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News in brief: Health chief warns of rapid spread of new Covid strain across Wales

06 Jan 2021 10 minutes Read
Covid testing centre in Cardiff. Photo by Nation.Cymru

Wales Chief Medical Officer has warned of the the rapid spread across Wales of the new strain of COVID-19 that has swept across England in recent weeks.

Dr Frank Atherton also expressed concern at the “serious situation” facing the country as the number of cases of coronavirus continue to climb.

Dr Atherton told today’s press briefing that cases were “very high in most parts of Wales” and said “There are signs cases are rising in many parts of the country.”

“In north Wales, in particular, we are seeing quite rapid increases in Wrexham, Flintshire and Denbighshire,” he added.

Dr Atherton said this was a result of the new variant strain of the virus and “too much population mixing”.

“In London and the south east of England in a space of about three weeks, it went from being about 25% of cases of Covid-19 to around well over 95%,” he said.

“We believe there’s a similar trajectory to the new variant here in Wales.”

‘Clustering’

Dr Atherton said there was currently “clustering” of the variant in south east Wales and north east Wales, but he expected it to spread across the whole country.

During this afternoon’s briefing,  NHS Wales Chief Executive Dr Andrew Goodall also revealed there currently close to 2,800 Covid-related patients in Welsh hospitals, “the highest number on record”.

Dr Goodall warned: “If this trend continues, very soon the number of coronavirus-related patients in hospital will be twice the peak we saw during the first wave in April.”

Covid heatmap. Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

New figures confirm increase in Covid infections across all of Wales

The latest figures from Public Health Wales have confirmed the number of new cases of coronavirus per 100,0000 of the population have increased in every county across the country over the last seven days.

Bridgend continues to have the highest rate in Wales with 978.1 per 100,000 people for the week up to New Year’s Day and also has the highest positive test proportion at 35.3% per 100,000 tests.

Wrexham is next highest with an infection rate of 838.5 and positive test proportion of 30.1%.

Gwynedd (73.1) is the only local authority in Wales with a case rate under 100 per 100,000 people.

The overall case rate in Wales currently stands at 484.3 and the positive test proportion is 25%.

The last seven days have seen 15,269 new positive tests for COVID-19 across the country.

Today’s report from PHW also recorded a further 76 deaths due to the virus and 2,238 new infections since yesterday.

Cardiff (247) had the highest number of new cases in Wales since yesterday, followed by Bridgend (194) and Wrexham (189).

There have been 1,762 cases in Cardiff over the last week.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics reports another jump in deaths in Wales due to coronavirus for the week ending 25 December.

There were 278 deaths linked to the virus in the week, up 22 from the previous seven days, representing 34% of all deaths in Wales.

Swansea Bay health board area saw 67 deaths over the course of the week, the highest number across the country.

Aneurin Bevan health board reported 65 deaths and there were 49 deaths involving Covid in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg area.

According to the ONS the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Wales up to and registered by 25 December is now 4,651.

In Wales, the number of deaths from all causes decreased from 882 the previous week to 825, 307 deaths (37.2%) higher than the five-year average for the week.

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.

According to PHW’s latest figures there have been 3,783 deaths since the start of the pandemic

A sheep

Blow for the Welsh wool industry as major depot set to close

One of Wales’ major depots for wool clip is set to close in the middle of next next month.

British Wool, who own the facility in Porthmadog, said the move was necessary in the face of “severely depressed” prices for wool

The Porthmadog operation handles around 13.62% of the total annual Welsh wool clip.

Janet Finch-Saunders MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Climate Change, Energy and Rural Affairs, has called for more support for the industry from the Welsh Government to help it survive the coronavirus pandemic.

According to industry sources, some 11,000 tonnes of UK wool was left unsold when the Covid-19 pandemic closed international markets.

“The wool industry is on its knees, and with profit margins so small, there really must be a concerted effort by the government here to back our farmers, shepherds, and all those in the wool supply chain to make the most of Welsh wool,” Mrs Finch-Saunders said.

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Well-being of Future Generations and Environment Act are considered when dealing with Chicken Farm plans

Elgan Hearn, local democracy reporter

PLANNING applications for chicken and egg farms, do take heed of the Well-being for Future Generations Wales and the Environment Wales Act, according to a councillor,

In recent years, Powys has become the chicken farm capital of Wales with an estimated 156 intensive poultry units given the green light during the last five years.

