News in brief: Union warns schools are being put at risk by ‘failing’ Test, trace protect programme
Health Minister Eluned Morgan has been urged to launch an urgent review into Wales Test, trace protect programme by a school leaders’ trade union.
Following a surge in Covid-19 cases in schools and significant strain on the TTP system, the NAHT Cymru union has written to the minister claiming the system is failing and asking her to step in.
The letter, which was copied to education minister Jeremy Miles, coincided with discussions with the Welsh Government, calling for school mitigation measures to be reviewed.
“There has been a lack of urgent action by the Welsh government to set in motion a plan after the clear failure of the TTP system. We can’t allow this situation to continue to interrupt the continuity of education for our learners,” Laura Doel, director of NAHT Cymru, said.
“NAHT Cymru is receiving reports of no contact at all with TTP, despite having several cases in schools; contradictory advice like telling some siblings/children of positive cases to self-isolate and not others; contact tracers telling parents to ask the school for advice on whether siblings should come into school,” Ms Doel wrote in the letter to the minister.
“A number of LAs have now told schools not to wait for TTP before sending out ‘warn and inform’ letters because the system is at capacity. There are also contradictions on close contacts going for PCR tests because our members are being told that the system cannot keep up with demand.
“TTP is a vital mechanism in keeping schools open. NAHT Cymru requests that an urgent review of the situation be undertaken,” she added.
“If TTP is unable to support schools then I request that health and education officials come back to the table with the employers and trade unions and discuss reviewing the current framework which is predicated on a functioning TTP system.
“It is unacceptable that school leaders are having to take on this function.”
Over the past week over 9,000 cases of Covid-19 were reported among under-20s in Wales, with the vast majority of these in the 10-19 age range.
Writing about the surge in cases at the weekend, Lloyd Warburton, the teenage stats whiz who has been keeping Wales updated with the latest Covid-19 stats since the pandemic began, said schools are not “objectively safe” places and that the trajectory is “unsustainable” and called on the Welsh Government to bring back most of the rules that were in place last summer.
“Schools at the moment are huge spreading vectors for the virus, but they don’t have to be,” he added.
“If the Welsh Government brings back most of the rules we had before summer, schools will be made safer, and less disrupted, than they are now. Sort it out.”
Covid deaths show small increase as infections spike across Wales
Latest figures released by the Office for National Statistics have reported a small increase in the number of Covid deaths recorded in Wales.
Over the week ending 17 September there were 66 deaths involving Covid, an increase from 65 the previous week
The number of deaths registered from all causes was 668, up from 667 over the previous seven days – 91 deaths (15.8%) above the five-year average. Of all deaths registered in the week, 9.9% mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate.
Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the number of deaths recorded by the ONS is 55,698 and of these 8,180 deaths (14.7%) mentioned Covid – 5,542 deaths above the five-year average.
Public Health Wales has reported six further deaths in today’s update, taking the total number of deaths recorded to 5,870.
Four of the newly recorded deaths were reported by the Aneurin Bevan health board area and Betsi Cadwaladr and Cwm Taf Morgannwg each reported on death since yesterday’s update.
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales include the deaths of a hospital patients or care home resident where Covid-19 has been confirmed with a positive laboratory test and the clinician suspects this was a causative factor in the death.
Deaths counted by the ONS are when Covid-19 is mentioned by doctors on the death certificate and which occur in all settings – including hospitals, care homes, hospices and people’s homes.
In the last 24 hours 2,270 people have tested positive for the virus, and over the week ending 23 September a total of 20,513 new cases were reported.
Neath Port Talbot has the highest weekly case rate in Wales and across the UK at 927.3 per 100,000 and nine other Welsh local authorities also feature among the 10 worst affected areas in the UK.
Caerphilly, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf all currently also have weekly rates of over 800.
Tory leader hits back at First Minister’s Labour conference speech
The Welsh Conservatives have hit back at First Minister Mark Drakeford following his speech yesterday at the Labour Party conference in Brighton.
