THIS Friday (Dec 16) the First Minister will set out a two-phase plan to respond to the current delta variant and the new, fast-moving, easily transmissible omicron variant, which is expected to be the dominant form of the virus in the UK by the end of the month.
The Welsh Government is issuing strong guidance to support people across Wales through the Christmas period.
Wales will then introduce new restrictions, including for businesses and services – from 27 December. These will include a 2m rule on social distancing in offices and putting extra measures in place to protect customers and staff, such as one-way systems and physical barriers.
Nightclubs will also close. These tougher restrictions are needed to help control the spread of omicron.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Delta will continue to be the main cause of coronavirus infections in Wales up to Christmas. But we are seeing cases of omicron increasing rapidly every day in Wales – and across the UK.
“We need a plan to keep us safe this Christmas and we need stronger measures to protect us afterwards, as we prepare for a large wave of omicron infections.
“Omicron poses a new threat to our health and safety. It is the most serious development in the pandemic to date.
“It is one we must take seriously. We will continue to put in place proportionate measures to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.
“This is a virus which thrives on human contact. Every contact we have is an opportunity for us to spread or catch the virus.”
The First Minister will urge everyone to follow five simple steps for a safer Christmas, as he says the more people we see in the run-up to Christmas, the more opportunities the virus has to spread.
Reducing our contact with others, especially if we are seeing older people or more vulnerable people over Christmas, will help to protect them from the virus.
To stay safe in the run up to Christmas, the Welsh Government is strongly advising everyone to follow these five measures to stay safe:
• Get vaccinated – and if you’ve had your booster appointment, please make attending your priority.
• If you’re going out, going Christmas shopping, or visiting people – flow before you go. Take a lateral flow test. If it’s positive – don’t go out.
• Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
• Space out your socialising – if you’ve got events arranged, please leave at least a day between them.
• And don’t forget about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.
The regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.
After Christmas, on 27 December new legal restrictions will come into force, to help protect against the spread of the omicron variant.
The Welsh Government has announced up to £60m will be available to support businesses affected by the new restrictions.
The First Minister added: “This year a smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas. The fewer people we see, the less chance we have of catching or passing on the virus.
“Please enjoy Christmas with your nearest and dearest – and think about meeting up with wider circles of friends when the threat posed by the omicron variant has passed over.
“I also want to thank the many thousands of people who will be working this Christmas to keep us safe – especially all those who have cancelled their plans to work in the vaccination centres across Wales to increase our protection against this awful virus.”
BUSINESSES MUST BE PROTECTED SAYS ANDREW RT DAVIES
Commenting ahead of tomorrow’s latest COVID announcement, Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “The Omicron variant is spreading extremely fast in the UK – and the doubling rate in some areas is now down to less than two days. In Wales, we are still predominantly dealing with Delta, but it’s widely accepted the new variant will become the dominant strain, particularly in the New Year.
“Personal responsibility has always been crucial during the pandemic and that remains the case. “Serious consideration must be given to public health messaging as I’m sure I speak on behalf of the nation when we say we want to see as normal a Christmas as possible.
“However, there are significant concerns over the potential impact on workforce availability across key sectors including the NHS and social care. It’s imperative the Welsh Government works with the UK Government to ensure we can best protect public services and the supply chain moving forward.
“Some Welsh businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, are already seeing a significant impact on trade in wake of Omicron, and Labour ministers must use the £500 million of unallocated COVID support sitting in government coffers to help firms and protect jobs.
“It’s clear ministers of all colours across the UK are facing a challenging public health picture in an uncertain period. However, any consideration and implementation of restrictions must be evidence-based and have an impact on tackling the virus, unlike vaccine passports.”
Significant step forward for Llanelli’s multi-million-pound Pentre Awel
LLANELLI’S ground-breaking Pentre Awel project has taken a major step forward paving the way for building work to start as early as this autumn.
Carmarthenshire County Council’s planning committee has today (Thursday, June 23) approved reserved matters for access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale for Zone One of the landmark project.
