News in brief: Minister issues warning over Covid testing companies listed on UK Government website
Visitors to Wales from abroad are being told they must book their mandatory PCR Covid tests via the NHS due to concerns about the quality of service provided by private companies listed on the UK Government’s booking portal.
Although the listed sites are not endorsed or recommend by the UK government, these providers often offer PCR testing at cheaper prices than the NHS and Eluned Morgan, Minister for Health and Social Services, says users have reported issues, “including booked tests not being delivered and people not being notified of results.”
“Protecting public health remains our main priority. We are working with the UK Government to seek assurance that only those companies who reach specified key performance indicators will be allowed to provide tests.
“When we are assured the right systems are in place to protect the Welsh public, we will review the position so that people could access tests from private companies.”
“Where a specified event with international participants has engaged their own private testing arrangements, we will allow for this where those testing arrangements meet with our standards and have been agreed with Public Health Wales,” she added.
Under current Covid restrictions, travellers must book and pay for mandatory PCR tests to be taken following their arrival to Wales.
The price for NHS tests is the same across the UK and is set by the UK Government. NHS tests are processed through the UK Lighthouse Laboratory network, which means positive cases can quickly be linked directly to the Welsh Test, Trace, Protect system.
Three further Covid deaths recorded in Wales
Public Health Wales has reported three further deaths due to Covid-19 and 2,053 new cases of the virus for the 48-hours up to 9am yesterday.
Two of the newly recorded deaths were in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area and the other was in Cwm Taf Morgannwg, taking the total number of deaths recorded by PHW since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to 5,589.
Cardiff (231) had the highest number of cases in today’s update, followed by Denbighshire (176) and Flintshire (128).
Denbighshire currently has the highest weekly case rate in Wales for the seven days ending 14 July at 395 per 100,000 people, jumping from 307.2 in yesterday’s report. The weekly positivity rate is also the highest in the country at 16.6% per 100,000 tests up 3.1% since Sunday’s update.
The national case rate has risen from 161.1 to 177.3 and the positivity rate is up 1.1% to 9.7%.
MP says Westminster’s new asylum bill is ‘state-sanctioned cruelty against vulnerable people’
Plaid Cymru’s Westminster leader, Liz Saville Roberts MP has described the UK Government’s new asylum bill as “callous” and accused Home Secretary Priti Patel of formalising “state-sanctioned cruelty against vulnerable people” as the second reading of the bill gets underway at Westminster today.
The Nationality and Borders Bill seeks to introduce penalties for people who arrive in the UK in ways the government considers to be illegal, undermining one of the basic tenets of the 1951 Refugee Convention – that someone’s mode of arrival should have no influence on whether they have a right to make an asylum claim, or whether they are recognised as a refugee.
Critics also fear it will lead to more people being housed in unsuitable accommodation such as the Penally barracks in Pembrokeshire, which was shut down earlier this year after a report from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) described it as “impoverished, run-down and unsuitable for long-term accommodation”.
“Not only does Priti Patel’s callous Borders Bill rip up the UK’s international commitments under the Refugee Convention it also formalises state-sanctioned cruelty against vulnerable people,” Ms Saville Roberts said.
“Priti Patel’s approach is to see asylum seekers as a nuisance that should be pushed away from arriving here safely in the first place, and to hide those who do from the rest of society. Now, by treating asylum seekers as criminals that should be punished in inhabitable accommodation rather than helped to integrate into society, the Home Secretary is undermining the Welsh Government and wider Welsh civic society’s ambitions of being a Nation of Sanctuary.”
“This Bill is also totally unworkable, expecting other countries to agree to process the UK’s asylum claims. It’s time the Home Secretary faces her own responsibilities and provide humane and serious solutions to help refugees and asylum seekers integrate into society,” She added.
Cardiff’s Tafwyl festival goes global
Organisers of this year’s Tafwyl festival have revealed more than 35,000 people tuned into digital coverage of the event, staged in Cardiff Castle on 15 May.
Tafwyl was the first music event in Wales to take place in front of a live audience since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March last year and featured 16 sets by leading artists from Wales and Brittany.
Up to 500 People were allowed to attend the event in person as part of a government pilot programme, which required them to submit evidence of two negative Covid test five days before the event got underway and observe strict social distancing measure inside the castle grounds.
The digital coverage attracted viewers from across Wales and the rest of the UK and was also watched in the USA, China, Russia, Argentina and Indonesia.
Tafwyl is organised by Menter Caerdydd, a charity that promotes the social use of the Welsh language in Cardiff and was staged for the 15th time this year.
Manon Rees-O’Brien, CEO of Menter Caerdydd said: “Despite the presence of our audience in the Castle, it was equally important to offer an exciting experience and the feel of a live festival to our viewers joining in at home.”
“At the heart of the Tafwyl vision this year was offering a worthy stage for the artists, and the experience was developed further by providing English subtitles on the live stream on the day of the festival. The aim was to welcome our diverse audience of Welsh learners, those who are less confident or don’t speak the language and ensure they too felt part of the festival.”
The first Tafwyl took place in the Mochyn Du pub car park in 2006 in front of a few hundred people and in 2019 the festival attracted a crowd of over 40,000 to Cardiff Castle.
New support announced for health and wellbeing fund
The Welsh Government has announced funding of close to £1 million extend its support of the Healthy and Active Fund for a further 12 months.
A total of £991,200 has been committed to extending the fund which was initially established in 2018 to help improve mental and physical health by enabling people to adopt more active lifestyles.
Over the next 12 months, the fund will support a range of activities across Wales with an emphasis on projects which focus on children and young people, people with a disability or long-term illness, those who are unemployed or who live in areas of deprivation or older people and those due to retire from work.
“The coronavirus pandemic has made all of us focus on our health and wellbeing more. Being active has a huge benefit to our physical and mental wellbeing,” Deputy Minister for Mental Health and Wellbeing Lynne Neagle said.
“I’m delighted that activities funded by the programme have now restated and that we have been able to extend the fund by a year, following what has been a difficult time for us all. Projects across Wales are being supported who are offering something for different ages and abilities.”
Welsh companies offered support to develop export markets
Up to ten companies are being recruited to take part in the government’s New Exporters Programme.
The programme is one of the new initiatives being introduced as part of the Welsh Government’s export action plan and will support companies who have either never exported before or have exported intermittently, to sell their goods and services around the world.
The companies from a range of sectors across Wales are being recruited to the programme, which will last around 10 months, during which time they will receive intensive support to develop their capacity and capability for exporting.
Initially the support will be focused on exporting to Ireland, which will act as a starter market for the companies taking part.
In 2020, firms in Wales exported £13.4 billion worth of goods to markets across the world. Germany was the largest export market, accounting for £2.2 billion (16.0%) of exports. France was the second largest export market, accounting for £1.8 billion (13.7%), followed by the USA, with £1.8 billion (13.4%) and the Republic of Ireland with £1.2 billion (8.8%).
Launching the new programme, Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Wales has a long and proud history as an outward looking trading nation. From the coal that helped power the industrial revolution in the 18th and 19th centuries, to high-tech computer chips that power our smartphones and other electronic devices today, the products we export from Wales are used by people around the world.
“As part of our ambitious programme for government for the next five years, we want to support Welsh businesses to find new export markets and create new green jobs in the sustainable green industries of tomorrow.”