News in brief: Holidaymakers skipping quarantine linked with Covid-19 clusters
Holidaymakers are being reminded to follow quarantine rules when they return to Wales from abroad to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Clusters of positive cases have been reported in recent weeks stemming from people returning from holidays who failed to self-isolate for 14-days as required.
The government has warned that more cases like this could increase the rate of transmission in Wales and put some of the most vulnerable people at risk of infection and has reminded travellers it is their responsibility to check if they are required to self-isolate when they return to Wales, as the list is subject to change at any time.
Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, said: “Wales currently has very low community transmission rates of Covid-19 and it is important we keep it that way so we can keep the new freedoms we have introduced.
“The 14-day quarantine rule is in place for people returning from certain countries that have higher transmission rates. It is vital anyone coming back from these countries self-isolates and if they develop symptoms to get tested.
“The thoughtless behaviour of a few can put some of the most vulnerable people at risk of infection.
“Thanks to the co-operation and sacrifices of the Welsh public we have managed to control the spread of the virus here. But we cannot get complacent and it’s important everyone continues to follow the guidance, maintain social distancing and wash hands regularly.”
You can find the latest advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office before travelling and returning home here.
Public Health Wales has reported 40 new cases of Covid-19 over the last 24 hours, taking the total number of confirmed infections since February to 17,917.
No new deaths due to the virus have been reported. The number of deaths in Wales remains at 1,595. PHW reports that 5,039 tests were carried out yesterday.
Calls for support as furlough scheme winds down
Plaid Cymru is calling for more support to preserve jobs in Wales as the UK-wide furlough scheme approaches its end.
The scheme was launched in March as the lockdown was imposed to help employers avoid making mass redundancies because of the pandemic.
The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme allows companies to furlough workers to keep them on the books without paying them throughout the lockdown.
Instead the government paid up to 80 per cent of their salary.
New statistics released by the UK Government earlier this week revealed the number of people in Wales receiving support from the CJRS rose by 22,400 last month to 400,800.
Helen Mary Jones MS, Plaid Cymru’s Shadow Economy Minister said: “It is clear that some sectors of the economy are going to take much longer to recover than others. In Wales, some parts of hospitality and the majority of the Arts industry remains closed to income streams.”
“When the furlough scheme comes to an abrupt end in October, there will be one devastating outcome: For the organisations that have retained staff on furlough, but have no income streams, they will have no option but to let these staff go. It will be a heart-wrenching, yet inevitable decision to make.
“Westminster has already spent billions on enabling businesses to retain staff. To let them go at the end of the scheme will have wasted millions of pounds.
“We have already seen adaptations to the scheme, to enable low paid workers to receive a small income, if they are forced to isolate. As local lockdowns seem to be a likelihood in our battle against this virus, I would like to see this expanded to all workers who are forced to isolate but who cannot work from home.
“Critically, the amount needs to be sufficient so that workers are not placed in an impossible position of feeling like their only option is to go to work, when unwell or isolating in case they have been infected. £13 a day is a welcome start, but this needs to be more.
“The Welsh Government must take some responsibility for this as well. If Westminster won’t extend furlough scheme to sectors most affected, then the Welsh Government needs to look at what support they might be able to provide.”
From this month employers are having to pay National Insurance and pensions contributions for all their furloughed staff for the first time and from September businesses will also have to pay at least 10 per cent of their employees’ salaries.
In October employers will be required to pay at least 20 per cent of their furloughed staff’s pay before the furlough scheme ends completely at the end of the month.
Last month the National Institute of Economic and Social Research warned that closing the furlough programme could see the overall unemployment rate in the UK reach 10% this year.
Shadow Minister calls for beefed up Covid-19 inquiry
Andrew RT Davies MS, Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister, has renewed calls for a judge-led inquiry into the Welsh Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic as the latest figures on deaths due to the virus were released by the Office for National Statistics.
According to the ONS, Wales has recorded one of the lowest mortality rates for coronavirus across the UK. The 75.7 deaths per 100,000 people reported up until the end of July is lower than England and all its regions, apart from the south west and south east. London had the highest overall rate in the UK at 143.3 per 100,000.
“While we all view these figures with a sense of relief, it doesn’t detract that, for the families of each person affected or who has sadly died, it’s a tragedy,” Mr Davies said.
“The Welsh Labour-Led Government has a duty to the people of Wales, however, to act now and be open and transparent about the ‘hidden’ thousands whose diagnoses, and life-saving operations and other treatments have been delayed.
“The Health Minister must be open with the Welsh people to the true scale of the problem and act now.
”It’s time, too, that the First Minister gave his full commitment not just to a UK-wide inquiry into the pandemic and response but also to set out his party’s plans for a Wales-specific one.
“We Welsh Conservatives were disappointed that our call for judge-led inquiry into the Welsh Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic to start when the pandemic is under control – which arguably it now is – and to conclude its findings before the next Welsh Parliamentary election.
“The Welsh people will have an inquiry, but it is – disappointingly – likely to be watered down and weaker, which won’t serve the needs of Wales, and won’t prepare us for any future wave.”