Senedd roundup: Schools in Wales face “significant period of disruption”

Picture by the Welsh Government

Education Minister Kirsty Williams has confirmed that schools in Wales will not reopen after the Easter holidays and explained that when the Coronavirus lockdown is finally eased a phased return for students is being considered.

Speaking at the Welsh Government’s daily press conference on Wednesday, she also stressed that schools will only reopen when she receives advice it is safe to do so and warned: “We should prepare ourselves for a significant period of disruption to our education system.”

“I will only re-open schools when I have the advice from the chief medical officer and the chief scientific officer that it is safe to do so.

“And at this moment I have not received that advice.”

With reference to the option of instituting a phased return when restrictions are lifted she added: “The scientific advice is very clear in terms of the continuation of social distancing practices, so what are the practicalities of actually operating that within the school? We may be in a situation where we can have part of the school cohort going back.”

Schools originally closed on 20th March because of the Coronavirus outbreak and the Easter break was due to end next week.

Some schools have remained open in the meantime to provide care for children of key workers.

Coronavirus covid-19 test. Picture by Tom Wolf (CC BY 2.0).

Covid-19 testing increase promised

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has indicated that testing for Coronavirus in Wales will be significantly increased by the start of next week in an effort to meet the government’s target of 5000 tests per day.

Currently just 1,300 tests are being performed daily.

The minister told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast: “I’m expecting it won’t be a straight linear line, but we’ll see more testing capacity come on this week, to the start of next week.

“If we don’t achieve 5,000 tests, then I’ll have to be upfront about why that hasn’t happened, because I will want those answers, as well as people who need to see that testing capacity increase.”

Testing for Coronavirus is currently only available for health and social care workers with symptoms, and hospital patients.

Grant announced to help fishing sector through COVID-19 shut-down

Minister for Environment, Energy and Rural Affairs, Lesley Griffiths has announced a new grant to support the Welsh fishing industry during the current Coronavirus pandemic.

The fishing sector has been hit especially hard as exports and domestic markets have shut due to the public health crisis.

The new support is a targeted grant for vessel owning fishing businesses, to ensure they are able to cover their costs during the ongoing disruption.

The grant will help cover fixed costs associated with owning a fishing vessel and will be based on the size of vessel owned. The grant will be calculated by vessel size, with a maximum payment of £10,000. The support will be open to all active seafood businesses with Welsh-licensed vessels and recorded sales of £10,000 or more in 2019, and all eligible fishers will be provided with a one off payment.

The Minister said: ”Fishing is a hugely important part of the Welsh food and drink sector, and it sustains livelihoods and communities across our coasts.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has hit exports and internal markets incredibly hard, leading to many in the sector facing the loss of their livelihoods, and the permanent closure of their businesses.

This will be a period of uncertainty for many in the sector, and that’s why we want to ensure we could support them as they face unavoidable costs. Action is now required to protect the future of the Welsh fishing businesses and the social fabric of our fishing communities which, due to the immediate and devastating impacts on markets, is now under threat.

The support provided will help those eligible to cover their costs during this difficult time, and ensure Wales has a competitive fishing sector once this crisis has passed.”

The Welsh fishing fleet has over 400 registered vessels. 90% of these are smaller vessels under 10 metres long.

Photo by Steven HWG on Unsplash

Plaid Cymru calls for MND sufferers to be added to shielding list

Plaid Cymru are calling on the Welsh Government to add those suffering from motor neurone disease to the list of vulnerable people requiring shielding from Coronavirus.

Over 81,000 people in Wales have received letters from the government in recent weeks telling them to shield during the current crisis, but Plaid is backing campaigners arguing that those with Motor Neuron Disease (MND), and other vulnerable groups, should be asked to shield as well.

Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth AM said: “I’m aware of the strong case put forward by MND campaigners, and we need to ensure that the right mechanisms are in place to protect more people through adding them to the ‘most vulnerable’ list where that is appropriate.”

“I have raised this matter with Welsh Government Health Minister directly, as well as the possibility of including other vulnerable groups in the list of people who should be undertaking ‘shielding’ measures at this time, and I understand the Minister will discuss this matter further with the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.”

Motor Neurone Disease affects around two in every 100,000 people in the UK each year. It’s usually diagnosed in people over 40, but most people with the condition first develop symptoms in their 60s. It affects slightly more men than women and is incurable.

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