Senedd Roundup: Change to Wales’ shielding measures ‘quicker’ after UK Gov move
First Minister Mark Drakeford has reassured people who are shielding from coronavirus in Wales that the new advice issued yesterday by the Welsh Government is optional.
The new measures for those shielding mean they can now take exercise, and meet people from another household outdoors but they must not share food.
Last Thursday ministers reviewed the coronavirus lockdown measures in Wales and announced modest changes on Friday before unexpectedly releasing details of the new measures early on Sunday morning.
At Monday’s coronavirus press briefing Mr Drakeford acknowledged that some will have “mixed feelings” about the change of advice but said it was based on a better understanding of how covid-19 spreads outside.
The First Minister said “We know it only survives for minutes on surfaces outdoors compared to hours indoors,” and added “This is not an instruction for the shielded group to go outdoors if they don’t want to – it’s an option.”
Mr Drakeford also explained the chief medical officer will be writing to the 130,000 people in the shielded group later in the week to set the advice out in full, and the next steps they should follow.
Earlier on Monday Health Minister Vaughan Gething hinted the surprise announcement from the Welsh Government on Sunday came as a result of the UK Government revealing that they were allowing people shielding from the virus to go outside at a briefing on Saturday.
Mr Gething told BBC Wales the changes to lockdown rules for vulnerable people happened “quicker than I expected.” He also said that he had hoped the whole of the UK would ease restrictions at the same time, and the Welsh Government had to decide whether to hold on or also make changes before announcing its move.
Public Health Wales has confirmed five more deaths from coronavirus taking the total number of people who have died in Wales to 1,347.
It also reported 59 new confirmed cases of Covid-19. The total number of people infected since the start of the outbreak now stands at 14,054.
Seven local authorities reported no new cases of the virus on Monday, including Blaenau Gwent, Torfaen, Newport, Anglesey, Ceredigion, Pembrokeshire and Powys. Rhondda Cynon Taf had the most cases with 14.
On Sunday there were 2,945 tests carried out across Wales.
Senior Welsh Tory says Cummings should have apologised
Former Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies says Boris Johnson’s top aide Dominic Cummings should not have travelled over 200 miles to his parent’s house during the lockdown.
Reports in both the Guardian and Mirror just over a week ago revealed that Cummings and his family drove to Durham during the lockdown “to self-isolate” as they feared they had coronavirus.
Mr Cummings also drove his wife to a local beauty spot on her birthday to “test his eyes” after falling ill with the virus.
None of his family were tested for Covid-19 and there is no medical evidence that people with the illness suffer eye problems.
Mr Cummings refused to apologise for breaking the lockdown rules he helped write for the UK Government and during a bizarre press conference last week, held in the Rose Garden of 10 Downing street, he also spoke of the problems with his sight for the first time.
Speaking to ITV on Monday morning Mr Davies said: “I would have personally liked to have seen his [the Prime Minister] senior adviser apologise for the actions he undertook.”
He added: “In my own view I think he took the wrong decision to travel 250 miles.”
Plaid Cymru support bringing school summer holiday forward
Plaid Cymru MS and Shadow Education Minister Sian Gwenllian has supported the idea of bringing the school summer holiday forward a month, allowing schools in Wales to reopen in August.
The Welsh Government had discussed the plan with teaching unions as they explored options for getting children back in school safely but on Friday the National Education Union (NEU) Cymru, said plans for Wales’ school summer holidays to be brought forward a month had been abandoned.
The move had been proposed by the government in the hope that good weather would allow the use of outdoor space to be maximised to reduce the risk of transmission, and that returning in early August could give pupils more time in school before a potential second peak later in the year.
Ms Gwenllian said: “The educational advantages of bringing this year’s summer holidays forward and beginning the autumn term in August should continue to be fully explored A phased and gradual re-opening of schools could then start in August if it is safe to do so.”
“In the meantime, we must crucially continue to refine remote learning. This should be central to the plans for the gradual re-opening of schools. It should also be integral to future planning too as we continue to strive to close the digital/poverty divide and the attainment gap. The focus of our education system must be on engaging with every pupil and ensuring no child is left behind.”
Schools in England reopened on Monday but with a many parents deciding not to send their children back as they didn’t believe it was safe to do so. Eleven local authorities also refused to reopen schools.
Pupils in Scotland are due to return to school in the middle of August.
There will be an announcement later this week updating plans for the reopening of schools in Wales.
Up to £65 million set aside to keep Wales’ railways running
The Welsh Government has committed to spending up to £65 million over the next six months to ensure train services continue to operate on the Wales and Borders network for key workers and others that rely on the train to travel.
An ‘Emergency Measures Agreement’ has been approved to help Transport for Wales rail services cope with the ongoing effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
It follows an initial short-term agreement worth £40 million which was confirmed in March, taking the total cost to a maximum of £105 million (subject to levels of passenger revenue).
The use of public transport is around 95% less than the same period last year due to the coronavirus pandemic. Season ticket refunds and social distancing requirements will also have an effect on train companies’ revenue.