News in brief: Wales hits one million vaccine milestone
One million doses of the coronavirus vaccine have been administered across Wales, meaning more than one in three of the Welsh adult population have received at least one dose.
Today’s figures data shows 916,316 people – over 38% of Wales’ adult population – have received at least one dose. Combined with the 89,053 second doses also delivered, 1,005,389 doses altogether have been administered since the start of the rollout on 8 December.
Today’s figures also confirm that in the last 12 weeks 91.2% of over 80s have been vaccinated along with 93.4% of 75 – 79 year olds, 92.9% of 70 – 74 year olds and over 87.6% of those classed as clinically extreme vulnerable
In addition, more than 162,941 front-line health and social care workers have also received jabs.
“One million doses delivered is a fantastic testament to the incredible hard-work and efforts of all those involved in Wales’ vaccine roll-out. To have reached such an incredible marker within just 12 weeks of the first vaccines arriving in the country should not be underestimated,” Health Minister Vaughan Gething said.
“Our vaccine programme continues at pace, and as long as supplies allow, we will vaccinate every adult by the end of July. I want to reassure people that no one will be left behind – anyone who wants a vaccine will get one.
“Once someone has had the vaccine, we ask everyone to follow the same steps to keep themselves and Wales safe; wear a mask, keep a 2m distance, wash your hands regularly and keep rooms as well ventilated as possible.”
Public Health Wales has confirmed 16 further deaths due to Covid-19 and 198 new cases of the virus in its latest daily report.
Nine of the newly reported deaths were in the Cardiff and Vales health board area.
Betsi Cadwaladr reported three further deaths since yesterday’s report and there were two in Cwm Taf Morgannwg and one person died in both Powys and Swansea Bay.
All local authority areas in Wales are currently reporting weekly case rates of under 100 per 100,000 people.
The local authority with the highest weekly case rate is Anglesey, where 95.7 people have tested positive for the virus in the past seven days, down from 108.5 yesterday.
Across Wales the case rate has dropped from 75.2 to 71.6 since yesterday and the weekly positive test proportion has fallen to 6.6% from 6.8% per 100,000 tests since yesterday’s report.
Welsh trade delegation to seek closer ties with Basque Country
The Welsh Government will be supporting ten businesses from across Wales to forge new trade links and strengthen existing ties with the Basque Country via a virtual trade mission that starts on St David’s Day.
The businesses, from Wales’ life sciences and healthcare sectors, are attending the virtual trade mission, which takes place between 1 and 12 March, to network, exchange knowledge and develop trading and collaborative relationships with a range of potential partners and customers in the Basque Country.
The Basque Country is identified as a priority partner region in the government’s International Strategy, and this relationship was formalised in July 2018 with the signing of a memorandum of understanding.
Participants include companies being supported through a new pilot initiative for life sciences aimed at bringing companies together to share best practice and promote exports in this sector. The mission will build on the already close ties with Basque Trade & Invest and the Basque healthcare cluster to explore potential trade and opportunities to collaborate in technology and research.
To date, there have been several notable examples of successful collaboration between businesses in Wales and the Basque Country, including Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles (CAF) who invested in Wales and is now manufacturing trains for the South Wales Metro.
The companies will be connected and introduced to potential business partners virtually. This will help Welsh and Basque companies engage and develop relationships, with the aim of meeting face to face when eventually possible.
“St David’s Day provides us with a great opportunity to celebrate the fantastic companies we have here in Wales and showcase their goods and services to other parts of the world,” Economy Minister Ken Skates said.
“I am delighted that we are working jointly to deliver this event with our colleagues in the Basque Country, which has a strong manufacturing base and focus on science and innovation, making it a key partner for Wales. We value the strong links that we have developed over the years, especially for trade and investment, and long may this continue.
“I am proud to see that there are so many Welsh businesses that continue to recognise the opportunities that lie beyond our border. This trade mission will provide the Welsh delegation with a unique opportunity to showcase their world-leading products and services, alongside our academic expertise and vibrant research culture that has made life sciences such a key growth area in Wales.”
