News in brief: Wales records first week without a death due to Covid since the start of the pandemic
New weekly figures released by the Office for National Statistics have confirmed there have been no deaths registered involving Covid-19 in Wales for the first time since the pandemic began in March last year.
For the week ending 18 June a total of 573 deaths were registered from all causes, 63 fewer deaths than the previous week and 15 (2.6%) below the five-year average.
One death linked to Covid had been recorded the previous week.
In England, where the surge in Delta variant cases is causing increasing concern, 102 deaths involving Covid were reported for the seven days covered by the latest study, an increase of 19 from the previous week.
The total number of deaths decreased from 9,554 to 8,874, which was 71 more deaths (0.8% higher) than the five-year average.
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.
Since the start of the pandemic the ONS has recorded 47,714 deaths from all causes in Wales and of these 7,899 deaths (16.6%) mentioned Covid-19 – 4,906 deaths above the five-year average.
Public Health Wales
The daily figures released by Public Health Wales only 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.
PHW reported 282 new positive tests for the virus but no new deaths in today’s update, meaning the total number remains 5,575.
Cardiff (40) reported the highest number of new positive tests for coronavirus in the last 24 hours, followed by Flintshire (27) and Denbighshire (21).
The national weekly case rate has risen from 53.1 per 100,000 people to 58.7, with three local authorities covered by the Betsi Cadwaladr health board recording the highest case rates in Wales.
Flintshire’s rate rose to 145.5 from 142.9 in yesterday’s stats, Denbighshire has recorded the second highest rate at 112.9, with Wrexham just behind on 112.5.
The positivity rate in Flintshire is also the worst in Wales at 8.1% per 100,000 tests, more than double the national average of 3.9%.
Welsh Government accused of passing the buck over schools Covid measures
The government has been accused of “passing the buck” following the announcement yesterday that schools and universities Wales will be able to decide their own Covid rules.
Education Minister Jeremy Miles revealed that after the summer break, education establishments will be able to “escalate and de-escalate” Covid restrictions depending on the local risk.
Responding to the proposals, Welsh Conservative shadow education minister, Laura Anne Jones MS said: “Our children have been hit incredibly hard by the pandemic and it’s clear we will have to learn to live with this virus as we move forward.
“The immediate priority should be the return of normality to the classroom, with an end to whole year groups being sent home, and ensuring young people receive the sort of constructive learning environment they need.
“We can’t afford for whole communities to be left behind thanks to a postcode lottery in education provision, and Labour ministers need to show leadership on this issue, and not pass the buck and responsibility for decision-making on to staff and schools that are already under enormous pressure.”
Speaking at Monday’s Covid press briefing, Mr Miles said: “These changes do not mean a wholesale removal of mitigating measures, but are about our schools, colleges and universities being able to make decisions based on the balance of harms and minimising disruption to learning – all within the wider context of our successful vaccine programme and relatively low case numbers.”
“While we will not simply be back to normal by September, we will look to gradually ease the extraordinary measures we’ve had to put in place. Our guiding principle has to be a move towards education being enabled to operate as ‘normally’ as possible in the autumn.
“Currently, all education settings follow national guidance. However, as we move through the pandemic there will be a need to move to a more localised approach, rather than a blanket approach.”
New amendments add holiday hotspots to travel ‘green list’
Health Minister Eluned Morgan has confirmed the latest amendments to the Covid travel regulations which has seen 18 destinations added to the green list of countries where people won’t have to isolate on their return to the UK.
The new additions to the ‘green list are Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Balearic Islands, Barbados, Bermuda, British Antarctic Territory, British Indian Ocean Territory, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Madeira, Malta, Montserrat, Pitcairn and Turks and Caicos Islands.
Meanwhile the Spanish government has announced new restrictions on UK travellers to the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza, Menorca and Mallorca, requiring everyone arriving in the country to have a recent negative PCR test unless they are fully vaccinated.
Malta has also updated its travel restrictions and will only permit UK visitors who are fully vaccinated from tomorrow.
The Dominican Republic, Eritrea, Haiti, Mongolia, Tunisia and Uganda have all been added the “red list” of countries and territories that require 10 days of quarantine upon return to the UK.
