Senedd roundup: First Minister reassures parents over school return

Welsh language school sign
Welsh language school sign. Philip Wolmuth / Alamy Stock Photo

First Minister Mark Drakeford has played down speculation that schools in Wales could reopen early next month.

Speaking on BBC’s  Andrew Marr show on Sunday, Mr Drakeford said: “Well our advice from the trades unions and the local education authorities is that it will need three weeks as a minimum from the point that we decide to do that when schools can reopen so we are talking about the beginning of June there and we are thinking about ways in which we can bring young people with special educational needs back into education.”

Clarifying his remarks at Monday’s Welsh Government coronavirus briefing he confirmed: “We will not be reopening schools until we are satisfied we can protect your child’s health and well-being.”

“It will be done in a careful and measured way with safeguards built into the system.”

He also reassured parents they would not be forced to send their children to school and promised, “We will succeed in bringing parents and children along with us.”

The first minister also acknowledged Wales now appears to be past the peak of the virus, with the number of people with coronavirus decreasing and the reproduction rate of the infection declining.

He said: “There are now fewer than 100 people in critical care beds in Wales with coronavirus – down from more than 160 in mid-April.

“About a quarter of people in critical care are being treated for coronavirus, down from the peak of more than 40%.”

With a review of lockdown restrictions due later in the weeks Mr Drakeford hinted at a cautious approach to any loosening of the current restrictions: “People have made extraordinary sacrifices over the past weeks, and we must not and will not throw those away by any lifting of restrictions not underpinned by clear clinical and scientific evidence. But at the same time, we must also consider whether the public is ready.”

Another 14 Covid-19 deaths have been confirmed in Wales, taking the total to 997. Public Health Wales also confirmed 195 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 10,524. 1504 tests were carried out yesterday.

Photograph by Silas Camargo Silão from Pixabay

Concern at coronavirus impact on primary care

Welsh Conservative Shadow Health Minister Angela Burns AM has called for more to be done to ensure non-coronavirus patients receive appropriate care during the current health crisis.

Reports from both Cancer Research UK and the BMA have raised concern at the extent to which the pandemic is impacting on primary care in the Welsh NHS.

Cancer Research UK reported the Welsh response to cancer care has been “slow” in comparison to England.

A survey from the British Medical Association noted that of the 835 doctors in Wales who responded, some 40 percent (335) reported that care for patients not affected by the virus has significantly worsened, with a further quarter claiming it has worsened slightly.

Mrs Burns said: “Clearly, patients need the reassurance that services will be safe, and the Minister for Health must consider a range of options to treat cancer patients in a safe and accessible environment.

“All options must be looked into, including designating hospitals to treat these patients completely separately from Covid-19 patients in Coronavirus-free settings.

“Primary care services must be maintained. We cannot let the treatment of one set of patients suffer while we tackle the illness of another group, however unprecedented the circumstances.”

Photo by joffi from Pixabay

Cyber security grant scheme announced for local authorities

An extra £248,000 is to be made available to local authorities across Wales to help strengthen cyber security in response to the coronavirus crisis.

Each local authority in Wales will receive an initial grant of £9,000 to help address their priority needs, with the option to apply for additional money from a £50,000 reserve fund.

Finance Minister Rebecca Evans said:”The funding I am announcing today will help provide additional resilience within local authority IT systems in response to the increase in cybercrime during the Covid-19 crisis.”

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