Addressing the party faithful, Mr Drakeford branded the UK Government “the worst we have ever seen” and trumpeted the successes of the Labour in government in Wales, highlighting the introduction of free prescriptions, free childcare, abolishing the right to buy council houses, and putting the railways back under public ownership.
Responding to the speech, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, attacked Labour’s record in government and said Mr Drakeford’s “failed socialists policies continue to hold back the true potential of this great nation”.
“Sadly, the only thing we’re leading in at the moment is longest waiting times for the NHS on record, the lowest wages in Britain and the long waits for any roads to be built. This is not a record to boast about,” he added.
“At a time when our NHS needs us more than ever, we see 8000 patients spending longer than 12 hours in A&E, 1-in-5 on a waiting list for treatment and nearly 80% of amber ambulance calls taking 30+ mins, but this is not the new normal – this is the Labour-run NHS.
“The First Minister said progressive socialism is in action in Wales and that he’s tackling the climate crisis, yet all we’ve seen so far is words and no action.
“Wales needs more than performative actions and hollow words, it needs a real agenda for change with a proper plan for our NHS, infrastructure and the environment. It’s high time we saw this and a radical plan for change that reignites the Welsh economy and doesn’t punish success.”
Transport for Wales confirms start dates for additional train services
Transport for Wales (TfW) has confirmed dates for the introduction of additional train services across the Wales and Borders route over the next three years.
The new services were originally announced in 2018 but TfW has revised the start dates for a number of services due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The new timetable for additional services, starting from December 2022 is:
Cardiff to Cheltenham (one train per hour to all stations)
Heart of Wales Line (one additional service per day to all stations)
Liverpool to Llandudno (new hourly service) – from December 2023 (revised)
Extension to the current Manchester Airport to Llandudno service – from December 2023 (revised)
Aberystwyth to Shrewsbury (a one train per hour to all stations) – from May 2024 (revised)
TfW also says an hourly service between Liverpool and Shrewsbury will be be delivered by December 2024.
“It is not unique to us in Wales, but the pandemic continues to have a massive impact on all of us and I’m proud of the way we kept key workers moving during the darkest days,” TfW Planning and Performance Director, Colin Lea, told railuk.com.
“As we now confidently move forward, we are beginning to see how post pandemic travel patterns may turn out. Leisure travel is already returning quickly but commuting traffic will most likely take longer to return, as many of us adapt to flexible working.
“These new patterns of travel may help us smooth demand for travel over wider time periods and help alleviate some of our traditionally very busy flows.”
New policy requires developers to consider climate change risks in planning applications
Future building developments in Wales will have to take into account flooding and coastal erosion risk caused by climate change the Welsh Government has confirmed today.
Under the government’s new planning policy advice, developers will have to work with flood risk and coastal erosion maps that have been made available from today that not only show current risk levels, but also the risk posed by climate change.
The new planning policy advice known as Technical Advice Note 15, or TAN 15 for short, will inform future local development plans and decisions on planning applications in areas at risk of flooding and coastal erosion.
“Flood risk and coastal erosion in Wales is increasing as a result of climate change,” Climate Change Minister Julie James said.
“Serious flooding events are becoming more frequent and some areas currently at little risk will become vulnerable to flooding as our climate continues to change.
“As the National Strategy for Flood and Coastal Erosion Risk Management in Wales recognises, the planning system can help communities be more resilient to the effects of climate change by locating development in areas away from risk of flooding.
“Improved knowledge of the places which will be at risk in the future can help keep people safe, by preventing the damage and disruption to homes, workplaces and infrastructure that flooding can cause.”
From 1 December when the new policy comes into force, all planning applications awaiting a decision, and all new planning applications, will be assessed against the new advice and map.
The Flood Map for Planning is published by Natural Resources Wales and will be updated in May and November every year, to reflect the latest modelling and data on flood risks.