Residents unhappy at new school proposals
Anthony Lewis, local democracy reporter
Anger has been expressed on behalf of residents in part of Merthyr Tydfil who say they weren’t consulted properly on a new Catholic school being built on the “only green space” they have got.
A Gurnos resident reflected the concerns of his community as well as Penydarren and Galon Uchaf about the £28m plans which involve closing St Aloysius Roman Catholic (RC) Primary, St Illtyd’s RC Primary and St Mary’s RC Primary schools and Bishop Hedley RC High School (BHHS) from September 2022, creating a new 3-16 all through Catholic school.
The site chosen was land south of the “Greenie” west of Galon Uchaf Road and the decision was made to go with an alternative configuration of the whole site with the school building now being located on the current Greenie playing fields with both playing fields relocated to the southern end of the site.
One of the playing fields would be a shared all weather facility, and the other field would be accessible to the community at all times, according to the council.
But Gurnos resident Mark Morris said that residents of Gurnos, Penydarren and Galon Uchaf were not aware the decision had been made with only around 300 people responding to a consultation.
He said The Greenie and Buttercup Fields have been there for generations, for more than 50 or 60 years, and that the football pitches are well used by local children.
He said The Greenie football field has been big part of people’s lives in the community for both older and younger generations.
Mr Morris said the local community is not happy that their only bit of green space is being taken away.
The pitches are used by Gurnos FC youth sides, an adult team and by kids from different schools to keep fit.
He said: “The pitches are vital for the community for green space for children and adults.”
And he has raised concerns about how the people in Penydarren, Gurnos and Galon Uchaf knew nothing of the decision to build it there.
He said: “They haven’t asked all the areas. They’ve only asked one or two areas. It is wrong what the council is doing. The kids deserve a free green space to play on. ”
He said most people’s children in the area use The Greenie pitch including his own and that it would be sad when has to tell them that the school has gone there.
“We are supposed to be promoting a healthy lifestyle yet we are taking the green space. It doesn’t make sense.
Mr Morris said he thinks 85 to 90% of people living in the area didn’t know this was now going ahead.
He did an on-line poll in which 203 voted that they were against the proposals, 28 were in favour and six were unsure.
He said he’s rather they debate it and have a proper consultation and then if it goes ahead it goes ahead.
Mr Morris also said plans for a £28m building like this should go before full council and that the concern is that the school pitches will be available to the community at first but then be made unavailable to them.
He said he is not against the new school being built as it is needed but said: “The school has to be built but The Greenie is the only green space we have got.”
Merthyr Tydfil Council responded by saying the first site consultation was done on-line via surveys and through hard copies sent to properties in the immediate vicinity of the proposed school development, specifically Billingham Crescent and Gwaunfarren Road and that all ward councillors were aware of this.
The council added that, for the second site consultation, hard copies were sent to a wider selection of properties – in addition to the first consultation properties, they were also sent to Second Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Thomas Dyke Close and 1-26 Pen y Bryn Estate.
The council said there was also an opportunity for consultation via MS Teams with residents and the wider public. This was offered in the letter sent to them and through social media.
Officers met representatives from Gurnos FC and Merthyr Football League on-line as part of the second site consultation and requested the views of those who play organised football in the community. They were asked to share the proposals with their own members, other clubs etc.
The council said Parents from the local catholic schools were also informed via letter and the local churches in Merthyr, Gurnos and Dowlais had hard copies shared and on display in parishes.
The council added that all ward councillors knew and were consulted with as a group prior to both site consultations. Site plans were shared and discussed, as were the consultation plans.
The plans are for there to be a dedicated shared community/school all-weather football pitch with floodlight provision which will be for school use during school hours and available for community use out of hours.
In addition, there would be car park access in the evening and on weekends for community football use to ease the current issues along Galon Uchaf Road.
There would also continue to be a community grass pitch with community changing facilities outside of the school grounds and these would be provided on the Buttercup Fields, with the community always having to access to this grass area.
The current Multi-Use Games Area (MUGA) would remain where it is and continue to have open access for the community. Whilst the community playground will be repositioned, it will remain at the northern end of the site near to Galon Uchaf and the MUGA.