Under the Question at Anytime protocol, Cllr Emily Durrant (Llangors – Green Party) asked how the approval of 156 IPU’s (Intensive Poultry Units) across the county  contributes to the goals of the Well-being of Future Generations Wales Act?

Portfolio holder for Planning, Cllr Iain McIntosh (Yscir – Conservative) answered that the Local Development Plan (LDP) for Powys which was adopted in 2018 takes account of all the legal duties set out in both acts.

“As such all planning applications made in Powys are determined in line with the legislation, said Cllr McIntosh.

Cllr Durrant also asked how the approval of so many IPU’s complies with the Environment Wales Act, “in particular” the duties under section six of the law.

This section refers to biodiversity and resilience of ecosystems.

It says:  “A public authority must seek to maintain and enhance biodiversity in the exercise of functions in relation to Wales, and in so doing promote the resilience of ecosystems, so far as consistent with the proper exercise of those functions.

To do this a public authority must take account of:

  • diversity between and within ecosystems;
  • the connections between and within ecosystems;
  • the scale of ecosystems;
  • the condition of ecosystems (including their structure and functioning);
  • the adaptability of ecosystems.

Cllr McIntosh, said:   “The LDP’s preparation was, informed by an impact assessment against the Well-being goals.

“Policy DM2 of the LDP seeks to conserve and enhance biodiversity in line with the Section Six duty.

This policy says: “Development proposals shall demonstrate how they protect, positively manage and enhance biodiversity and geodiversity interests including improving the resilience of biodiversity through the enhanced connectivity of habitats within, and beyond the site.

The policy goes on to refer a number of habitat and species that are protected in legislation.

Cllr McIntosh added: “As Planning Policy Wales states, a plan-led approach is the most effective way to secure sustainable development through the planning system and it is essential that plans are adopted and kept under review.’

 “Legislation secures a presumption in favour of sustainable development in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise to ensure that social, economic, cultural and environmental issues are balanced and integrated.”

In 2020 groups of residents from right across Powys joined forces calling on PCC to pause planning applications for intensive poultry units to allow research to be done on their affects on the environment and people.

Picture by Geralt

Councillor banned for 15 months after Facebook posts breached code of conduct

Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter

A former councillor has been disqualified for 15 months after his Facebook posts breached a code of conduct, amid claims of a “toxic culture”.

Phil Baguley resigned from Sully and Lavernock community council last year, but has now been banned from standing for councillor again for almost a year and a half.

The Adjudication Panel for Wales found in December that three of his posts on Facebook “brought the council into disrepute”.

Mr Baguley claimed the posts were personal and about the Labour party’s handling of Brexit. The Adjudication Panel would not verify what the three posts were about, but said they breached the council’s code of conduct.

The panel received a letter from the Public Services Ombudsman in September, about allegations made against Mr Baguley.

The allegations included the three posts, made on January 10, March 9 and March 11 in 2019; and also that Mr Baguley failed to comply with the ombudsman’s investigation.

Mr Baguley responded to the panel’s decision by asking to be banned for life, rather than just 15 months. He said he would be tempted to stand again in the local elections due for May 2022, but a life ban would prevent him from doing so.

He confirmed he didn’t cooperate with the ombudsman’s investigation, saying: “I just told them to get lost. I don’t want anything to do with it. I want banning for life.”

He claimed the complaints made against him grew from the rife bullying in the community council, which has been a well-reported problem for years.

He alleged the monitoring officer for the Vale of Glamorgan council “ignored” numerous complaints of bullying. He said: “She wanted to silence me. So I resigned; I had had enough. Then [the adjudication panel] decided in December to suspend me.”

A spokesman for the Vale council said: “Having resigned at the end of September as a community councillor, Mr Baguley was disqualified for 15 months from being a local government councillor by a unanimous decision of a case tribunal of the Adjudication Panel for Wales.

“This followed a referral from the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales. The case tribunal found that Mr Baguley had posted three public Facebook messages the contents of which could reasonably be regarded as bringing his office and Sully and Lavernock community council into disrepute.

“It also found that he had failed to comply with the requests for information made by the ombudsman during the course of his investigation and as a result had breached the community council’s Members’ Code of Conduct.

The Adjudication Panel for Wales is an independent body funded by the Welsh Government. Both the members and decisions of the panel are independent of the government.

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