News in brief: Wales records more than 1,600 Delta variant cases in the last week
A further 1,648 cases of the Delta Covid variant have been identified in Wales over the last week, taking the total number of people infected to 9,465 since the first case was detected in May.
The latest figures released by Public Health Wales suggest the pace of the variant’s spread across the country could be slowing with the weekly total down by more than 25% on last week.
However, Betsi Cadwaladr health board continues to bear the brunt of the pandemic’s third wave with another 722 cases reported, up from 655 last week.
Overall, 3,596 cases have been identified in the area covered by the health board- 38% of all Delta cases in Wales.
In addition to the Delta variant, on further case of the Alpha variant, which was previously dominant in Wales and fuelled the pandemic’s second wave last winter, was identified along with two cases of the India B1.617 Clade 3, which is categorised as a variant under investigation.
Meanwhile, today’s update from PHW has confirmed a further three deaths due to Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths recorded in the last 48 hours to nine.
The newly recorded deaths were in the Cardiff and Vale, Cwm Taf Morgannwg and Hywel Dda health board areas and take the total number of deaths since the start of the pandemic to 5,606.
A total of 724 people tested for the virus since yesterday’s report, with Cardiff reporting 62 new cases, the highest number in the country, followed by 56 in Denbighshire and 51 in Newport.
Denbighshire continues to have the highest weekly case rate in Wales but the improvement in recent days continues with a fall from 423.2 per 100,000 people to 406.5 in the last 24 hours. The test positivity rate has also improved, dropping from 17.1% per 100,000 tests to 16.8%.
The national case rate is down for the eighth day in a row, from 156.9 to 155.2 and the test rate is the same as yesterday at 10.8%.
Tories welcome travel quarantine changes
The Welsh Conservatives have welcomed the UK Government’s latest revision to the Covid travel restrictions which will allow fully vaccinated people from the US and EU to enter the UK without quarantining.
Reacting to the move, announced yesterday, Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS, said the Welsh Government “regretted” the proposals and warned of “clear public health risks”, but said it would be “ineffective to introduce separate arrangements for Wales” because it shares an open border with England.
The Tories Shadow Minister for Transport, Natasha Asghar, accused the government of still being in “lockdown mode” as she endorsed the changes.
“Many families up and down the country will welcome this news as it means they will be finally able to see loved ones who live abroad for the first time in months, she said
“But, sadly, it appears Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay are still stuck in lockdown mode, when they should be focusing on shifting into recovery mode.
“Our tourism industry has lost millions of pounds because people haven’t been able to travel, so I am sure they will also welcome this announcement with open arms.
“With vaccines severely weakening the link between cases and hospitalisations, now is the time to restore peoples’ freedoms and get the country on the road to recovery.”
Despite the easing of quarantine restriction, the US Government is advising Americans not to travel to the UK and bars any non-US citizens who have been in the UK 14 days before their flight from crossing the border because of the prevalence of the Delta variant.
Deputy Minister for Social Partnership, Hannah Blythyn, has launched the government’s new LGBTQ+ Action Plan, which aims to make Wales the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe.
The plan, developed in partnership with representatives from across the LGBTQ+ community, will help coordinate action between the Government, stakeholders, the public and other agencies, to achieve the ambition of furthering LGBTQ+ equality in Wales.
The publication of the Action Plan also marks the start of a consultation process, which the government says is the opportunity “for everyone right across Wales to play a part in the process and help make sure equality is for everyone and no-one is left behind in Wales.”
“We want to make sure that equality is for everyone, and no-one is left behind here in Wales, so I’m really pleased to publish the cross-government LGBTQ+ Action Plan today,” Ms Blythyn said.
“At the end of Pride Month, I set out the key steps on the journey towards achieving greater LGBTQ+ equality in Wales. Today, I want to reaffirm our key commitments; seeking the devolution of powers relating to the Gender Recognition Act, to use all available powers to ban all aspects of LGBTQ+ conversion therapy and to support Prides across Wales by sponsoring Pride Cymru, establishing a Wales-wide Pride Fund and appointing a Wales-wide Coordinator.
“Our ambition is to tackle the long-term structural inequalities that still exist, to challenge discrimination and to create a country without prejudice.”
“We know that the fight for equality isn’t over, there is always more to do, launching our Action Plan today will allow everyone, right across Wales to help us achieve our goal to become the most LGBTQ+ friendly nation in Europe,” she added.
MP urges council to declare a climate emergency
Merthyr Tydfil’s MP has called on the council to declare a climate emergency.
Gerald Jones has criticsed the council for what he calls its “lack of action” to tackle climate change.
Merthyr Tydfil Council is one of just six Welsh local authorities who have yet to declare a climate emergency, despite being one of the areas hardest hit by changes to the global climate, Mr Jones said.
So far, 16 of Wales’ 22 local authorities have joined the Welsh Government – who declared a climate emergency in 2019.
The Senedd was the first parliament in the world to vote in favour of the declaration of a climate emergency.
Now Merthyr Tydfil and Rhymney’s Member of Parliament has demanded that Merthyr Tydfil Council acts.
Mr Jones said: “The effect of climate change is all around us. In the past few years alone, residents of Merthyr Tydfil have seen catastrophic flooding, landslips, damage to critical infrastructure and recent extreme temperatures. This has resulted in homes damaged and lives destroyed.
“Despite the evidence staring them in the face, the leadership of Merthyr Tydfil Council have not declared a climate emergency; one of just six councils in Wales not to do so. It is simply inexcusable.
“In fact, Merthyr Tydfil Council doesn’t even have a plan in place to reduce its own carbon emissions.
“The time for talking is over. Tough action is needed now if we are to tackle climate change and leave a planet that is safe for future generations.
“The leadership at Merthyr Tydfil Council should immediately join the majority of Welsh local authorities and declare a climate emergency.”
Merthyr Tydfil Council has been contacted for comment.