New deal secures future of Blaenau Gwent theatre
Saul Cooke-Black, local democracy reporter
A theatre in Blaenau Gwent is to be run by a cultural trust, securing the future of the facility.
Blaenau Gwent council has agreed an alternative service delivery arrangement for The Metropole in Abertillery which will see it run by the Awen Cultural Trust, a charitable organisation which aims to enhance cultural opportunities.
It is planning “a bright future” for the theatre after Covid-19 restrictions are lifted, which will include professional and community events and keeping the performing arts alive in the area.
The theatre is currently managed by the Aneurin Leisure Trust, and staff members will be retained to oversee the day-to-day operations, hire and community engagement.
Blaenau Gwent council’s executive committee approved the alternative delivery option at a meeting on Wednesday.
Richard Hughes, chief executive of Awen Cultural Trust, said the organisation is delighted to be working in partnership with Blaenau Gwent council to secure “a vibrant future for The Met”.
“As we look towards a brighter year ahead, when we hope theatres and performance spaces can safely reopen, we look forward to working with the staff at The Met, to further develop its excellent programme of professional events, which have been so well supported by those living in the local area over the years,” he said.
“We also look forward to getting to know the local choirs, drama societies, musicians, dance schools and other groups who contribute so much to the cultural life and heritage of Abertillery, so they too can continue to be part of The Met’s ongoing programme of community events.
“There is a genuine sense of excitement at Awen at bringing a new team, who share our values and commitment to arts and culture into our organisation, and together we will be working towards a seamless transition over the next few months.
“On a personal note, having worked in Abertillery and The Met itself for many years, it’s wonderful to be able to do so again and work alongside this great community.”
Cllr Joanne Collins, executive member for education with responsibility for managing the relationship with the Aneurin Leisure Trust, said the council is “committed to the continuation of leisure services and art and cultural opportunities here in Blaenau Gwent”.
“It’s exciting that by working in partnership and agreeing this way forward with Awen Cultural Trust we are able to retain this important facility for Abertillery and surrounding areas,” she said.
Phill Sykes, operations director of Aneurin Leisure Trust said it is “a great development for The Met”.
“Our staff are really looking forward to continuing their excellent work of bringing exciting cultural events to the community across Blaenau Gwent,” he said.
On Wednesday Rhondda Cynon Taf council handed over the lease of the Muni Arts Centre in Pontypridd to the Awen Cultural Trust, which is planning a £4.5m investment in the building.
Propel confirm Gwynedd councillor as Senedd election candidate
Propel Wales has announced that local Councillor Peter Read will stand as its candidate in Dwyfor Meirionydd, in Gwynedd in May’s Senedd election.
Councillor Reid is Gwynedd County Council’s disability champion and has lived in Dwyfor Meirionydd all his life.
Mr Read was elected to Gwynedd County Council for the first time in 2008, when fighting Plaid Cymru’s plans to close local schools. Cllr Read came to public prominence in 1995, when he survived a hand gliding accident, leaving him with as a paraplegic. If elected, Cllr Read will be the first disabled person elected to the Senedd.
Leader of Propel Wales, Neil McEvoy said: “Wales needs Champions and Dwyfor Meirionydd has one in Peter Read. In his life Peter has faced real adversity and has come through. He is a strong man of principle who will fight injustice.”
Mr Read said: “ I am a proud Welshman and it is a privilege to put myself as candidate in Dwyfor Meirionydd. Where I was born and bred. I will never forget all the love and support I received after my accident all those years ago. The accident made me the man I am today and I want to give something back, being a strong voice in the Senedd.
“I owe a great deal to the NHS. I will fight tooth and nail to improve on the services that are presently available to the people of Dwyfor Meirionydd. Many people in Meirionydd are disadvantaged by having to travel up to 70 miles to access hospital healthcare. These needs could be made available on a more local basis.”