It follows the outline planning application, which was granted back in August 2019, and means work can officially commence on-site.
Pentre Awel is the first development of its scope and size in Wales providing world-class medical research and health care delivery and supporting and encouraging people to lead active and healthy lives.
Detailed design work has been undertaken on Zone One, which will bring together education, business, research, leisure and health in a single building. These facilities will be linked together in a ‘street’ layout, connected by a central atrium comprising a reception, café and other public amenities. The street will be the community heart of the village with lots of exhibition space and breakout areas enjoying spectacular views across the lake, and to the Loughor Estuary and Carmarthen Bay.
The designs showcase the council’s ambition to create a development that is landscape-led, connected to local communities and amenities and is sustainable. The facilities will maximise the use of daylight and natural ventilation where possible, and bring the ‘outside inside’ to promote good physical and mental wellbeing.
Externally, Pentre Awel will enjoy landscaped outdoor public spaces for recreation, with walking and cycling paths and stunning coastal views, all set around the freshwater lake as a key defining feature.
Site clearance, ground investigation and ecology works have already started on site with ‘spade-in-the-ground-works’ expected to get underway this autumn and full completion estimated for summer 2024.
Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Leisure, Culture and Tourism Cllr Gareth John said: “This is yet another exciting step forward for this ambitious and truly innovative project that will benefit people locally in Llanelli, as well as across Carmarthenshire and South West Wales as a whole.
“Pentre Awel will deliver a significant programme of community benefits and economic regeneration across the county, creating major employment and training opportunities, along with world-class leisure and health facilities for our residents.
“It is important that local businesses benefit from this project, and I was delighted that more than 100 businesses recently attended a ‘Meet the Buyer’ event at Parc y Scarlets to find out more about the opportunities available. I look forward to seeing building work starting on site very soon.”
Pentre Awel is being delivered by Carmarthenshire County Council in partnership with Hywel Dda University Health Board, Universities and Colleges including Cardiff University, Coleg Sir Gȃr, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David and Swansea University. It is part-funded by the Swansea Bay City Deal (£40million).
As well as improving health and wellbeing, the project will create over 1,800 jobs and training/apprenticeship opportunities, and is expected to boost the local economy by a £467million over the next 15 years.
Bouygues UK has been awarded a two-stage design and build contract for Zone One with a key focus on social value to ensure employment and training opportunities for local people are maximised during the construction phase.
Zone One includes a new state-of-the-art leisure centre; hydrotherapy pool; education, research and business development space; a clinical research and delivery centre with community level clinical trials; and a well-being skills centre delivering health and care training.
Later phases of the scheme include a hotel, a range of social and affordable housing, assisted living accommodation and a nursing home.
The Welsh Government launches Basic Income pilot scheme
FROM 1 July 2022, more than 500 people leaving care in Wales will be offered £1600 each month (before tax) for two years to support them as they make the transition to adult life.
Launched by First Minister Mark Drakeford, it is hoped the pilot will set care leavers on a path to live healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
The radical approach has trust, autonomy and respect at its centre. It will provide independence and security to people who have faced immense challenges during their childhood, giving them greater control and empowering them to make decisions about their future.
The £20 million pilot, which will run for three years, will be evaluated to carefully examine its effect on the lives of those involved
Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt said the scheme is a direct investment in the lives and futures of some of Wales’ most vulnerable young people.
Those taking part in the pilot will also receive individual advice and support to help them manage their finances and develop their financial and budgeting skills.
Local authorities will play a key role in supporting them throughout the pilot. Voices from Care Cymru will also work with the young people to give them advice on wellbeing, education, employment and help them plan their future after the pilot.
To launch the scheme, First Minister Mark Drakeford, Social Justice Minister Jane Hutt and Deputy Minister for Social Services Julie Morgan met with people taking part in the pilot, and young people who themselves have been in care, to talk about the impact this support will have on peoples’ lives.
They discussed how they hope the financial stability will give people the opportunity to make positive life choices as they leave care and provide a more solid foundation from which to build their adult lives.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We want all our young people to have the best possible chance in life and fulfil their full potential. The state is the guardian of people leaving care and so has a real obligation to support them as they start their adult life.
