Senedd roundup: Drakeford defends PPE supply to care homes

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford at a daily Coronavirus press conference.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has defended the supply of personal protective equipment to the care sector following a call for action earlier in the week from the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales.

On Wednesday, Heléna Herklots said: “Older people and their families continue to raise significant concerns about the issues currently facing care homes, such as access to NHS treatment and services, testing for staff and residents, and the availability of vital PPE.”

Speaking at Friday’s government press briefing The First Minister said: “There are two deliveries every week to local authorities and on to care homes in their area.

“Forty percent of all the items in the Welsh Government’s pandemic stock has gone to the care sector in Wales, so it’s simply not the case that the care sector is getting what’s left after the NHS has had first call on it.”

He described shortages of equipment as “isolated instances” and said there was a dedicated helpline to report problems.

Paying tribute to the workers in care homes he added: “We recognise the astonishing job they are doing and the bravery that often involves.

“So there are more tests and more testing of people who are working in that sector too.”

Looking ahead to the lifting of restrictions Mr Drakeford reiterated comments made last week that the Welsh Government would consider taking its own approach on when and how to end the lockdown if necessary: “If you’ve got one simple message that applies everywhere in the United Kingdom, even where circumstances are not identical, that really helps people to understand what is being asked of them.

“So, I will be reluctant to move to a geographical set of distinctions because I think they’d bring complexity with them.

“But if the evidence was, and if the advice from the medical experts, was that we needed to do things differently and that was right for Wales, then of course that is what we would do.”

It was also announced on Friday that a further 11 people have died in Wales after testing positive for Coronavirus, taking the total to 506.

The total number of confirmed cases in Wales has now reached 6,645.

Ken Skates AM Minister for Economy and Transport. Photo National Assembly for Wales and licensed under CC BY 2.0

Applications open for Coronavirus business support fund

The Welsh Government has opened up the second phase of the £500m Economic Resilience Fund to applications.

The fund offers further financial support in dealing with Coronavirus crisis and is designed to address gaps not currently met by schemes already announced by the UK Government, Welsh Government and Development Bank of Wales.

This phase, worth £200m is targeted at microbusinesses, SMEs and large businesses of critical social or economic importance to Wales.

The first stage saw the £100m Development Bank of Wales’ loan scheme fully subscribed in little more than a week with applications currently being processed.

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates said: “We are going to support as many firms as possible through this £200m tranche of funding, but I have been clear that it will not reach everyone.

We are doing all that we can as a Welsh Government and although we fully understand how difficult times are, we need the UK Government to go further and provide the money needed for Welsh firms, of all sizes, to survive and recover.”

The application process for businesses qualifying for financial support from the Economic Resilience Fund can be found at: https://fundchecker.businesswales.gov.wales  

Picture by Hybu Cig Cymru

New service launched to help people find jobs during COVID-19 outbreak

A new online service, which will match employers with jobseekers looking for agricultural, land and veterinary work during the COVID-19 outbreak, has launched today.

The service will put potential employees, with the relevant skills and experience, in touch with businesses to ensure vacancies are filled in the coming months, addressing any potential labour shortages in the sector caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths said: “We are all concerned about the impact COVID-19 is having on our Welsh agriculture and horticultural sectors, as well as our daily lives. Labour shortages, potentially, could prove to be a particular issue this summer.

Sadly, if a member of a farming family or an employee of the business were to become ill, it is likely that a number of family members or employees would also become ill due to the nature of the work environment and the way the disease spreads. This could leave daily tasks uncompleted, with a detrimental effect on the business and possibly even causing serious animal health and welfare issues.

We are committed to putting people into employment: supporting our agriculture and horticultural sectors: ensuring supply chains can keep food flowing to people’s homes and helping our rural economy.”

Skills matching forms can be completed online at www.wales.lantra.co.uk.

Picture by DFID – UK Department for International Development. (CC BY 2.0)

Bridgend engineers in PPE appeal

An industrial automation and electronic repair company in Bridgend is appealing for supplies of acetate sheet to enable it to make PPE for NHS staff and other health workers in Wales.

The engineering team at Kontroltek are using their 3D printer in their spare time to produce up to 50 face shields per day.

The company has already provided a hospital in Bridgend with face shields, as well as sending samples for testing to another hospital in Neath Port Talbot.

Andrew Follant, the Managing Director of Kontroltek said: “Many of our customers have temporarily shut down. We’re still open because other customers work in critical industries, but being able to help produce these face shields too, makes me immensely proud.”

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j humphrys

Well done, Andrew!