News in brief: English holidaymakers from Covid hotspots face new travel advice
Holidaymakers from areas of England with high levels of the Indian Covid “variant of concern” are being advised to restrict all non essential travel by the UK Government.
According to the guidance, which was updated on Friday, without the affected areas receiving any official notification, travel into and out of Bedford, Blackburn and Bolton, Burnley, Kirklees, Leicester, Hounslow, and North Tyneside – should be avoided “unless essential”.
Exemptions include travel for work, when working from home is not possible and education, but not holidays.
Close to two million people live in the eight areas covered by the new measures that also recommend keeping meetings with others outdoors “where possible” and maintaining social distancing of two metres between people who do not live together.
Westminster sources have denied claims that the announcement of the new guidelines amount to the introduction of local lockdowns “by stealth” and a Downing Street source told BBC News the restrictions are “advice, not law”.
Labour leader Keir Starmer said: “The government needs to provide clarity, fast. Local lockdowns are the wrong approach for both public health and local economies.”
So far 57 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant have been detected in Wales but in England the number of infections stand at over 3,200, according to official figures and have increased by 160% in the last week.
Last week, First Minister Drakeford refused to rule out stopping travel in and out of Wales to halt the Indian variant but said he believed a ban was ‘too drastic’ at that time.
Yesterday Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirmed the Welsh Government were keeping the situation under review but said that there was “no decision to restrict travel to hotspots in England”.
Speaking at Monday’s government press briefing, Wales’ Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton said: “If the numbers (of people with the Indian Covid variant) go up that’s a worry, obviously, because higher rates can lead to more hospitalisations.
“What we just don’t know is how much an increase in rates of a new variant here in Wales would lead to an increase in hospital admissions, increase in people needing intensive care and an increase in deaths.
“We need to see what happens over the next few weeks in England really.”
MP accuses Priti Patel of ‘cover-up’ over Daniel Morgan investigation
Rhondda MP Chris Bryant has accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of seeking to block or redact an independent report into the murder of private detective Daniel Morgan to protect Rupert Murdoch’s media empire.
Mr Bryant said there were concerns that “people with very close friends in News International might want to delay or even prevent this publication” after securing an urgent question in Parliament into the home secretary’s decision to vet the report into the murder of Mr Morgan in 1987.
No one has been convicted of the murder and the independent inquiry, ordered in 2013 by then home secretary, Theresa May, was directed to look at “police involvement” in the murder, the role played by “police corruption in protecting those responsible for the murder” and “failure to confront that corruption”.
The panel responsible for the report refused to hand it over last week after the Home Secretary Patel cited the need to consider national security and human rights obligations before making the report public.
Bryant told the Commons that Patel had acted wrongly in seeking to review the report and asked for it to be published in full this week.
“She has no power in law to do that. Her own terms of reference only allow her to make arrangements for publication for parliament,” he said.
He also asked for a full list of any communications Patel, her officials or an adviser had with News UK, Murdoch or News UK’s chief executive, Rebekah Brooks.
“It’s not difficult to see why powerful people with very close friends in News International might want to delay or even prevent this publication,” he added.
Responding to Mr Bryant, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said the Home Office wanted the report published as soon as possible but the Home Secretary was obliged to first check it for any national security concerns.
Last week a source close to the investigation told the Guardian: “There are no national security issues involved. There are national embarrassment issues.”
Mr Morgan grew up in Monmouthshire and attended agricultural college in Usk before setting up his detective agency, Southern Investigations, in London in 1984.
Covid deaths remain low in Wales
New figures released by the Office for National Statistics have confirmed deaths in Wales from all causes have risen above the five-year average for the first time in 11 weeks.
The data, which is for the seven days up to the week ending 14 May, is affected by the Early May Bank Holiday and as a result the ONS warns comparisons with the previous week and with the five-year average “should be interpreted with caution”.
The number of deaths increased from 560 the previous week to 640, 28 more deaths (4.6%) than the five-year average.
Of these, six deaths involved Covid-19, one more than the week before and 0.9% of all deaths in Wales.
Overall, 18 out of 22 local authorities in Wales recorded no Covid deaths over the latest week studied.
Since the start of the pandemic in March last year 44,826 deaths have been recorded in Wales from all causes and 7,878 deaths (17.6%) mentioned Covid on the death certificate. This was 5,529 deaths above the five-year average.
