News in brief: Covid-19 spike gathers pace across Cwm Taf Morgannwg Health Board area
Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board, which covers Bridgend (23), Merthyr Tydfil (27) and Rhondda Cynon Taf, (47) has seen 97 people test positive for coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales, there have been 212 new cases of Covid-19 across the whole of Wales since yesterday’s update.
Two new deaths due to the virus have also been confirmed by PHW, both in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area in north Wales.
There have been six deaths In Wales in the last three days, after none had been recorded previously this month.
Overall, RCT has had 214 new cases over the last seven days and has an infection rate of 88.7 per 100,000 of the population but the new cases in Merthyr have pushed the infection rate there to 96.1 per 100,000 the highest in Wales.
Health officials have warned that Merthyr could face a local lockdown if cases continue to spike. PHW is also monitoring the situation in Newport, where there are 13 new infections.
Dr Kelechi Nnoaham, Director of Public Health for Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board and Chair of the Incident Management Team said: “Despite the increased measures and local lockdown in Rhondda Cynon Taf earlier this week, cases of Coronavirus across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg area are continuing to rise and are a real cause for concern.
“Frustratingly, some people are still not following the guidelines and are letting their guard down, especially when they are with people they know well.
“Coronavirus does not just affect the elderly and vulnerable. It can affect any of us. The rise in cases in the 40+ age group shows that transmission is occurring between close contacts; that’s between friends and family members.
“Across our Cwm Taf Morgannwg region, we are also seeing a variation of patterns of transmission from small clusters to large numbers of cases.
“The Incident Management Team fully recognises that the increase in positive cases follows different patterns across the county boroughs of Bridgend, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
“Broadly speaking, across Rhondda Cynon Taf, cases generally relate to multiple numbers of small clusters. In Merthyr we are seeing fewer clusters, but these comprise larger numbers of cases.
“Over the past seven days, there has been a sharp increase of cases within the borough of Bridgend. This is a real cause for concern and this developing situation is being monitored very closely.”
As a result of the growing number of cases in the area, hospital visits have been suspended in Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf.
A statement issued by the health board said: “Despite the increased measures and local lockdown in Rhondda Cynon Taf earlier this week, cases of Coronavirus across the Cwm Taf Morgannwg area are continuing to rise and are a real cause for concern.
“As a consequence of this situation across the county boroughs of Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf we are having to suspend visiting as we did at the beginning of the pandemic in order to protect our patients, our staff, and our communities.”
Visits are still permitted if a patient is receiving end-of-life care and one partner or birthing partner can accompany a woman in labour and in the post-natal period for a limited time only.
Bridgend council has also announced it has suspended visits to care homes.
“The changes will mean that until further notice, friends and family members will no longer be able to see their loved ones in either outdoor visits or indoor visits,” it said, in a statement.
“Virtual and online visits will be encouraged, and allowances will be made in circumstances where residents are nearing the end of their lives and with appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements in place.”
Rhondda Cynon Taf halted indoor visits to care home last week.
Home Office confirms Pembrokeshire military base will house asylum seekers
The UK Government has confirmed it will house up to 250 asylum seekers at a military base in Pembrokeshire.
Penally will be one of two sites used to provide accommodation for asylum seekers arriving by boat on the south coast of England. The other site is reported to be a disused army barracks in Folkestone, Kent.
A spokesman for the UK Government said: “This site was selected because it met the required needs following an assessment by the MOD of potentially suitable and available sites.”
The first group of asylum seekers are expected to arrive at the camp next week.
On Tuesday close to two hundred people protested outside the Penally training base and said that they were unhappy with the lack of communication and local consultation regarding the proposals.
Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart, the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said he’d only heard about the plans last week and told the Western Telegraph: “The Home Office and the Ministry of Defence are working hard to ensure Penally Training Camp is compliant with Covid-19 regulations and will have minimal impact on the local community.”
Dyfed-Powys Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to express his concern at the move.
Mr Llywelyn wrote:”I am personally unable to fully understand the rationale for selecting the Penally site and would like clarification on how this decision was reached and how the proposed logistics will work.
“Asylum seekers, upon arrival at the UK, will have to travel a further 5 hours and 300 miles to a proposed site in Penally, Pembrokeshire albeit there will be no power to detain once at the site. The site and local community is unlikely, in my opinion, to have the necessary infrastructure to support their needs and the location of the site would make accessing services unnecessarily difficult for vulnerable individuals.
“I fully realise that difficult decisions need to be made in the interests of both those seeking asylum and our local communities and therefore trust that you will understanding and support of my position of wanting detailed planning, community engagement and transparency of decision making.”
Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Minister for Equalities, Leanne Wood MS, described the camp as a ‘perverse setting’ for refugees fleeing conflict, and accused the UK Government of a lack of consultation with the local community.
“Wales has a proud history of welcoming those seeking asylum from some of the most volatile and dangerous regions on earth,” she said.
“In meeting its moral duty to protect these individuals, the UK Government should identify sites which are both safe and suitable to house them. At present, they seem to be failing on both fronts.”
Support announced for struggling sports sector
The Welsh Government has launched a £14 million sport and leisure recovery fund to help the sector meet the challenges resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
Most organised sport and leisure activities across Wales came to an abrupt halt in March as venues, activities, competitions and events were closed, cancelled or postponed due to the lockdown.
The new fund will be delivered by Sport Wales and is in addition to the Emergency Sport Relief Fund and the Be Active Fund, which are also being administered by Sport Wales.
In a statement announcing the support, Dafydd Elis-Thomas MS, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, said: “Individuals, clubs and organisations, particularly grassroots sport, have been adversely affected by the pandemic. Many are continuing to deal with the challenge of low consumer confidence coupled with the impact of the very necessary measures, which have limited capacity, but help to protect us all from the ongoing risk of coronavirus.
“The sport and leisure recovery fund is designed to help provide essential support to sports clubs and organisations, independent providers and sporting events which have suffered a significant loss of revenue over recent months. The fund also makes available funding for innovation in local authority leisure centres and leisure trusts which complements funding available for increased costs and loss of income from the local government hardship fund.”
Government ‘virtue signalling’ over climate crisis
Janet Finch-Saunders MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs, has criticised the government’s lack of action on climate change and describe the declaration of a climate emergency last year as “virtue signalling”.
In an article on the Gwydir blog, she also repeats her criticism of environmental protest group Extinction Rebellion, who she described as “neo-fascist” following the group’s recent blockade of roads leading to the printing presses of newspapers including the Sun and the Times. Mrs Finch-Saunders said the action was, “beyond the bounds of acceptable political protest”.
The Welsh Government declared a “Climate Emergency” under Any Other Business in a Cabinet Meeting, which she describes as, “the ultimate act of virtual signalling – confined to the closing discussion while someone is collecting up the teacups and uneaten biscuits”.
“In my own constituency, I have seen the impact first hand that flooding has on people and communities and I fully accept that the changing weather patterns, the increased frequency and severity of flooding is caused by global warming and by the actions of humans,” she writes.
“However, we need plain talking and action, not constant virtue signalling if we are to take this challenge head-on.”
“As Welsh Conservatives we will take action immediately to reduce the human impact on the world.
“For years we’ve been calling for a ban on single-use plastics and only now are the Welsh Government looking at it – well I say looking at it, you’ve guessed it – they’ve launched a consultation on it, which doesn’t close until the end of October. We’ll be well into 2021 before the Welsh Government are able to bring forward a ban, which will be more than a year after Scotland and England introduced theirs.
“And yet it’s all OK because Wales was the first government to declare a climate emergency.”