Senedd roundup: Call for mass testing programme before lockdown is lifted
Plaid Cymru Shadow Health Minister Rhun ap Iorwerth AM says a mass testing programme similar to that operating in South Korean is needed before the current lockdown can be lifted in Wales.
He also criticised the Welsh Government following the First Minister’s announcement on Friday that a Wales-wide programme of surveillance, case identification, and contract tracing is being developed to allow the country to leave the lockdown.
The programme, developed by the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton would allow the Welsh Government to test in the community and contain emerging Coronavirus infections.
Highlighting the poor testing record so far in Wales, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “Daily testing of key workers is currently in the hundreds not the thousands. Targets have been missed and then scrapped. The First Minister said the online testing booking portal – which already exists in England, would be launched this week in Wales. There’s no sign of it. Another missed target.”
“We can’t prepare for lifting lockdown restrictions without a clear plan for a Wales-wide mass testing programme – testing, tracing and containing, just like South Korea. Without a vaccine or new treatments, there is no other alternative.”
“This means mobile and drive in testing centres the length and breadth of Wales with results returned within 24 hours. A huge increase in daily testing capacity. Thousands tested every day.”
Public Health Wales confirmed that on Thursday 1,027 tests were carried out taking the total to 29,931 and that current capacity is for 1,800 tests daily.
It was also announced that a further 110 people have died – taking the total number to 751. The increase from 17 deaths reported yesterday, is due to a delay in the reporting process. The new figure includes 84 retrospectively confirmed deaths which occurred between 20 March and 22 April in the Betsi Cadwaladr health board area. A further 243 people had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in Wales to 8,601.
Drakeford dismisses calls to sack Health Minister
First Minister Mark Drakeford has backed Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, after calls for his sacking from both Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives.
Mr Gething was heard swearing about a colleague after his microphone was left on during an online Welsh assembly meeting on Wednesday
Mr Drakeford rejected that calls and said said Mr Gething had apologised to fellow Labour AM Jenny Rathbone, who the comments were about, and “that’s the end of the matter”.
He told BBC Radio Wales:”We need our health minister to be focusing entirely on the essential work that he has been responsible for to help us all to get out of the current crisis – that’s what he’ll be doing and that’s how the government will be carrying on.”
Conservatives call for more help for small businesses
The Welsh Conservatives have called for more flexibility from the government to help Welsh companies survive the economic consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Russell George AM, Shadow Minister for Business and Economy, has expressed concern that many small businesses and self-employed workers don’t qualify for support from the £500-million Economic Resilience Fund launched at the start of the crisis.
At present, businesses that are not registered for VAT and those eligible for Business Rates Relief are excluded from the fund, as are those who have irregular turnover, have recently become self-employed or are sole traders.
Mr George said: “Small and medium-sized businesses account for more than 70 percent of all private sector businesses in the UK, and their contribution is immeasurable, so they must surely be able to access the fund.
In this hugely challenging time, it’s more important than ever for the Welsh Government to step up and change key parts of the Economic Resilience Fund to allow it to become more flexible, meaning the vast majority of our businesses are not left out.”
New ventilator moves closer to full production
The CPAP/Covid Emergency Ventilator produced by CR Clarke, a hydraulics company in Carmarthenshire, has moved a step closer to going into production after gaining approval from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency.
The device is based on designs used in Italy during the pandemic and provides a controlled flow of positive pressure, highly oxygenated air to Coronavirus patients, helping to improve their blood oxygen levels and avoid the need for treatment in an Intensive Care Unit.
CR Clarke & Co will be working with businesses in Wales including Panasonic on an initial production run of 80 devices for further testing
The first multiple production of the CPAP unit is being supported by the Welsh Government and Industry Wales. Both have been working closely with supply chain companies to source and purchase the parts needed for the device.
The ventilator was produced in consulatation with Dr Rhys Thomas, a senior consultant at Glangwili Hospital, after Plaid Cymru leader, Adam Price AM put Dr Thomas and the company in contact with each other.
Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates said: ”I want to thank Dr Thomas and CR Clarke & Co for their efforts, and I encourage the business community to be innovative in coming up with new ways of beating COVID-19, and assure them that the Welsh Government is here to support their efforts.”
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Why couldn’t Ken Skates say thanks to Adam Price?