Deaths counted by the ONS are when Covid-19 is mentioned by doctors on the death certificate and which occur in all settings – including hospitals, care homes, hospices and people’s homes.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales only include the deaths of a hospital patients or care home resident where Covid-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death.
Today’s report from PHW has confirmed no new deaths due to Covid and 19 new cases of the virus.
According to PHW’s data, there have been 5,566 Covid deaths in Wales since March 2020.
Ten local authorities recorded no new infections in the last 24 hours, while the five cases in Conwy was the highest in the country.
Newport’s weekly case rate is continuing to edge down but remains the highest in Wales at 22 per 100,000 cases, a fall from 23.3 yesterday. The positive test proportion is also the highest but is unchanged at 1.9% per 100,000 tests since yesterday’s report.
The national case rate has gone up from 8.4 to 8.6 and the test rate has increased from 0.09% to 1%.
Cardiff vaccination centre to offer walk-in jabs
Cardiff’s Bayside Mass Vaccination Centre will be operating as a walk-in centre over the bank holiday weekend.
Cardiff and Vale University Health Board is encouraging people who are over 18 and yet to receive a first Covid jab, to attend the centre, based in the old Toys R Us building between 8.30am – 7.30pm from 27-31 May.
The health board are also offering the people opportunity to speak to the vaccination team if they have any questions or concerns about receiving the vaccine.
“The vaccine is still our best defence against Covid-19 and we would encourage anyone who is eligible to receive their vaccine to please get it,” Tracy Meredith, Head of Operations for Testing and Mass Immunisations at the health board said.
Since the start of the mass vaccination programme in December, 82% of the adult population within the health board area have received a first jab and 34% of the adult population have had both doses.
More funding proposed for flood-hit businesses in Carmarthenshire
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
Carmarthenshire council is to make more funding available for flood-hit businesses.
The county suffered widespread damage from Storm Callum in 2018 and further instances of flooding since then, notably Storm Christoph in January this year.
The council’s executive board has now approved proposals to buy 16 dehumidifiers, which could be loaned to affected businesses as and when needed, and set aside £200,000 for new flood protection schemes.
It also agreed to keep £96,000 of unspent flood support money from three years ago for future flood events, and confirmed its support of a flood protection project being explored with Natural Resources Wales and Cambrian Pet Foods Ltd in Llangadog.
Full council will have the final say on the proposals.
A report before the executive board said it was prudent to have a mix of “re-active and proactive support”, given the increasing frequency of flooding.
Worst affected areas, it said, included Llangadog, Carmarthen Quay, Abergwili, Pensarn, Pontyates, Kidwelly and Llandovery.
Speaking in February this year, after yet another deluge, council leader Emlyn Dole said businesses and residents “should not have to live like this”.
He said: “It’s plainly evident that storms causing river flooding are becoming more frequent and they are becoming more intense.”
In March, NRW confirmed it would repair joints in the Llangunnor flood defence wall, Carmarthen, which was breached during Storm Callum. The work is due to be finished by late summer.
Speaking at the May 24 executive board meeting, Cllr Linda Evans said “there is nothing worse” than being affected by floodwater.
Referring to the project being discussed for Llangadog, she said: “I really hope that our key stakeholders and partners are willing to put their money where their mouth is.”
It is expected that the council would contribute around £50,000 to the Llangadog initiative, with NRW and Cambrian Pet Foods both committing the same sum.
Drivers face disruption as essential roadworks are carried out on the A483
Essential roadworks on the A483 in Wrexham between junctions 5 and 7 will get underway next Tuesday.
Work on the central reservations is expected to take six weeks and is required to improve safety for contraflow arrangement that will be introduced later in the year when major resurfacing work is carried out on both carriageways.
The majority of the initial works will be carried out with lane closures in both directions. Additionally, there will be full night-time closures for four consecutive nights at the start of the project to install a temporary protective barrier system and at its completion to remove the barrier.
“Investing in and maintaining our infrastructure in north Wales is vitally important,” Deputy Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for transport, Lee Waters, said.
“The work is essential to maintain this section of the A483 which is a crucial part of the infrastructure around Wrexham, as well as being a crucial link with south Wales and England.
“The safety of the travelling public is our priority, and this work will allow the later more substantial work to take place with less potential disruption.”