homes and in holiday accommodation.

We will also consider increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.

This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of the delta variant to become available.  It will also allow time for more people to be vaccinated, which remains our best route out of the pandemic.

I am extremely grateful to Health Board vaccination teams, local partners and the many volunteers across the country for the incredible progress of our vaccination programme. 

At this rate, and subject to supply, we expect to have offered all adults 18 and over their first dose by early next week and to have hit our 3rd milestone of an uptake of 75% in all of the age ranges by the end of June, a month earlier than expected.  In reality, the percentage of people who have taken up their offer of a vaccine is far higher, which was always our aim.

We are currently recognised as the world Leader amongst countries over 1 million inhabitants.  We have vaccinated more than 86.5% of the adult population with their first dose and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

Yesterday I published an update to our COVID-19 Vaccination Strategy. 

The updated strategy looks back at what has been achieved to date and sets out preparations for what comes next, potentially including a booster for our most vulnerable citizens and a vaccine for children and young people. We are also planning to reoffer the vaccine to those who did not take up the original offer. The roll out of second doses will also continue.

To underpin this delivery, an online system will be established in the Autumn to allow people to book appointments convenient for them. This system could potentially be used for other vaccinations moving forward.

Wales’ successful Test, Trace, Protect service was established a year ago.  The Welsh Government has allocated an additional £32m to health boards and local authorities to extend contact tracing until the end of March 2022. This increases the total Welsh Government investment in contact tracing this financial year to £92m.

On 2 June we also published a refreshed Test, Trace, Protect strategy setting out how the service will adapt and respond to the pandemic in the months ahead.   This includes strengthening and enhance the tracing of variants of concern, as well as the management and quarantine of people returning to Wales from red and amber-list countries.

On 20 May I set-out plans for a £100m investment to kick-start the health and care system’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. This money will provide for new equipment, staff, technology and ways of working to help health boards increase capacity and cut waiting times. 

As we begin resuming non-emergency care following the pandemic we have an opportunity to create a health and care system fit for the future.

Following the three week review of the restrictions on international travel, we are following the same traffic-light approach to international travel as the rest of the UK.

From today Portugal has been moved from green to the amber list. This decision follows increased concern in the spread of variants, including a mutation of the Delta variant, and the risk posed of bringing these back to the UK if people are not required to quarantine. 

Seven countries have also been added to the red list, including Egypt and Sri Lanka.

I have today described some of the most recent developments in our ongoing efforts to tackle coronavirus.   It remains vital we continue to work together to keep each other safe and to keep Wales safe.

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Denial of Wales-specific Covid inquiry ‘no longer tenable’ say Welsh Conservatives

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THE WELSH CONSERVATIVES have reiterated their call for an inquiry that focuses exclusively on the actions of the Welsh Government in tackling coronavirus in a letter to the First Minister.

It was prompted after it was revealed that the Welsh Government have been aware that NHS Wales was not prepared for an airborne virus as far back as 2004, following the SARS outbreak. Despite committing to an audit and allocation to rectify the lack of isolation facilities, this did not materialise.

The letter from Andrew RT Davies MS, which states “decision made in Wales should be scrutinised in Wales” follows a weekend when Mark Drakeford was keen to highlight that his government had “always taken a different approach in Wales [compared to the British Government], one that does things step-by-step”.

Concerned: Andrew RT Davies

In the letter, the Welsh Conservatives leader questions why, despite him stressing divergences in the approach to coronavirus, the First Minister still feels it “inappropriate to separate” from the British Government “when the time comes for accountability”.

The Labour Government policy is for its actions to be included in the UK-wide inquiry that will chiefly investigate the actions of the Conservative Government. There will be a Scotland-specific inquiry after Nicola Sturgeon commissioned one.

Joining the Welsh Conservatives in their calls for a Wales-specific inquiry are the Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Group, the British Lung Foundation, Medics 4 Mask Up Wales, the Institute for Welsh Affairs, and Plaid Cymru.

Commenting on the letter, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The position of exercising wide-ranging emergency powers that curtailed the liberty and closed the economy of the Welsh people but avoiding accountability through an inquiry that focusses on how those decisions were made is no longer tenable.

“Under Mark Drakeford, Wales has experienced the highest Covid death-rate of UK nations, seen its children lose more time for learning than anywhere else in the country, and imposed economically cruel and clinically unnecessary restrictions in an overzealous attempt to tackle the Omicron variant.

“We, along with bereaved families and medical groups, believe that the decisions that led to these outcomes need to be put under the spotlight, not hidden in the shadow of an inquiry that will inevitably focus on the British Government.

“Indeed, if Mark Drakeford is so confident in the actions of his government, then why is he against having them examined in a Wales-specific inquiry? That is what people will be asking when British and Scottish leaders have ordered investigations into their own handling of the pandemic.

“As I say to the First Minister in my letter, it is not too late for him to change his mind and take this opportunity to do the right thing and order that inquiry.”

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Llanelli Rotary Christmas appeal to be match-funded by Swansea Building Society

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Llanelli Rotary Club Christmas Appeal 2022

THE LLANELLI Rotary Club Christmas appeal, which sees the club raise funds for local charities each year, will see its total donations double thanks to match-funding from Swansea Building Society.

The building society helps its staff raise charitable funds each year as part of its commitment to its members and the local communities it serves. It regards this as a direct part of its mutual status – a status that means it is owned by its members.

