Senedd roundup: Hopes and fears as tourism re-starts in Wales today

The coastal village of Aberdyfi, Gwynedd. Picture by Llywelyn2000 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

A further set of coronavirus restrictions have been lifted in Wales today meaning that self-contained accommodation such as holiday cottages and caravans can open.

Holidaymakers are due to arrive at cottages, caravans and yurts in Wales for the first time since March.

But the resurgence of tourism in Wales has led to fears that there could be a second spike in cases, particularly in areas such as Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion and Gwynedd which have not seen the worst of the virus.

The Independent newspaper quotes anonymously the owner of four cottages near Newport, Pembrokeshire, who has not cancelled her bookings from Monday despite her fears about coronavirus.

“I am scared,” she says. “I’m not overconfident that we won’t see a second spike.

“I’ve had a lot more inquiries, a lot more people wanting to come. I’m very nervous about it all again and [about] the actual cost of having to set up now. We’ve got extra cleaners on… There’s all kinds of extra costs. All the bedclothes have to be laundered professionally, everything eats into your profits.”

Nation.Cymru was also contacted by concerned readers drawing attention to abusive Facebook posts threatening to spread Covid-19 into Wales.

The group A55 Traffic, Incidents and Information, which has 88k followers, included a number of provocative posts.

“Look out Wales here come the English. I’ve just been toe Leicester to get a good dose of Covid and now I’m coming to spread it around all you sheep lovers,” one said.

It is expected that the rest of the tourist season could be busier as those reluctant to travel overseas due to the pandemic seek out

Sher Kilgour from Dinas Powys, Vale of Glamorgan, booked a cottage near Llangrannog, Ceredigion, as soon as the first minister announced the easing of restrictions.

She told the BBC: “It’s my 50th birthday and we were planning to go to Greece so having somewhere to see the sea and countryside after being within five miles for so long is very important.”

She said she was not concerned about safety: “Where we’re going is very isolated, but having said that I wouldn’t be concerned if it was somewhere more populated, as long as there’s proper measures in place.”

 

‘Impact’

The First Minister Mark Drakeford said that he would today see how tourism businesses are preparing to welcome back visitors to Wales as the sector prepares to open for the first time since the since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

He will visit The Hide in St Donats, in the Vale of Glamorgan, to see the measures self-contained accommodation is putting in place, as the first visitors arrive in Wales today.

The visit comes after the First Minister announced a new – and extensive – package of measures to further lift Wales’ coronavirus restrictions, which will see large parts of Wales’ visitor, hospitality, leisure and tourism industries re-open over the next three weeks.

As of Monday (13 July), pubs, bars and restaurants will be able to open outdoors, as well as most indoor attractions. The First Minister has also signalled tourist accommodation with shared facilities, such as camping sites, can prepare to open from 25 July.

Detailed discussions about how hospitality businesses can operate in a coronavirus-safe way indoors are ongoing, with plans for reopening from 3 August, if conditions allow.

“This crisis has had a profound impact on the visitor economy – at a time when our businesses should have been experiencing a busy Easter, they were turning guests away,” the First Minister Mark Drakeford said.

“We are now cautiously reopening tourism in Wales in a phased way, which will give businesses, staff visitors and communities the confidence for a successful reopening.

“We are looking forward to welcoming visitors back to Wales and to see people from Wales revisiting their favourite places again and discovering new ones.

“Over the summer we want people to visit Wales safely – by looking after their health; protecting this beautiful land and by leaving no trace behind; caring for the countryside by sticking to paths and leaving gates as they are found and keeping dogs on leads. Let us all embrace Wales’ open spaces and avoid crowded areas, wherever we can.

“We can enjoy the best of Wales by choosing local businesses and buying Welsh produce, making a difference to local economies and experiencing the culture and language of Wales and respecting communities which are ready to welcome us back.”

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford with Rebecca Hoare and business owner Paula Warren (R) during a visit to self-contained accommodation at the Hide at St. Donats on July 11, 2020 in Vale of Glamorgan, Wales.

‘Secure’

Paula Warren from The Hide, said she was delighted to be able to welcome visitors once more.

“Our number one priority is the well-being and safety of our guests and team member,” she said.

“To secure just that, we have rigorous procedures and routines in place regarding enhanced cleaning and physical distancing. We want our guests to have the confidence that everything is in hand so that they can get on relax and enjoy their holiday.”

As people prepare to start exploring Wales again, Visit Wales has introduced a pledge to encourage everyone who visits Wales to care for each other, for the land and for our communities. The pledge, which encourages everyone to do the little things that make a big difference can be signed at www.visitwales.com/promise

Visitors are also being asked to plan ahead as much as possible and to book their stay in Wales. The Welsh Government has published guidance about what people will need to do if they experience coronavirus symptoms during their stay in Wales. The guidance also includes advice for businesses to help the NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect service identify and control any future outbreaks.

Public Health Wales has confirmed one further death from Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, taking the total since the start of the pandemic to 1,541. Seven new cases have been confirmed taking the total to 15,946.

