News in brief: Tory MP urges watchdog to block the government’s ban on private PCR tests for travellers in Wales
A Welsh Conservative MP has called for an investigation by the monopolies watchdog into the Welsh Government’s requirement that travellers entering Wales from abroad must take Covid PCR tests via the NHS.
Last month the government insisted people must book their mandatory tests via the NHS due to concerns about the quality of services offered by some private companies listed on the UK Government’s test booking portal.
David TC Davies, MP for Monmouth says the NHS tests cost more “than people need to pay” and says travellers should be able to “shop around” to save money on the tests that currently cost £68 via the NHS.
Mr Davies said the Welsh government should recognise that “people have a right to go on holiday and they have not got the right to try to make it difficult” and called for travellers in Wales to “have exactly the same access to cheaper private providers as the UK government quite rightly do in England.”
On Tuesday the UK government confirmed it was removing over 50 private companies offering PCR Covid tests from the booking portal and a further 82 companies were warned they face the axe for advertising misleading prices, following a review by the Competitions and Market Authority.
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, said users reported issues, “including booked tests not being delivered and people not being notified of results.”
In a statement issued last month highlighting problems with private tests providers, Ms Morgan said: “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.”
Under current Covid restrictions, travellers must book and pay for mandatory PCR tests to be taken following their arrival to Wales.
All travellers returning from green- and amber-list countries must take a test before they depart for the UK, and a further PCR test on their second day after arriving home.
Those who have not been fully vaccinated must also self-isolate and take a test on day eight if they visited an amber-list country.
Four new Covid deaths reported as Swansea records highest case rate in Wales
Public Health Wales has confirmed four further deaths due to coronavirus and 1,705 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Three of the newly recorded deaths were in the Besti Cadwaladr health board area and the other was in Swansea Bay, taking the total number of people who have died in Wales due to the virus to 5,662.
Following a recent surge in new cases, Swansea currently has the highest weekly case rate and test positivity rate in the country.
Over the seven days up to 20 August, 1,141 people have tested positive for Covid in Swansea taking the case rate to 462 per 100,00 people – an increase of 56.3 since yesterday’s report. The test positivity percentage has also risen to 21.3% per 100,000 tests from 20.1% yesterday.
The national case rate has jumped to 321.7 from 306.1 in the last 24 hours and the test rate is up from 17% to 17.4%.
Meanwhile, the number of patients with confirmed Covid in hospital beds in Wales has risen by 47% in the last week.
The latest figures released by Digital Health and Care Wales recorded 195 Covid patients across Wales in the seven days up to 23 August.
Overall, there are 278 Covid patients in hospital beds, the highest daily figure since 18 April and the daily average was 239 over the week compared with 192 the week before.
The figures also include recovering patients and those suspected of having Covid but waiting for test results.
Admissions to hospitals of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases are running at a daily seven-day average of 21, slightly up on the last few weeks and the highest since late July.
Wales boss fumes at Russia switch for Belarus game
Wales boss Robert Page has criticised Uefa’s decision to stage the World Cup qualifier against Belarus next Month in Russia.
The match on 5 September, which will be played behind closed doors, is being staged at a neutral venue as teams from the UK and the EU are unable to fly into Belarus because of sanctions against their government.
Wales appeal against the decision was dismissed by the governing body, leaving them facing a 4,000-mile round trip.
“Uefa could have picked any neutral venue but they’ve decided on Kazan,” Page said. “First and foremost we sympathise with the Belarusians, absolutely. But organising it from a financial and logistical point of view is a nightmare.
“We’ve got to pick a bigger squad as we all need visas – just in case there are injuries this weekend. The work that has gone into it is crazy. I have never seen anything like it – the amount of work, forms to fill in, it’s crazy. We tried to appeal but were shot down straight away. Uefa have decided that’s what we have to do and we have to get on with it.”
Owners of Newport chip manufacturer warn takeover deal could fall through
The Chinese company behind the takeover of Newport Wafer Fab, the UK’s largest chip manufacturing facility, has warned its shareholders the deal could be called off.
Wingtech Technologies, based in Shanghai, acquired Newport Wafer Fab for around £63 million through a Dutch subsidiary it owns called Nexperia in July but warned shareholder last week that “domestic and foreign industry policies” present a risk to the takeover.
The UK government is currently reviewing the deal on national security grounds, amid growing rumours that it could be unwound and Ron Black, the former CEO of Imagination Technologies which used to design chips for Apple, has revealed he is part of a consortium that is interested in buying the business off Nexperia if the sale is blocked
Newport Wafer Fab employs around 400 people and produces around 8,000 silicon wafers a week. The wafers are sections of silicon that circuit patterns are printed on to build chips.
Liam Randall, local democracy reporter
Long-awaited cameras which are set to be used to catch and fine fly-tippers in Wrexham have finally arrived.
Wrexham Council first raised the idea of using technology as a deterrent to stop people dumping rubbish down country lanes and other hotspots in January.
The move was approved by senior politicians the following month in response to a sharp spike in fly-tipping in the county borough during the coronavirus pandemic.
Members of the local authority’s ruling executive board said it would result in anyone found responsible for abandoning rubbish being hit with a fine of up to £400.
However, questions were raised by backbench councillors after the cameras failed to materialise in the following months.
The council has now confirmed it has taken receipt of the devices after blaming supply issues for the delay, although it admitted it could be weeks before they are put into action.
A spokesman for the authority said: “Prior to deployment we needed to make sure that we had the correct legal protocols and IT in place.
“It’s vital that when we deploy the cameras we are able to take the appropriate action and fine those responsible for fly tipping.
“A decision was made at executive board last year to introduce fixed penalty notices for fly tipping, this has allowed us to fine fly-tippers up to £400 under a fixed penalty notice.
“Our cameras will be a great deterrent against instances of fly tipping. The message is simple – If you fly tip, expect to get caught.”
An e-mail to councillors seen by the Local Democracy Reporting Service states the cameras are likely to be rolled out “over the coming weeks”.
It comes as enforcement officers are currently being trained to use them.
Figures covering the period between April to September 2020 show there were 877 reports of fly-tipping in the area, compared to 491 over the same timeframe the previous year.
Officials said fly-tipping reports from members of the public would be used to identify hotspot areas.
Deputy council leader David A Bithell added the authority would be adopting a firm stance against offenders after it was previously criticised for failing to take action.
He said: “We’ve tried many campaigns and offered general advice to those who are continuing to fly tip but enough is enough now and we’re actively going after offenders.
“It’s not only some residents who are using their cars to illegally dump their rubbish but also the ‘man in a van’ type of offender who offers their services for skip runs, often on Facebook or similar sites, then promptly drives to a secluded area to just dump it.
“We cannot put up with it anymore and we will now be using resources not only to clear any fly tipping but also to fine those responsible.”
Anyone who comes across fly-tipping is asked to report it online here or by calling the council directly.