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News in brief: Vaccine numbers in Wales reach record high

06 Feb 2021 11 minutes Read
Picture by Dr. Eilir Hughes

Close to 34,000 people were vaccinated in Wales over the last 24 hours, the highest number since the rollout began on 8 December.

The total receiving a first dose of vaccine climbed to 556,997 by yesterday evening – up 33,995, the best single day total so far.

Overall, 17.7% of the population of Wales has now received at least one jab.

Reacting to the latest figures, health Minister Vaughan Gething tweeted: “Another record day on vaccine roll out in Wales – nearly 34k increase on yesterday. Very proud of what our NHS led programme is doing to help Keep Wales Safe.”


Following criticism at the slow pace of the programme initially, Wales is now vaccinating more people per head of population than all the other UK nations, based on the daily rolling average of first doses.

Breaking down the figures, 155,884 of the over-80s – 84.7% – have now received at least one dose of the vaccine, as have 68.4% of those aged 75 to 79 and nearly 42.9% of those aged 70 to 74.

Meanwhile, 78.2% of care home residents have had their first dose and  81.5% of care home workers.

The government is aiming to vaccinate close to 750,000 people – including health workers and people aged over 70 – by the middle of February.

The vaccine rollout will be further boosted by the addition of just under 100 additional military personnel.

Following talks between the Welsh and UK Government’s, 96 service men and woman, including up to 20 medics, will support the vaccination programme under the terms of a Military Aid to Civil Authorities agreement.

The military personel will be deployed from today and are expected to offer support until the end of April.

The agreement will be reviewed in mid-February, along with the support from the 92 service personnel who have been supporting the vaccine programme since January.

Their deployment is set to conclude on 28 February.

A further 49 people have died in Wales with coronavirus, according to the latest figures from Public Health Wales.

PHW has also confirmed 675 new positive tests for the virus in the last 24 hours.

Of the newly reported deaths, 23 were in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area, 11 were reported in Cwm Taf Morgannwg health board area, and there were six in Cardiff and Vale and three in Aneurin Bevan, Swansea Bay and Hywel Dda.

Cardiff and Rhondda Cynon Taf both recorded 67 new cases since yesterday’s report and there were 56 in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Wrexham has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 272.1 per 100,000 people, down from 309.7 yesterday. It also has the highest positive test rate at 17.9% per 100,000 tests over the last week , down from 20.3%. yesterday.

The overall weekly case rate for Wales is currently 122.6 and the positive test proportion is 10.5%.

Classroom. Photo by Taken from Pixabay

Schools could stay shut unless ‘frightening’ transmission rates slow down

Gareth Williams, local democracy reporter

Anglesey Council’s leader says that the island’s schools could remain shut unless ‘frightening’ covid transmission rates reduce significantly over the coming weeks.

Blamed on “creeping complacency” in both the workplace and social interaction, Ynys Môn bucked the Welsh trend in being the only county to show an actual increase in cases last week, leading to council chiefs issuing a plea on residents to respond to the “extremely concerning” situation.

Seven day Covid-19 case rates, up to January 30, fell in every Welsh council area apart from Anglesey, where the rate of new cases per 100,000 people rose from 139.9 to 141.3.

And with the soaring number of cases hitting 440 in January –  the highest since the pandemic began and more than both November and December combined – the island now ranks fourth highest rate in the whole of Wales.

With more and more positive cases linked to by family or friends visiting each other socially, council chiefs say that transmission within the workplace is also growing with “complacency beginning to creep in” as staff continue to car share and fail to stick to social distancing during breaks and in rest areas.

After another 25 cases were recorded on this island today (Friday), chief executive Annwen Morgan, said: “Less than a fortnight ago, Anglesey had the lowest number of Coronavirus cases throughout Wales but the situation has changed very quickly.

“Coronavirus is prevalent across the whole island with cases being confirmed in people of all ages – young and old.

‘Startling’

“The change here has been startling and despite all our efforts, things do not seem to be improving at present.”

The council leader told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that transmission within the workplace remains high at 21%, according to the TTP teams, with household transmission accounting for another 18% of cases.

Cllr Llinos Medi went on to say, “The complex care setting has seen a significant increase in cases for both residents and staff.

“Cases are highest among the 20-39’s and 50-59’s, but every age group has been impacted.

“The virus is much more prevalent now across Anglesey, with patterns in line with a lack of social distancing and people visiting others outside of their bubble.”

With transmission also recorded at an unidentified care home on the island, she could not rule out keeping Anglesey’s schools closed despite an expectation that the Welsh Government will allow at least some primary school children to attend from February 22.

“Last summer we decided not to open schools at the same time as the rest of Wales following an outbreak at 2Sisters in Llangefni and I will do the same thing again if we’re not comfortable that its safe to do so.

“I want everyone to know that the safety of children and the school sector is at the forefront of our minds.”

According to TTP staff, its also believed that some of the residents contacted are not sharing vital information which could help prevent the spread of the virus.

It is an offence to give false or misleading information to a contract tracer and anyone believed to be doing so will be reported to North Wales Police.