The ongoing pandemic and emerging new variant meant that the club arranged for Santa Claus to make Covid-friendly house visits to children prior to Christmas. This was the second year that Santa has made such house visits as an alternative to the Santa’s Grotto previously organised by the Rotary Club.

This year’s appeal visited 295 households in the Llanelli area and met 622 children to confirm the letters they had written to Santa. The funds raised from these visits, coupled with Rotary members collecting at Parc Trostre, Llanelli Carnival and the Llanelli Reindeer Parade, amounted to £5,774.

This amount will be generously match-funded by Swansea Building Society, bringing the total donation to £11,548 and this will be split between the four charities chosen by Llanelli Rotary this year: Ty Hafan, Wales Air Ambulance, Latch and Ysgol Heol Goffa.

Alison Evans, Llanelli Rotary Club Secretary, said: “Despite the ongoing difficulties, the Llanelli Rotary Club Christmas appeal has been a great success again this year. Thanks to Santa, the Rotarians, and the volunteers that helped us, we were able to put a smile on hundreds of children’s faces, whilst raising a considerable sum for four very worthwhile charities. We give great thanks to all those who donated to the appeal in the run-up to Christmas, and special thanks to Swansea Building Society for its generous match funding.”

Ieuan Griffiths, Swansea Building Society Chair and Llanelli Rotary Club member, added: “Our annual Christmas appeal is always a joyful and rewarding experience for all concerned – worth the significant effort involved just to see the childrens’ faces and reactions. We are very pleased that Santa has been able to help whilst checking out chimneys and magic keys. This year the Rotary Club has again raised considerable funds, and, with the help of Swansea Building Society’s match funding, this year’s charities will receive sizable donations. I extend my thanks to everyone who helped and all who donated.”

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BBC Wales Investigates: Death of Two Black Men: Police in the Spotlight

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TONIGHT 24/1/22, 7.30pm, BBC One Wales

THE FAMILIES of two men who died within weeks of each other after incidents involving Welsh police forces have spoken for the first time of their fight for justice.

Mohamud Hassan, 24, and Mouayed Bashir, 29, died within weeks of each other in separate incidents after coming into contact with the police.

Both their deaths sparked protests  – in Cardiff and Newport –  as family, friends and people in their communities expressed concerns about the circumstances of their deaths.

In January last year, police were called to the shared house in Roath, Cardiff, where Mohamud lived in a basement flat. Police arrested him on suspicion of a breach of the peace; he spent the night in a cell at Cardiff Bay police station; and was released the next morning without charge.

He saw his aunt, Zainab Hassan, and uncle, Sulieman Mohamed, after he was released.

“He came over to our house. As soon as I opened the door – literally I was shocked,” said Sulieman.

“His upper lip was completely opened. He had blood all over his top, his track-suit bottoms.”

Zainab added: “He had bruises on his arms. On his torso when he lifted his jumper, all you could see was just marks – red, black even. It was shocking.”

“I said nephew what happened to you? He’s like it’s the police. I said how and why? He said “I dunno uncle”,” said Sulieman.

The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating his death and the actions of six officers are being examined for alleged misconduct.

A post mortem examination failed to establish the cause of Mr Hassan’s death. The IOPC says its investigation is nearing completion; and his inquest is due to take place in May 2023.

South Wales Police said it was unable to comment on specific points due to the ongoing IOPC investigation, which it says it is fully co-operating with. It also acknowledged the impact of Mr Hassan’s death on his family, friends and wider community; and said their thoughts and condolences are with them.

Mouayed Bashir died after police came to his house in Maesglas, Newport, in February 2021. His family say they were trying to get an ambulance to attend because Mouayed was having a mental health crisis – but instead the police arrived.

“He was expecting paramedics, but instead police officers in black uniform with brutal force coming in,” said Mouayed’s brother, Mohannad Bashir.

Mohamud Hassan, 24, and Mouayed Bashir, 29, died within weeks of each other in separate incidents after coming into contact with the police.

Mouayed had been stabbed three weeks before his death; and when police came to his home he still had a large, deep wound to his leg.

Mohannad added: “When the police restrained him they handcuffed him, they bound his legs and thighs. My dad was saying to the police officers “he’s already wounded. He’s bleeding again from his thigh. Please let go of his handcuffs and let go of his legs.”

A post mortem examination failed to establish Mouayed Bashir’s cause of death. The IOPC says it’s finalising its investigation into his death; and its publication will depend on discussions with the coroner. His inquest is due to be held in July.

Gwent Police said it was unable to address specific questions until  the conclusion of the IOPC investigation and inquest. It pointed out that no officers have been served misconduct notices.

The force also said a risk assessment is carried out when receiving a 999 call and police officers may be asked to support paramedics. The ambulance service said it was sorry its response fell below the expectations of the Bashir family.

Mouayed Bashir’s family are planning to mark the anniversary of his death next month in Newport.

Mohannad said: “If we don’t fight and stand up for other people, for what happened to Mouayed, there’s just going to be another case. We want to do our part. We want to do this for the sake of Mouayed as well.”

The family of Mohamud Hassan will have to wait another 16 months to find out the full facts of his death.

“I can’t remember anything else about my nephew. All those lovely memories I had of him, it’s like they’ve gone. They’ve been wiped out. And I don’t have any answers. I don’t think any words can describe the pain.”

Watch BBC Wales Investigates: Death of Two Black Men: Police in the Spotlight on BBC One Wales at 19:30 GMT on Monday 24 January and afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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