News in brief: Shadow Minister reiterates Tories’ commitment to M4 relief road
Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Transport, Russell George MS, has reiterated the party’s commitment to build an M4 Relief Road around Newport.
The Tories launched their campaign for May’s Senedd election on Monday with a pledge to work with the UK Government to invest £2bn in Wales’ infrastructure.
The party said that the money would be spent on the M4 Relief Road, upgrades to the A55 and A40, and green charging points.
The Welsh Government abandoned plans to build the road in June 2019 on cost grounds, estimated at anything between £1.3-1.7 billion.
“Residents and businesses throughout South Wales have been crystal clear: they want an M4 Relief Road to tackle congestion and turbocharge the Welsh economy,” Mr George said.
“Despite promising that they would deliver the project, Welsh Labour later unilaterally scrapped it—despite spending £157 million on a public inquiry.
“The most ambitious option to boosting the economy is to give the green light to the relief road. So, to build a better Wales, Welsh Conservatives are fully committed to an M4 Relief Road and would waste no time in delivering it.”
Neath Port Talbot Covid outbreak linked to family gatherings
Swansea Bay health board is has confirmed that 23 Covid infections have been linked to potentially illegal household gatherings in the Briton Ferry area.
Contact tracers have linked 22 cases in Neath Port Talbot and one in Swansea to birthday celebrations and members of an extended family visiting each other indoors, against the current lockdown rules.
The health board also said some of those who’ve tested positive refused to share details of their close contacts.
According to the latest figures from Public Health Wales, there have been 72 new cases of coronavirus in Neath Port Talbot over the last seven days and 121 in Swansea.
“We’re aware of an extended family and friends who have apparently been going in and out of each other’s homes, which is not currently allowed,” Swansea Bay UHB Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid said
“Being so familiar with each other, there has also been little or no compliance with social distancing, wearing facing coverings, etc, which has increased the likelihood of the virus being passed on.”
“We know that the majority of people do stick to the rules, and we thank them for their patience and cooperation,” Dr read added.
“But we are not out of the woods yet. The numbers of positive cases in the Neath Port Talbot and Swansea areas have started to go in the wrong direction again, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure they come back down.
“The rules are there for a reason – to safeguard people and slow the spread. A significant number of cases now are down to household gatherings which should not be happening in the first place.
“You might think that because it’s your family member you’re meeting up with that it doesn’t matter, you couldn’t infect each other. But that’s wrong, and a totally false sense of security.
“The virus doesn’t care if you’re related. In fact, it thrives on close contact. Which is why we’re now dealing with this cluster in the Briton Ferry area.”
Meanwhile, today’s report from PHW confirmed four further deaths due to Covid and 227 new cases of the virus.
All four of the newly recorded deaths are in the Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board.
Today’s figures also include an additional 33 cases identified in tests carried out on 25 January.
Dr Eleri Davies, Incident Director for the Covid outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said: “The reporting of these tests was delayed because of a discrepancy between different data views, which has been investigated and there are now processes in place to help identify such issues.
“Individuals received their results in the normal way, and will have been contacted by their local Test, Trace, Protect (TTP) teams at the time and told to self-isolate.
“The results were split across several health board areas, but with larger numbers (11) in the Betsi Cadwaldr University Health Board.
Merthyr Tydfil is now the only local authority in Wales with a weekly case rate over 100 after 13 further positive tests were recorded since yesterday’s report.
The weekly case rate has jumped to 127.6 per 100,000 people from 112.7 and the weekly positive test proportion in Merthyr is the highest in Wales at 7.1% per 100,000 tests.
The weekly national case rate has fallen to 39.1 from 40.5 the positive test proportion dropped from 3.3% to 3.2%.
Over 17,000 people received a first dose of Covid vaccine yesterday, taking the total since the start for the vaccination programme in Wales to 1,320,188 and 12,700 had a second jab taking the total number to 378,795.
Consultation opens on £10 million flood defence scheme along the River Usk
Emily Gill, local democracy reporter
People in Liswerry can now have their say on a £10 million flood defence scheme along the River Usk, after Natural Resources Wales (NRW) announced the launch of a second consultation period.
The proposals include a new flood gate at Corporation Road, along with a new stretch of highway to improve access where the gate needs to close.
NRW say the proposals would reduce flood risk to more than 2,000 properties and involve bolstering parts of the existing 1,350 metre flood bund along the eastern riverbank.
NRW, working with consultants Arup, hope to submit a formal planning application in the summer.
The operations manager for NRW, Tim England said: “Within just the first few weeks of the New Year, Storm Christoph brought yet more flooding and devastation to many communities in Wales.
“We are advised that with climate change these events are likely to become more frequent. Our assessment of risk, supported by our flood modelling, places Liswerry at high risk for the future.
“During our consultation last September, we heard from many residents and businesses in the affected area, and we’ve had some very valuable and constructive conversations that have helped to shape the plans we have put forward today.”
The proposals would also see improvements to the nearby Wales coast path.
This includes a new footpath within Coronation Park linking up with the Wales Coast Path to create a circular walking route with new viewing platforms across the River Usk.
The consultation for the flood defences will close on April 21.
Government extends Child Development Fund
Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, has announced a sixth month extension of the government’s Child Development Fund.
The £3.5 million fund is available to all local authorities in Wales to enable them to address concerns around developmental delay due to lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The support aims to target delays in speech, language and communication, fine and gross motor skills delay and personal and social development.
“Coronavirus has had – and continues to have – a profound and ongoing impact on all aspects of our lives,” Ms Morgan said.
“The focus will be on boosting early intervention and for the under 5s to address needs as early as possible rather than allowing problems to escalate to a point of crisis or the point of no return.
“This approach will go some way in supporting our youngest children to build resilience as well as attain the critical life skills they will need to get the best start in life to enable them to fulfil their potential.”