Senedd roundup: New report maps spread of Covid-19 across Wales

Picture a merger of @LloydCymru’s coronavirus updates and an image by Pete Linforth from Pixabay.

The Welsh Government has published the first review of coronavirus deaths in Wales.

The new report reviews data from the Office of National Statistics, Welsh Government and other sources for the months between 1 March and 31 May 2020.

During that period there were 180,586 deaths recorded in England and Wales.

Covid-19 was the underlying cause of death for 43,763 people and involved in a further 2,924 deaths, a quarter of all the deaths in this period.

In Wales there were 2,257 deaths involving COVID-19 between 1 March and 31 May.1

The percentage of excess deaths during the equivalent period was 24.1% for Wales and 42.0% for England.

If Wales had the same percentage of excess deaths as England, there would have been a further 1,628 deaths in those three months.

Mapping the spread of Covid-19, the analysis also shows that the pandemic seemed to travel along the major routes from England, along the M4 from Bristol in the South, and from Chester and Liverpool from the North.

The lowest rates of infection were in Hywel Dda and Powys health boards. westwards and northwards across Wales from England.

Mortality rates from coronavirus were highest in the Cardiff and Vale Health Board area.

The team behind the review suggest the lower number of deaths may have been due to the way the virus spread across Wales, giving more time to prepare before the peak struck.

The report also highlights how the Test, Trace, Protect programme and sensitive early warning systems will play a key role in tackling potential further peaks within the community. It also calls for continued focus on identifying and protecting the most vulnerable people in society.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Vaughan Gething said: “This is the first report of its kind here in Wales, which will help us better understand what factors including ethnicity, age and gender increased peoples’ risk to this terrible virus. It is important to remember that the figures included in this report, represent people who have tragically lost their lives and my condolences are with their families.

“This review is the first step in learning why some areas within the UK were affected more than others. This report and future analysis will be vital for future planning and will help us learn more about the coronavirus so we can save lives should there be further waves.”

Public Health Wales has reported no further deaths due to Covid-19 in the last 24 hours. The total number of deaths in Wales since the start of the pandemic stays at 1,546. 

Ten new cases have been confirmed in the report, taking the total number of cases to 16,897. There were 2,910 tests conducted on Friday.

Paul Davies. © Russell Hart/Alamy Live News.

Tory leader calls for “a revolution in devolution in Wales”

In a major speech to Welsh Conservative supporters, the leader of the opposition in the Senedd, Paul Davies MS, has called for “a revolution in devolution in Wales” and said “the paralysis of delivery is the worst disease affecting public policy in Wales.”

Looking ahead to next May’s Senedd election, Mr Davies added: “When I think about running the Welsh Government, my ambition is not just to run the same sort of government we have now. It is to transform the whole operation so that delivery and improvement are hard wired into public servants. So that innovation is promoted and rolled out, not left in silos. So that entrenched patterns of working and thinking are challenged.”

Referencing the civil service reforms spearheaded by Boris Johnsons chief adviser Dominic Cummings, Mr Davies observed: “Much has been written on the departure of Sir Mark Sedwill, the UK’s top Civil Servant as Cabinet Secretary. On top of this the story has been expanded by the resignations of other high-ranking civil servants. At the heart of all of this is once again Dominic Cummings and the UK Government’s desire to shake up the way government works. This is the right thing to do.

“But love him or loathe him I can see that a dose of Dom is needed for Wales. Maybe not literally, and I can’t see me asking Boris if I can pinch him for my special adviser team, but I can very much see a Welsh Conservative Government working closely with the Prime Minister and his team to learn about how to transform government, and how we ensure a delivery agenda.

“Wales needs change. Not just a change in government but a change throughout government. The next Welsh Government needs to be transformed by a dose of radicalism to bring about that change from top to bottom and deliver for the people that puts and keeps it there.”

National Theatre Wales and Royal Court’s On Bear Ridge. Image by Mark Douet.

First round of support for arts sector in Wales to be announced next week

The government has confirmed the first round of financial support for the arts sector in Wales will be announced early next week.

The Welsh Government has received £59 million as Wales’ allocation of a £1.57bn coronavirus support package for the arts and culture sector announced by the UK government last week.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the plans being drawn up with the Arts Council for Wales and others on how to spend it were “drawing to a conclusion.”

He said: “We are trying to do it in the way we have gone about things throughout the crisis, to make the plan first and then make the announcement, and we’re very close to being able to do that.”

The Senedd’s culture, Welsh language and communications committee has welcomed the package but asked how the money will be used to ensure no organisations are forced to close or make staff redundant.

Helen Mary Jones MS, who chairs the committee, said: “Until the Covid-19 outbreak, creative industries had been thriving, they are a key part of our economy, providing skilled jobs and putting Wales firmly on the map around the world.

“We are fast running out of time if we are to stabilise and sustain our creative industries.

“Therefore, the Welsh Government should set out how it will prioritise the additional funding to ensure our arts, cultural and heritage organisations are not forced to close their doors for good or make valued employees redundant, as a matter of urgency.”

Photo by Georg Arthur Pflueger on Unsplash

Care workers bonus from government will have tax deducted.

Mark Drakeford has confirmed that the £500 bonus promised to care workers by the government to acknowledge their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, will be paid next month, but will be taxed.

The Welsh Government had been in discussions with the UK Treasury to try and stop the payment being taxed but the First Minister said “I’m afraid it looks as though the Treasury intend to take that money away from care staff in Wales in a way that I think is deeply regrettable and eminently avoidable.”

Plaid Cymru called the announcement a “late and cruel twist” for care workers.

Delyth Jewell MS said: “Our carers were first promised a £500 bonus on 1 May. Back then, the First Minister noted that our social care workers were an often ‘under-valued and overlooked’ workforce. In a move that is not only late, but cruel, we learn that this bonus is not due to be paid until next month, and worse, will be subject to tax. The under-valued and overlooked workforce must wait even longer for a seemingly ever decreasing pot. Some reward!

“This pandemic has forced us to look at which jobs in our society are essential, and those who look after and support the most vulnerable in our society deserve to be recognised for the incredible contributions they make. To give with one hand and take away with another is not a fair reward for their contribution.”

Picture by Irene Marie Dorey. (CC0 Public Domain)

New guidance on hospitals visits published

The government has published revised guidance for visitors to NHS hospitals, which will apply from 20 July.

The new guidelines stipulate that face-to-face visiting needs to be agreed in advance and outdoor visits may be offered if appropriate.

To comply with the 2 metres social/physical distancing measure the number of visitors will also remain limited.

Hospitals are instructed that virtual visiting should be encouraged and supported where possible.

In the statement Health Minister Vaughan Gething writes: “The Welsh Government supports a person-centred, flexible approach to visiting. However, Wales is still in a phase of sustained community transmission of COVID-19 and our first priority is the prevention and control of infection in our healthcare settings. This is to ensure the health, safety and wellbeing of patients/service users, staff and visitors themselves.

“Visiting should be with a clear purpose and agreement for visiting based on the best interests of the patient/service user or the well-being of the visitor.”

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