Senedd roundup: 7,000 additional beds to be set up at field hospitals
Owen Donovan, Senedd Home
- The equivalent of 7,000 additional beds are being set up by health boards at field hospitals – which is double the total number of current NHS beds in Wales. The Principality Stadium, Parc y Scarlets, Bluestone Resort (Pembrokeshire), Bay Studios (Llandarcy) and Venue Cymru (Llandudno) were listed as field hospitals.
- ICU bed occupancy is at 40% as of Tuesday with 69% of those patients being confirmed coronavirus/covid-19 cases.
- 600,000 respirator masks were delivered to health boards last weekend and further deliveries to local authorities were made earlier this week aimed for ongoing delivery to care homes.
- 3,760 medical, nursing, healthcare science and allied health professional final year students will take up temporary full-time positions in the NHS. Locum GPs are being asked to consider temporary contracts with health boards.
- Pharmacies should not charge for delivery of prescriptions to the homes of people who are unable to get prescriptions themselves or ask someone to get them on their behalf.
Shadow Health Minister, Angela Burns (Con, Carms. W. & S. Pembs.) praised the quick action, particularly in sourcing so many extra beds in such a short space of time. The issue that’s caused the greatest concern is access to personal protective equipment (PPE).
Health Minister Vaughan Gething accepted there was an “issue” with trust of the official guidance regarding the use of PPE (that it should be restricted to confirmed or suspected coronavirus cases). A rapid review of the guidance is being undertaken.
In response to a question from Neil McEvoy AM (WNP, South Wales Central) on the need to expand testing in the community, the Minister said that while there have been several approaches to the government but each offer had to be considered on its effectiveness and value otherwise “we will potentially see ourselves burning up resources on kit that we don’t find to be effective”.
Support still available for domestic abuse victims
Deputy Minister, Jane Hutt (Lab, Vale of Glamorgan), has said support is still available to people at risk of or experiencing domestic violence, who may be stuck with their abuser at home due to public movement restrictions.
The Deputy Minister listed several methods to seek support which will continue through the crisis including:
- Live Fear Free services are available 24/7 by telephone (0808 8010 800), text (0786 007 7333), email (email@example.com) and webchat.
- Police will still respond to 999 calls and will recognise a “silent” 999 call by dialling 999 followed by 55 to indicate that you can’t talk but need help (Owen: I’d be careful about silent calls as it may not be possible for the police to locate you – more info from South Wales Police – particularly if you use a mobile).
- Emergency shelters are being set up (but no details are given).
- Be aware that other people may be listening in when speaking to people over social media or video calls.
- Use an emergency word or code to use so those close to you know that you need help and they should call the police.
- If possible, consider an emergency escape plan and put together things you’ll need include essential items (passport, bank details, clothes etc.) which you can leave with a trusted neighbour.
£18 million to support the cultural sector
The Welsh Government has announced a package of support for the cultural sector through the pandemic.
- £7 million Arts Resilience Fund (Arts Council of Wales). This fund will support artists and arts organisations most in need and least likely to benefit from other support programmes. Further announcements are due.
- £8 million Sport Resilience Fund (Sport Wales). This will be used to support sports clubs and partner networks.
- £1 million Creative Wales Fund (Welsh Government) will provide support for grassroots music venues (up to £25,000) and additional support for TV and publishing.
- £1 million Cultural Resilience Fund (Welsh Government) for museums, collections, conservation services, archives and community and public libraries to respond to short-term pressures and recovery actions.
- £750,000 Emergency Relief Fund (Welsh Museums Federation & Sport Wales) to support the smallest and most vulnerable independent sector sport, museum and heritage organisations with cash flow and other critical issues.
- £250,000 Digital Library Resources (Welsh Government) which will enable public libraries to provide additional digital resources for the public to use whilst self-isolating.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Tourism & Sport, Dafydd Elis-Thomas (Ind, Dwyfor Meirionnydd) said: “We’ve listened to our many stakeholders in these vulnerable sectors. These are uncertain times for business and organisations across Wales and we recognise the massive and unprecedented challenges coronavirus is having on the fabric of Welsh life.”
Home abortions given go-ahead by Welsh Government
In line with provisions for England within the Coronavirus Act, the Health Minister has agreed that women seeking an abortion in Wales will be able to do so through the use of medicines at home, following consultation with a medical professional via video link or telephone. They won’t have to attend a hospital or clinic.
“Public safety is our number one priority as we tackle the Covid-19 crisis. This temporary measure ensures that women can continue to access these key services without being exposed to unnecessary risk during these challenging times.”
– Health Minister, Vaughan Gething (Lab, Cardiff S. & Penarth)
Welsh Government’s legislative programme under review
With a little over a year left of the current Senedd term, the pandemic and alterations to Senedd business will have an impact on the Senedd’s law-making abilities.
The First Minister has announced that the Local Government & Elections Bill and the Curriculum & Assessment Bill (which will form the legal foundation for the new national curriculum and hasn’t been introduced yet) will be the top priorities going forward as they need to become law by a certain date.
All other legislation will be “kept under review”, while regulations relating to the pandemic will be prioritised. The Welsh Government still intends to ensure the Senedd can debate and vote on Legislative Consent Motions (LCM) – which is when the UK Government asks for permission to pass laws in devolved areas.
Businesses should only stay open if they can practice social distancing measures
- The emergency business rate relief scheme came into effect as of yesterday.
- Banc has received 500 requests for emergency loans and he’ll be meeting with high street banks today to urge them to be more flexible and considerate with clients.
- Confirmation that the North-South air link will be suspended for three months and money has been provided to local authorities to honour school bus and local supported bus contracts to 75% of their value during the emergency period.
- Any businesses staying open only do so if they’re able to continue working while practising social distancing and any business unable to do so should consider closing temporarily.
Shadow Finance Minister, Nick Ramsay AM (Con, Monmouth), warned that local authorities may not be playing ball with the bus contract agreement as there’s no legal obligation for them to follow it through – though the Minister said he “would not respond happily” if he knew councils were choosing not to support bus companies on those terms.
Helen Mary Jones AM (Plaid, Mid & West Wales) asked for the Minister to contact businesses directly – in the same manner as letters sent to vulnerable people requiring them to stay inside – due to some confusion from businesses over what emergency schemes and programmes their eligible for.
In response to a question from Mike Hedges AM (Lab, Swansea East) on non-essential businesses remaining open:
“….it’s important for a business to ask two questions. First of all, are they part of the essential effort to combat Covid-19? If they’re not, can they undertake work in a way in which allows social distancing to be practised at all times? If the answer is ‘yes’, then work may continue, but if the answer is ‘no’ then clearly their workers should not be put at risk, and if that means hibernating for the coronavirus period then so be it.”
– Economy & Transport Minister, Ken Skates