‘Pressure’

Cllr Medi concluded, “The current high number of cases is putting a huge amount of pressure of Ysbyty Gwynedd and, sadly, we understand that more Anglesey residents have died.”

“Breaking the rules will only lead to more Coronavirus cases and sorrow for other families. I can’t stress enough how important it is for people to follow the Welsh Government guidance to help protect themselves, their family, friends and communities.”

The Betsi Cadwaladr health board, meanwhile, confirmed on Friday that it plans to vaccinate another 2,000 people in the Holyhead area next week.

The four day drive, between Thursday and Sunday at the town’s Ysbyty Penrhos Stanley, is aimed towards helping reach the target of vaccinating the top four priority groups by mid February.

Photo by Clem Onojeghuo on Unsplash

£55 million funding package for active travel unveiled

The Welsh Government have unveiled a £55 million funding package for councils to encourage people to take up healthier travel for short local journeys.

The 2021 to 2022 budget has allocated more than £55 million to be spent on active travel, an increase of £20 million from last year – up from £5 million in 2016 at the start of this Welsh Government term.

The big rise in investment is part of a major push to support sustainable transport as part of Welsh Government’s action on climate change.

The latest increase represents an eleven-fold increase in the dedicated budget for investment in Active Travel in the last five years.

Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said: “Changing travel habits is not easy to achieve but we have to make a big effort if we are to tackle our health crisis and our climate crisis. We want local authorities to be ambitious in their plans, and to reach out to people who currently would not consider swapping a local car journey for a bike ride or a journey on foot and design safe routes that would encourage them to give it a try.”

The new funding is part of a reform package which includes a major consultation exercise in every local authority area to create schemes that make it more attractive to walk and cycle.

Councils have been invited to apply for projects that can significantly increase the numbers of people walking and cycling in their areas.

Councils will also be encouraged to work together to better connect places that may happen to lie in different council areas, but where many people travel between.

Dafydd Llywelyn, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Dyfed-Powys.

Dyfed-Powys Police set new budget

Richard Youle, local democracy reporter

Dyfed-Powys Police will spend £119.8 million on day-to-day costs in 2021-22, more than half of which will come from council taxpayers in the area.

This is nearly £6 million more than the current financial year and comprises a central Government grant of £59.9 million – 5.2% more than this year – and £62.3 million from the council tax precept, which is a 5.76% hike.

It means band D householders in Carmarthenshire, Pembrokeshire, Powys and Ceredigion will contribute £275.56p to policing in their area.

It comes as the budget was set by the Dyfed Powys Police and Crime Panel, who listened to police commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn make his case for the precept rise and then voted in favour of it, with only one abstention.

“Ideally I would like to see central funding being a bigger proportion of this investment,” said Mr Llywelyn.

He also said he had considered a public consultation on the proposed precept rise, in which 64% of respondents said they would be willing to pay an extra £1.50 or £2 each month.

Dyfed-Powys Police aims to make savings of £1.59 million in 2021-22 – and Mr Llywelyn called for a share of any central Government under-spends during 2020-21.

Panel member Cllr Keith Evans said a finance group he was part of had balanced the impact of the proposed precept rise – particularly in light of the difficulties faced by many people during the coronavirus pandemic – against the commissioner’s funding request.

The group had recommended the 5.76% rise should be approved.

The force is also set to spend £14.9 million on capital schemes – almost double the current year – which will require borrowing and a further draw on reserves.

Cllr Evans branded an £85,000 capital grant from the UK Government “a paltry sum” compared to this year’s grant of £325,000.

Cllr John Prosser – the sole abstainer – said “a huge number of residents” had lost their jobs or been furloughed during the Covid crisis.

“This is a once in a lifetime event,” he said. “I’m not quite sure that I can honestly sit here and say this is the time we should do this.”

Cllr Prosser said many more “just about managing” households, who weren’t on benefits or council tax relief, were visiting the food bank in Llanelli where he is a trustee.

He asked the commissioner if capital schemes could be suspended or put back a year to save money.

Mr Llywelyn said delaying such projects would add to construction and associated costs, and pointed out that Cllr Prosser’s home town would be benefiting from a new policing hub costing £15 million to £20 million.

“The Llanelli one has been on the cards for the best part of 15 years,” he said.

Dyfed-Powys Police currently has 1,165 police officers, 143 community support officers, and 674 support staff. An additional 42 police officers are to be recruited in 2021-22.

The report before the panel said recorded crimes fell considerably last March when Wales went into lockdown, but then returned to pre-pandemic levels.

One area of huge growth has been fraud and cybercrime, with around 3,500 reports in the first nine months of 2020-21 compared to 2,000 in the whole of the preceding year.

Meanwhile, the force has dealt with 37 homicides since 2014.

The report said the force area was still considered to be among the safest places to live in England and Wales, and 64% of those who responded to a survey felt Dyfed-Powys Police was doing a good or excellent job.

UK Government inspectors judged the force as “good” in one key area and “requires improvement” in two others during a 2018 inspection. The next inspection is due to take place shortly.

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