News in Brief: ‘Serious concern’ over delays to Welsh Border Control Posts
The UK Government has come under fire following major delays to the construction of two border control posts in Wales.
A total of 30 BCPs are being built across the UK to enable physical checks to be carried out on certain goods entering the UK from the EU as required under the Brexit trade deal but the site in Holyhead is not expected to be fully operational until at least next year and a second site in Pembrokeshire has yet to be identified.
In March the UK Government announced the introduction of checks on imports from the EU would be delayed by six months, because the network of border posts would not be ready in time.
Responding to a question from Plaid Cymru MP Ben Lake during the Welsh Affairs Committee session on ‘Key infrastructure issues for Wales’, Secretary of State for Wales, Simon Hart MP, admitted the facility for Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks on animal goods and plants arriving in Holyhead from the Republic of Ireland won’t be in place “until 2022 or even 2023 at a push”.
Mr Hart also described the search for a location in Pembrokeshire as an “ongoing saga” as no site has been identified yet, and that it will be “a significant period of time before that site or sites is functionable”.
The committee was also told livestock and animal goods arriving into Welsh ports could be diverted to the Warrington Inland Border Facility due to the lack of preparation.
“Five years since the Brexit referendum and four years since the UK Government formally committed to leaving the Single Market and Customs Union, it is a cause for serious concern that crucial infrastructure is still not in place in Welsh ports, and certain facilities may not be fully functioning by the new deadline of 1 January 2022,” Mr Lake said.
“The lack of urgency is disappointing, and the fact that the Government has not yet made an assessment of the impact that further delays will have on Welsh ports, even while acknowledging that such a delay is inevitable, is worrying. Freight companies and their supply chains need to know the context in which they will be working in five months’ time.
“Forward planning is crucial if businesses can adapt to the changes brought by leaving the Single Market and Customs Union. The UK Government’s failure is currently making it impossible for them to do so.”
Mr Hart had previously told the Committee on 5 November 2020 that progress on border infrastructure had been “good”, and that there is an expectation that the deadline of July 2021 “can be met”. The Secretary of State then said that construction is “under way” and that, on Holyhead in particular, he was “as confident as I can be that that is going to be in place” by the deadline this month.
One further Covid death reported as 13 local authorities record case rates of over 100
Public Health Wales has confirmed one further death due to Covid-19 and 655 new infections in today’s update.
The newly reported death was in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area and takes the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 to 5,579.
Conwy (56) recorded the highest number of new cases in the last 24 hours, followed by Cardiff and Wrexham, both with 47.
13 of 22 local authorities currently have weekly case rates over 100, with Wrexham’s the worst at 312.6 per 100,000 people, up from 280.2 yesterday.
The positivity rate in Wrexham is also the highest in Wales country at 13.1% per 100,000 tests, a rise of 0.8% in the last day.
The national case rate is 122.8, up from 117 yesterday and the test positivity rate increased by 0.2% to 6.5%.
New investment announced for cancer screening programme
The Welsh Government has confirmed funding of £7.8m for new imaging equipment for Breast Test Wales.
The new funding, spread over the next two years, will be allocated to replace mobile units, upgrades to centres and secure new 3D and biopsy equipment.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in Wales in women, over 70% of breast cancers are diagnosed at stage one or two in Wales and the Breast Test Wales programme, which usually screen 110,000 woman a year, provides a vital service in helping early detection.
The service run by Public Health Wales invites woman aged between 50 and 70 years for screening every three years and looks for breast cancer before symptoms show using mammograms.
“This investment will ensure that Breast Test Wales can continue to offer a high quality breast screening service using state of the art equipment and excellent facilities,” Dean Phillips – Head of Programme for Breast Test Wales said.
“We are absolutely delighted that Welsh Government has committed this funding to the breast screening programme in Wales. This will enable our staff to continue to offer this important service in Wales as locally as possible and on high quality equipment, which is great news.”
Leading medic calls for masks to remain in healthcare settings in Wales
The Welsh Government is being urged to continue to require the wearing of facemasks in healthcare settings, despite the UK government’s decision to make wearing masks optional in England later this month.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that all coronavirus restrictions will be rolled back in England from 19 July 2021, including social distancing and the wearing of mask.
British Medical Association Wales chairman, Dr David Bailey, told BBC Wales removing all rules would be the “wrong way to go” for healthcare settings in Wales and called for “flexibility” from the government over future face mask rules.
“I think we would certainly strongly suggest that would be the wrong way to go in healthcare settings,” Dr Bailey said.
“They’ve been proven to help and there is still a lot of Covid in the community,” he added.
New funding announced for training courses for jobs in the green economy
The Welsh Government has awarded £2 million to further education colleges to provide training for jobs in the green economy.
The funding is part of the Welsh Government’s Personal Learning Accounts programme, which supports people in lower-income jobs to retrain and move into longer term, skilled jobs with higher earnings.
Six colleges have been awarded funding to deliver the courses, which will include areas such as electric and hybrid cars, environmentally-friendly heating systems and e-bikes.
The courses will be available from level 2 to level 5, with most courses at level 3. The courses are part-time and flexible, designed for study around other commitments.
The courses will be open to all adults over 19 who earn under £26,000 a year, including employees currently on furlough, or on a zero hours contract, or whose job is at risk.
The colleges awarded funding are Gower College Swansea, Pembrokeshire College, Coleg Sir Gar, Grwp Llandrillo Menai, Cardiff and Vale College and Bridgend College.
“Jobs in the green economy will continue to increase in the future, as we intensify our actions to fight climate change, such as the shift towards more environmentally-friendly transport. Our further education colleges will be instrumental in ensuring we have skilled workers with the expertise to meet the demand from employer, “Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles, said.