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Senedd roundup: Changes to guidance on two-metre rule being considered

03 Jul 2020 7 minute read
Photo by Tumisu from Pixabay

First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed that further guidance on the two-metre social-distancing rule could be issued by the government next week.

Scientific evidence suggests reducing the distance to one metre could increase the risk of infection by 10-30 times the risk at two metres. But the levels of infection in the community and whether any other protective measures are in place are also significant factors

The rule is being relaxed in England from tomorrow. Yesterday the Scottish Government announced that two metres will remain the default physical distancing requirement, but exceptions could be introduced if mitigating measures can be put in place.

“The two-metre rule remains in place in Wales and will do other than in certain defined circumstances,” Mr Drakeford said at Friday’s coronavirus press briefing.

“Where we believe that it’s the right thing to do to reduce the two-metre distance to one metre, it will be because we have all the other safeguards in place to allow that to happen.”

“But in some contexts, it may be important for other reasons, for practical reasons to reduce that distance, and where it is, we will expect to see other important safeguards in place.

“That is the process we are working on here in Wales and there will be more that we will be able to say on that over the coming week.”

Two further deaths from coronavirus have been reported in Wales over the last 24 hours. The total number of fatalities from the virus are now 1,525.

The number of confirmed infections since the start of the outbreak has climbed to 15,841 after 26 new cases of the virus were announced. There were 2,129 tests conducted yesterday.

An Airbus engineer inspects the new A350XWB composite wing cover after its arrival at the purpose built North Factory facility at Airbus in Broughton, North Wales. Picture: UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Tory MP criticised over Airbus redundancies comments

Plaid Cymru has condemned comments made by a Welsh Conservative MP on Friday morning after he accused the public of crying “crocodile tears” over Airbus job losses in north Wales.

Yesterday the airline manufacture confirmed that 1,435 workers are to lose their jobs at the company’s site in Broughton, which currently employs 6,000 people.

Speaking on Radio Wales Breakfast David TC Davies said “a lot of people” have “spent the last few years decrying the airline industry and talking about the climate emergencies and the rest of it… I hope they now realise that this is what they have been calling for.”

North Wales Member of the Senedd, Llŷr Gruffydd described the comments as “pathetic” and said the focus of the UK Government should be to “make sure as many of these jobs are protected” rather than to try and score political points: “I am deeply disappointed to see a Westminster Government Minister using these job losses to try and score incorrect political points.

“It’s an insult to the workers, their families and the community at Broughton to try and turn the focus away from their needs at this terrible time. This is a pathetic distraction from his own government’s shortcomings.

“Both Welsh and UK Governments must now step up to the plate and do everything possible to retain these jobs and others throughout the supply chain.”

Photo by tomylees is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Report reveals lockdown suffering of most vulnerable

A new report published by the Consumers Association says almost half of clinically vulnerable people in Wales have had problems accessing food during the coronavirus lockdown

The report is based on data from a survey conducted by Opinium between May 29 and June 17.

Findings from the report include:

  1. More than 40 percent of extremely clinically vulnerable consumers said they needed help accessing food and other essential groceries
  2. Nearly half (48 percent) of consumers said they had not, or had only occasionally, bought food and groceries online
  3. Some 47 percent of consumers who require support (but are not vulnerable to coronavirus) said that had experienced difficulties in accessing food and groceries

Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Environment, Sustainability and Rural Affairs, Andrew RT Davies AM, described the report as “alarming” and called for action from the government to help those affected access food and essential supplies.

“The situation is particularly bad amongst those people defined as ‘situationally vulnerable’; they are not given any support by the Labour-led Welsh Government, and find it practically difficult to do shopping, for example because they are registered blind, are unable to physically queue for long periods or have caring responsibilities”, Mr Davies said.

“And we are not out of the woods yet, so what will the First Minister and his Labour Party colleagues do to help them, because doing nothing is not an option.”

Photo by Danny Moore from Pixabay

Funding targets improved water quality in Wales

Nearly £10 million of capital funding will be made available in 2020-21 to improve water quality across Wales and also tackle water pollution issues from abandoned metal mines.

Half of the money will be allocated to a series of project working with partner organisations to improve water quality across Wales, including:

Nature Recovery Action Plan (£1.115m) –NRW will work with partners including Afonydd Cymru on measures for salmon and trout in Welsh waterways to restore fish habitat and improve breeding distribution.

Rural Development Plan (RDP), Glastir Small Grant Scheme (£1.5m) – match funding for a specific grant focusing on improving water quality.

Natural Flood Management Programme (£1m) – contribution to a dedicated scheme at catchment level combined with water quality improvement measures, to achieve both reduction in flood risk and improving water quality.

NRW Water Quality Improvement Projects (£802,000) – NRW will work with partners on 15 smaller scale projects to tackle areas affected by increased levels of pollutants, such as Phosphate and improve marine biodiversity.

Research & Development (R&D) Projects (£1m) – the project will develop effective innovative solutions to minimise the long-term impact of metal mine water discharges, improve the ecological status of Welsh rivers and support a healthy farming industry. This includes innovative projects such as Coleg Sir Gar’s Gelli Aur Sustainable Farming Centre.

In addition, NRW will receive £4.5m for a metal mine remediation programme, focusing on the most polluting abandoned mines to tackle water pollution issues.

Abandoned metal mines are one of the principal causes of failures of water standards in Wales.

Discharges from underground workings and leaching of metals from spoil heaps present significant sources of water pollution today, causing iron, zinc, lead and cadmium failures.

There are 1,300 abandoned metal mines in Wales that have been estimated to impact over 600km of river reaches.

The funding was agreed as part of the Welsh Government 2020-21 Budget.

Photo by Mabel Amber from Pixabay

£30 million A55 scheme to get underway in September

The £30m Aber Tai’r Meibion improvement scheme is set to commence in September.

Construction was originally due to begin in late March but was delayed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

Subsequently additional planning was required to ensure work could be carried out safely with social distancing and other measures put in place.

The scheme will improve safety along a 2.2km stretch of the carriageway by removing direct accesses off the A55 as well as removing eight gaps in the central reservation which currently allow slow moving agricultural vehicles to cross the A55.

It also includes over four kilometres of new and improved active travel facilities to encourage cycling and walking, supporting the principles of a low carbon society.

It will also deliver more flood protection for the A55, though the construction of an improved drainage system boosting the route’s resilience.

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