NHS Wales carried out 2,224 tests yesterday.

Photo by Julio Cesar Velasquez from Pixabay

Lessons learned from food plant infections

First Minister Mark Drakeford says the latest advice he’s received on the coronavirus hotspots around three food processing plants in Wales is that they are “probably past the most concerning time” and there is “no longer anxiety about widespread community transmission of coronavirus”.

There have been 634 confirmed Covid-19 cases at the three locations, 283 at Rowan Foods in Wrexham, 217 cases at 2 Sisters at Llangefni on Anglesey and 134 at Kepak in Merthyr Tydfil.

Mr Drakeford said the outbreaks highlighted the importance of accurate record-keeping for tracing and being able to communicate with workers whose first language isn’t English or Welsh.

“Some of the people who we have struggled the most to contact are people where names and addresses have not been properly recorded, where the spelling of people’s names is many and various, where telephone numbers are not been properly transcribed,” he said.

“I think we’ve learned something about being prepared to communicate in languages other than Welsh and English.

“For some of the workers at Rowan Foods being able to see information in their own language, their native language, is important and we will be better prepared to do that more quickly if we face a similar outbreak in the future.”

Photo by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

Test, Trace and Protect programme “essential” as Wales reopens
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price has welcomed changes to coronavirus restrictions, announced yesterday by First Minister Mark Drakeford but warned that as Wales gradually reopens an effective Test, Trace and Protect programme is essential to keep people safe.

His comments came after the government announced, as part of its regular Covid-19 review, that hairdressers, barbers and most indoor tourist attractions in Wales will reopen on Monday.

The First Minister also announced that from July 20, playgrounds, community centres and outdoor gyms will be able to reopen gradually when safety checks and mitigations are put in place and that that pubs, cafes, restaurants and bars will be able to reopen indoors in Wales from early August, providing coronavirus cases continue to fall.

“The Welsh Government is exercising its devolved powers to – rightly – take a cautious approach to the easing of lockdown. This increase in public freedom must be matched by a Test, Trace and Protect programme that is able to keep up with increased demand,” Mr Price said.

“Without the ability to quickly stamp out any further outbreaks, this ‘early warning system’ is largely undermined and worse – we’ll risk seeing a return to lockdown conditions.2

“As the tourist industry is reopened and travel becomes more common, we have the mechanisms in place to not only gain the public confidence but to stop a resurgence of the virus, but the work must be put in to strengthen this crucial protective shield.”

Paul Davies MS, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Senedd accused the Welsh Government in “lagging behind” the rest of the UK in reopening businesses and warned that jobs could be lost as a result.

“We are disappointed at the unnecessary delay in implementing some of these changes so we see no reason why re-opening campsites and beauty salons, and re-starting house viewings can’t be brought forward, “he said.

“And we are disappointed that there’s still no clarity on face coverings, relaxing social distancing, or driving tests and lessons in Wales.

“It is essential that we get Wales moving to kickstart our economic recovery from the pandemic and take advantage of the UK wide schemes announced by the Chancellor this week. If we keep lagging behind, then livelihoods will be lost needlessly.”

Hinkley Point A nuclear power plant

New panel appointed to consider impact of Somerset nuclear power plant

The Welsh Government has appointed a panel of experts to consider the implications for Wales of the new Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant currently under construction in Somerset.

The Hinkley Point C stakeholder reference group will be chaired by Jane Davidson, the vice chancellor emeritus of the University of Wales Trinity St David, and also includes:

  • Professor Roger Falconer, emeritus professor, School of Engineering Cardiff University
  • Dr Rhoda Ballinger, reader, School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, Cardiff University
  • Dr Justin Gwynn, chair of the OSPAR Committee on Radioactive Substances
  • Dr Huw Brunt, Public Health Wales
  • Rachel Sharp, chief executive of Wildlife Trusts Wales
  • Dr James Robinson, Director of Conservation, WWT

The group will provide expertise and knowledge in a number of environmental areas including environment and ecology with expertise in a Severn Estuary context; hydro and civil engineering and water environmental assessments in a Severn Estuary context and economy and socioeconomics in a South East Wales/South West England context. It will also provide expertise in public health, nuclear and large-scale energy production and regulatory sectors and processes.

It will meet for the first time on 20 July.

The dumping of sediment dredged as part of building work for the Hinkley Point C plant off the coast of Cardiff is expected to be among the issues for the panel to consider.

The new plant is being built on the site of the old Hinkley A nuclear power station

In February EDF Energy applied to deposit up to 780,000 tonnes of mud dredged as part of building work for the facility.

Two years ago, protesters campaigned to stop mud being dumped in the same area of sea off Cardiff due to fears of radioactive contamination but after triggering a full Senedd debate EDF were subsequently given permission to dump up to 300,000 tonnes of mud off the coast.

Campaigners against the plan are calling for extensive testing of the sediment for the presence of particles of uranium and plutonium.

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