“Our focus will be on opening up their world to all its possibilities and create an independence from services as their lives develop.
“Many of those involved in this pilot don’t have the support lots of people – myself included – have been lucky enough to enjoy as we started out on our path to adulthood.
“Our radical initiative will not only improve the lives of those taking part in the pilot, but will reap rewards for the rest of Welsh society. If we succeed in what we are attempting today this will be just the first step in what could be a journey that benefits generations to come.”
Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said:
“We’re in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis like no other and we therefore need new ways of supporting people who are most in need.
“Our Basic Income pilot is an incredibly exciting project giving financial stability to a generation of young people. Too many people leaving care face huge barriers to achieving their hopes and ambitions; such as problems with getting a safe and stable home, to securing a job and building a fulfilling career. This scheme will help people live a life free of such barriers and limitations.
“We will carefully evaluate the lessons learnt from the pilot. Listening to everyone who takes part will be crucial in determining the success of this globally ambitious project. We will examine whether Basic Income is an efficient way to support society’s most vulnerable and not only benefit the individual, but wider society too.”
Tiff Evans of Voices from Care Cymru, speaking on behalf of young people who have experienced care, said: “This is a brilliant opportunity for care leavers in Wales. It is good to see that care leavers in Wales are being thought of and Welsh Government are providing this opportunity for them as young people to become responsible, control some parts of their lives and have a chance to thrive and be financially independent.
“We thank Welsh Government for investing in them and their future and we look forward to other changes and developments for care experienced young people in Wales in order for them to reach life aspirations.”
Community checks out new Carmarthenshire Policing Hub and Custody Suite
POLICE and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn today (24.06.22) hosted an open doors event for local stakeholders at Dyfed-Powys’ new Custody Suite and Policing Hub, that is currently under construction at Dafen, Llanelli Carmarthenshire.
Planning permission was granted to the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner by Carmarthenshire County Council back in April 2021 for the proposed development, which is to be an ambitious sustainable construction, with a BREEAM excellence rating.
Wilmott Dixon, who are the Construction Contractor have been on site since autumn preparing for the first construction phases, with specific progress now beginning made on the development, that aims to be completed by May 2023.
PCC Dafydd Llywelyn said; “This is a major investment for us which will see an ambitious, modern, sustainable fit for purpose policing hub and custody suite that will meet the needs and expectations of modern policing.
“During the planning application process between 2020 and 2021, we engaged widely with the local community, and It was a pleasure to open the door, and welcome local community representatives to the construction site today, to show the progress that has been made to date.
“I’ve worked extremely hard with partners over recent years to ensure that we get to this position and I now look forward to seeing the construction work continue to develop at pace over the year”.
In being a BREEAM related development, the new build will offer a more sustainable environment, that aims to enhance the well-being of the people who work within it, and help protect natural resources.
Amongst some of the sustainable credentials of the new build will be a photovoltaic solar power installation to minimise the carbon footprint of the building; a rainwater harvesting facility for toilets and non-potable water, and electric car charging facilities.
Chief Inspector Richard Hopkin, Dyfed-Powys Police’s operational lead on the new build, said: “We feel very fortunate to be having a new build custody suite and hub coming to Llanelli.
“Our current Llanelli estate is old, so to see a new build that is being designed with such consideration for the environment and the wellbeing of our staff and the community within which it sits is really positive.
“The development will provide a fit for purpose, future proof solution which will complement the town centre Neighbourhood Police Team base.”
Ian Jones, Director at Willmott Dixon commented, “This is the first project that we have worked on with Dyfed Powys Police, and as part of what has being a collaborative partnership, we are delighted to have the opportunity to deliver this development.
“This is a purpose‐built, new custody suite to replace and supplement provision of custody within Carmarthenshire which will provide excellent facilities to meet the needs of modern law enforcement and detainee wellbeing for Dyfed Powys Police.
“We were delighted to have the opportunity to welcome guests to the site to show them first-hand how construction is progressing.”
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