News in brief: Covid case rates in Wales fall to lowest level in 30 weeks
There have been no new deaths due to Covid-19 and 82 positive tests reported by Public Health Wales over the last 24 hours.
For the seven days up to 2 April PHW has recorded 695 new cases, the lowest number since 23 August and the national case rate of 22 per 100,000 people is the lowest recorded in 30 weeks.
Cardiff (13) and Swansea (11) were the only two local authorities to report over 10 cases since yesterday’s report and there were no new cases in Bridgend, Ceredigion, Monmouthshire and Powys.
Anglesey currently has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 35.7, followed by Gwynedd (34.5) and Swansea (33.6).
Swansea has the highest weekly positive test proportion at 3.5% per 100,000 tests.
The national test rate has fallen to 2.2% from 2.3% in yesterday’s report.
Over the last 24 hours, 9,449 people have received a first Covid vaccination and 6,319 received a second jab. A total of 1,502,641 first doses have now been administered in Wales and 475, 570 people have had both doses.
Despite the fall in infections, Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, warned, “while the number of cases is declining overall, there are still several areas which have significantly higher rates.”
“We remind the general public that Coronavirus has not gone away, and that there is still a large number of people who have not been vaccinated. It is therefore vital that we all maintain constant vigilance, by keeping 2m apart from people that you don’t live with, practising hand hygiene, and wearing a mask in indoor environments,” he added.
“Welsh Government restrictions state that you should not go into any other household or mix indoors with other people who you don’t live with.
“If you are contacted by your local TTP team then it is important that you are truthful with them about where you have been and who you have met. They are not there to judge, they are there to help prevent ongoing transmission of the virus and to protect the community.
“If you are asked to self-isolate by your local TTP team then please ensure that you do so for the full ten days – this will help break any chains of transmission.
“We encourage everyone, whatever their background, social demographic and ethnicity, to have the vaccine when they are offered it.
“We need your continued support to control the spread of Coronavirus, so please do not send your child to school if they are unwell, even if you are not sure if they have Coronavirus. Please continue to work from home if at all possible.”
Tories call for restriction on outdoor sports and hospitality to be eased
The Welsh Conservatives are calling for all outdoor sports to be allowed to resume and for the hospitality sector to be given the green light to welcome back customers in outdoor settings.
New research from Ireland reports outdoor transmission of Covid-19 accounted for only 0.1% of cases and a study published last month by Public Health Wales concluded that households are the most significant source of infection, while working in the hospitality sector or visiting the pub are also significant risks. Smoking or vaping appears to have a small but significant effect on transmission too.
Meanwhile, no evidence was found that education settings provide a significant risk of transmission of Coronavirus to adults. Visiting facilities such as supermarkets, restaurant, gyms and leisure centre also did not appear to increase risk of infection.
Commenting on the findings showing outdoor activities account for very few coronavirus cases, Welsh Conservative economy spokesman, Russell George said: “This latest data is great news and backs up previous studies on outdoor transmission.
“The bank of evidence shows that outdoor activities including hospitality and sport should be given the green light to resume as soon as possible in Wales.
“Welsh Conservatives would lift this ban and we hope Labour ministers now listen to the evidence.”
Last month the Welsh Government confirmed outdoor hospitality and gyms could open from 22 April onwards, if the number of Covid cases in Wales remain low.
From 12 April, if conditions allow, all shops and close contact services will reopen.
Public Health Wales to reduce coronavirus reporting
Public Health Wales has confirmed changes to the way it publishes information on the coronavirus pandemic.
From 17 April, PHW will no longer be publishing Coronavirus data or a daily statement on its website on Saturdays.
“Coronavirus is with us to stay, and the way we report data must be sustainable,” Dr Chris Williams, Consultant Epidemiologist for Public Health Wales, said.
No other communicable disease is subject to daily reporting, and we are bringing our Coronavirus dashboard further in-line with routine communicable disease reporting.
“Our surveillance team will retain the ability to ramp back up to seven-day reporting if necessary.”
Currently Public Health Wales publishes a daily update on a range of Covid-19 statistics, including the number of new cases, deaths and the number of tests carried out across the country.
Plans approved for 240 homes on countryside near Llantwit Major
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Plans have been approved for 240 homes in the countryside near Llantwit Major, despite concerns about creaking infrastructure and noise pollution.
The Welsh Government applied for planning permission to build the homes on two sites of farmland to the east of the town, just south of the newly built Northern Access Road.
Vale of Glamorgan council’s planning committee narrowly voted to approve the plans on March 24, after hearing from locals about the potential impacts on already stretched public services in Llantwit Major, and a noisy firing range very close to the planned houses.
The two sites of farmland were included in the council’s local development plan, making it hard for councillors to reject planning permission without risking costly legal challenges.
Councillor Gwyn John, representing Llantwit Major, said: “The local people aren’t happy. I’m opposed to this plan. It’s a loss of open countryside yet again, and the big issue of course that we’re concerned about in Llantwit Major is the impact on local infrastructure.
“We have two surgeries in Llantwit Major: one is nearly falling down. Our leisure centre is over 40 years old; it has never really been improved upon in that time. Our traffic is chock-a-block; the roads are gridlocked at peak periods.
“Who’s going to live in these homes? We’re building more and more homes all the time, but there are so many homes already available. There’s not the jobs in the area. The western Vale is becoming a concrete jungle.”
The plans are split across two parts: a western site of 7.9 hectares with 140 homes, adjacent to the B4265; and an eastern site of 4.3 hectares with 100 homes, north of Bethesda’r Fro Church. About 35 per cent of the planned homes will be affordable.
Both sites would be accessed off of the Northern Access Road, also known as Fford Bro Tathan. This new road was built in 2018 and 2019, running from the B4265 north of Boverton to the St Athan enterprise zone and Aston Martin factory.
Planning officers responded to Cllr John’s concerns by pointing to the newly built road, as an example of new traffic infrastructure in the area; and saying new residents of the proposed homes could help local shops by bringing them extra trade.
Another concern was noise pollution: the eastern site is close to a firing range used by the Ministry of Defence. Councillors on the planning committee feared future residents could suffer from hearing loud gunfire. Planning officers said they could make noise complaints.
David Harris, who lives in the local area, told the planning committee: “This site is located right opposite and within 200 metres of a live MOD firing range. This range can be used seven days a week, up to 11pm. It’s regularly used.
“No matter how much mitigation is used in the building fabric, you can’t reduce the exceptional noise of live gun fire when you have your windows open or when you’re in your garden. This fact alone makes this site totally inappropriate for residential development.”
Because the housing development is split into two sites, councillors voted on two separate planning applications, one for each site.
The second application, for the eastern site, only narrowly passed a vote. Six councillors voted in favour of granting planning permission, and six voted against, with four abstaining. Planning officers warned refusing permission could risk a costly legal challenge.
As the vote was tied, the chair of the planning committee, Cllr Jonathan Bird, used his casting vote to grant permission, effectively voting twice.