News in brief: Second Covid jabs to be prioritised due to Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine shortage
People in Wales waiting for their second Covid vaccine jab will be prioritised in April due to a shortage of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine but Wales’ chief pharmacist Andrew Evans said he still expects the target of offering at least an initial dose to the first nine priority groups in Wales by the end of April to be met
A delay in shipping five million doses of the vaccine from India to the UK was confirmed two weeks ago, with new supplies of the vaccine not expected until later in the month.
However, stocks will be further boosted later in the month by the arrival of the first batch of Moderna vaccine in the UK.
Wales will be allocated a proportion of the 17 million doses that have been purchased by the UK Government, with the first delivery of up to 500,000 doses expected towards the end of the month.
The Moderna vaccine uses the same messenger RNA (mRNA) technology as the Pfizer jab, and clinical trials report it is 94% effective in preventing the disease.
“We had an accelerated amount of vaccine coming into Wales in the early part of March,” Mr Evans told BBC Wales.
“We have been getting through those, and there remain a significant amount of vaccine doses available to the NHS over the next couple of weeks.”
Since the start of the mass vaccination programme on 8 December, Wales has fully vaccinated a higher proportion of than population than the other UK nation.
Today’s figures from Public Health Wales have confirmed 416,862 people have received both jabs and are fully vaccinated, while 1,400,750 have received a first dose.
Meanwhile, PHW reports one further death due to Covid-19 and 125 new cases of the virus in today’s update.
The newly reported death was in the Swansea Bay health board area.
Swansea also recorded 33 new positive tests for the virus since yesterday’s report, the highest number in the country.
There were no new cases reported in Ceredigion, Monmouthshire and Pembrokeshire in the last 24 hours.
Merthyr Tydfil has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 127.6 per 100,000, down from 134. 3 yesterday and also the highest positive test proportion for the week at 7.3% per 100,000 tests.
Anglesey has recorded the second highest proportion of new cases at 118.5, an increase from 114.2 in the last day.
The national case rate is 38.1 a drop from 38.2 yesterday and the positive test proportion has remained steady a 2.8%, the lowest weekly figure since 13 September.
Liberty Steel fail to secure government bail out
The UK Government has rejected a request for a £170 million emergency loan from Liberty Steel founder Sanjeev Gupta to save Britain’s third biggest steel group, from collapse.
According to a report in the Financial Times, ministers refused the request due to “multiple concerns”.
Liberty steel employs 3,000 people at 11 sites in the UK, including close to 200 at its Newport plant.
The jobs of another 2,000 people in engineering businesses within the group are also under threat.
Many of Liberty Steel’s assets were part of Tata Steel’s UK business until they were purchased for £100m in 2017 by Gupta’s GFG Alliance.
The business has been struggling to survive since the collapse of its main financier Greensill Capital, which fell into administration earlier this month, forcing Liberty to pause production at some of its UK plants to conserve money.
Last summer Tata Steel, the UK’s largest steel company failed in a bid to secure several hundred million pounds of financial support from the government.
Over 8,000 people in the UK work for Tata and 4,000 of those are employed at Port Talbot, the largest steelworks in the UK.
According to the Financial Times, citing unnamed sources, talks between the UK Treasury and Tata Steel were halted after the government concluded the Indian multinational was sufficiently financed and didn’t qualify for taxpayer support.
Reopening of Anglesey landmark moves a step closer
Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter
Hopes of reopening one of Anglesey’s best-known landmarks have been delivered a timlely boost after planning permission was granted.
The 27-metre Marquess of Anglesey Column in Llanfairpwll has remained closed to the public since 2012 after it was shut for “essential repairs.”
The early 19th Century monument was built to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo and was previously open for the public to climb its 115 steps and enjoy breathtaking panoramic views of the Menai Strait, Snowdonia and beyond.
But after proposals were put forward by the Anglesey Column Trust for the column’s renovation, including new visitor facilities, a walkway and viewing platform, planning approval has now been confirmed by Anglesey Council planning officers.
The column was initially closed due to damage to the internal staircase, but the application sought to restore the damaged portions with stainless steel fixings and localised timber, while also renovating the adjacent cottage to provide extended visitor facilities including exhibition space and a small cafe.
Also planned is a new access ramped path from the cottage to the column and a new viewing platform with access walkway.
Following a successful initial bid for heritage lottery funding in 2018 to allow for a future full application, the carrying out of the actual work is still dependent on securing such funding with the expected cost set to reach hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The second round will see the HLF consider a final decision on the full funding award of £640,000.
“Over the years the column has become a significant community and tourist attraction and is readily seen standing out on the skyline as one approaches Anglesey across the Britannia Bridge,” stated the supporting documents, describing the column as “the face of Anglesey tourism.”
“Restoration of the column will bring an increase in the visitor numbers once access to the column is provided and this will increase footfall in local shops, hotels and other local visitor attractions.
“The work envisaged will not only bring the monument up to current standards of access and safety but it will allow improvements in the promotion of the column and its heritage to be brought into the digital age.”
A structural report found that while the main stone column structure was in a “structurally stable condition with no evidence of significant structural movement or defects,” the internal timber stairs were “in a very poor condition” and found to be “unsafe and dangerous,” resulting in public access being restricted.
The column – built to commemorate the Battle of Waterloo – was begun in 1816 and finished the following year.
The brass statue of Henry William Paget, Earl of Uxbridge and first Marquess of Anglesey, was added in 1860.
He was second-in-command to Wellington at Waterloo, where he lost his right leg but survived the battle and died in 1854.
The applicants told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “The Anglesey Column Trust is making good progress with the Development Stage of the project and has identified various revenue streams available for fundraising.
“A National Heritage Lottery Fund round two application will be submitted in early 2021, which will need to be match-funded through other sources.”