News in brief: Over 60% expect return of stricter Covid restrictions in Wales says new poll
A new survey has revealed that almost two thirds of people in Wales expect the return of stricter Covid restrictions within the next six months.
According to Public Health Wales’ latest ‘How Are We Doing in Wales’ public engagement survey, 62% per cent of people said they think restrictions such as social distancing and pub closures will be reintroduced over the coming six months.
Covid cases has been climbing sharply across Wales over the last month and hospital admissions due to the virus have increased consequently, sparking fears that a firebreak lockdown could be introduced next month when schools break for half term.
On Friday First Minister Mark Drakeford said a decision would be made over the next seven days on possible changes to Covid restrictions but claimed “there is nothing inevitable” about an October lockdown.
The survey also confirmed 93% of respondents would have a Covid booster jab if offered one, while 64% of parents with children under 18 say they would be happy for them to have the vaccine, up from 53% from the previous survey at the end of August.
The poll covers the period of 30 August – 5 September 2021, when approximately 600 random people were surveyed.
Meanwhile, PHW has confirmed 21 further deaths due to Covid in the 48 hours up to 9am on Sunday and 4,208 new cases of the virus.
Eleven of the newly recorded deaths were in the Cwn Taf Morgannwg health board area, as the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic in March last year rose to 5,755.
In the seven days up to 8 September 16,447 people have tested positive for the virus across the country.
Merthyr has the highest rate in the country at 760.9 per 100,000 people, a fall from 817.2 in yesterday’s report, while the national rate is 521.7, down from 557.8 yesterday.
Minister warns Covid pressure on hospitals will continue for at least a further month
be Health Minister Eluned Morgan says pressures on Welsh hospitals due to a surge of Covid cases is expected to continue until at least mid-October and has asked people to only use A&E services and GP surgeries if absolutely necessary.
At Friday’s press briefing, First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed that government modelling of the pandemic suggested the number of new cases could rise to around 3,200 by the end of the month and hospital admissions could reach 100 per day.
Ms Morgan told BBC Wales case numbers “are likely to continue… until at least the end of September and then we’re likely to see a levelling off”, adding that because of of the lag between people catching Covid and potentially ending up in hospital, the pressure on hospitals will “continue at least until about mid-October”.
Tories ask government to reassure older people that public transport is safe
The Welsh Conservatives are calling for the government to do more to reassure older people that it is safe to use public transport again.
New figures have revealed that elderly people are currently making only half the number of bus journeys they did before the start of the pandemic in March last year, sparking mental health concerns.
“Older people have been fearful to leave their homes over the last 18 months because of the pandemic, but as things start returning to normal they need to know it is safe to do so again,” Welsh Conservative Older People’s Champion, Altaf Hussain MS, said.
“For many older people, a bus ride into town for a bit of shopping is the only social interaction they have, so it is important that they know they can start doing that again, or we run the risk of their mental health deteriorating.
“Labour ministers should look at starting an awareness campaign to spread the message that it is safe for people to use public transport again.”
Welsh Government and network operators agree to work on plan for net zero energy grid
The Welsh Government has announced an agreement with electricity and gas network operators to develop a strategic approach towards its target of generating zero emissions from the energy grid by 2050.
The government says the agreement is the first of its kind in the UK and it will enable it to develop an integrated, long-term plan for gas and electricity networks in Wales.
“Developing and delivering infrastructure plans is a long-term process. However, the climate emergency means we must move as quickly as possible,” Minister for Climate Change, Julie James said.
“We need to get this right, as it will be a once-in-a-century change to our infrastructure. We will of course need to involve all sectors in this work, and I am committed to doing this as the work develops.”
Plans to expand windfarm’s lifespan by another decade
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
An Anglesey windfarm could remain operational for another decade if proposals are backed by local planners.
The Llyn Alaw Windfarm stands at the northern shore of the man-made reservoir which provides drinking water for the north of the island.
Work on the windfarm, based at the hamlet of Llanbabo near Llanddeusant, started in 1996 with the 34 turbines capable of generating enough energy to power 11,324 homes.
The turbines themselves each have a maximum tip height of 53 metres.
But with the original 25 year planning consent set to expire in late 2022, operators Ventient Energy Limited want to expand its lifespan by another ten years until October 2032.
The submitted plans follow a separate application to expand the operational life of another island windfarm until 2031, namely the Trysglwyn site near Rhosybol.
The supporting documents which have been submitted to Anglesey Council’s planning department, note that if approved it would also result in an extended period of its community benefits fund.
“The Llyn Alaw turbines are not a new addition to the landscape and are an established feature of the local landscape, which would mean that for many people their retention for a further 10 years would be much less likely to bring about notable effects, compared to the introduction of a new development.”
The developers go on to note that with more now known about wind power, “with hindsight” it is now known that properly maintained turbines are capable of operating beyond their original design life, and thus generate more renewable power.
“Rents payable to local landowners will be paid over this extended period. There will be the trickle down spend in the local economy associated with these and the economy will also benefit from the associated business rates that the applicant will continue to pay.
“In addition, the community benefit fund will continue to run for an additional 10 years, which currently totals over £42,000 per annum (£2,060, per MW index linked).
“However, Ventient is proposing to increase the community energy fund to £3,000 per MW (index linked) from when the current consent expires.
“Therefore, by extending the operational life of the wind farm there will be increased continued local economic contribution for an additional 10 years.”
It’s expected that Anglesey Council’s planning department will consider the application over the coming weeks.