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Drakeford says Wales is not immune to Indian coronavirus

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MARK DRAKEFORD,  First Minister for Wales, has warned that Wales will not be immune from the Indian coronavirus variant as it becomes the dominant strain in England and Scotland.

He was speaking at the Welsh Government’s coronavirus briefing as he detailed the results of the latest three-weekly lockdown review and announced that large outdoor events are set to go ahead once again.

He also urged people to come forward to get vaccinated, even if they had missed their appointment, saying it remained the best defence against the virus – even the new variant.

He said: “It is never too late to be vaccinated in Wales – if you are not yet one of the millions of people to have had a vaccine, you can still arrange an appointment. There are details on our website about how to do that.”

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wales remain at less than 10 cases per 100,000 people, which continues to be the lowest rate in the UK. This reflects the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.

Our vaccination programme also continues to make extraordinary progress. More than85% of the adult population has now received their first dose of the vaccination and nearly half have completed the two-dose course.

However, the emergence and the spread of the more transmissible delta variant in parts of the UK – most notably in North West England – is a cause for concern. There are just under 100 cases in Wales, including a cluster in Conwy but we expect these numbers will increase.

We have the headroom to move to alert level one but we will do this in a phased way, focusing on outdoor events and activities in the first step. This phased approach will provide time for more data on the impact of this variant to become available and for more people to be vaccinated.

The changes to coronavirus regulations from the 7 June will therefore include:

  • Up to 30 people can meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.
  • Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events, such as concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups, will be able to go ahead for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people seated. All organisers planning events and activities must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.
  • Up to three households can form an extended household.

We will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the three-week cycle, if public health conditions allow. These will include:

  • The rule of six for meeting indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation.
  • Increasing numbers for indoor organised gatherings and restarting indoor events.
     
  • Opening ice skating rinks.

We have reviewed the Public Health (Protection from Eviction) (No.2) (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021 and decided these will remain in place up for the time being but not exceeding June 30. We are considering further options to strengthen support for tenants. In the meantime, we would urge all tenants struggling to pay their rent to speak to their landlord and contact Citizen’s Advice Cymru or Shelter Cymru for further help and support.

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South West Wales enters a state of Drought as dry weather continues

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FOLLOWING the extended period of dry weather, Natural Resources Wales (NRW) has confirmed that the trigger thresholds have been met to move South West Wales into drought status from Friday, August 19.

NRW’s decision to move from prolonged dry weather status to drought for the area was agreed and shared with a meeting of the Welsh Government’s Drought Liaison Group and after consideration of the exacerbated pressures the high temperatures and lack of significant rainfall have had on the environment in this area.

The rest of Wales remains in prolonged dry weather status but concerns still remain. While essential supplies of water remain safe, the public and businesses in drought affected areas should be very mindful of the pressures on water resources and should use water wisely.  NRW continues to closely monitor the situation across Wales, working with partners and will take action as required.  

Natalie Hall, Sustainable Water Manager for NRW, said: “Prolonged dry weather can lead to drought when rainfall remains low. This can impact some of our most precious habitats and species as well as systems we often take for granted, such as our water supplies.

“We have decided to declare a state of drought in South West Wales after it was clear the lack of rain and recent heat have put a huge strain on our rivers, reservoirs and groundwater levels.“

The areas affected are:

  • North Ceredigion (Rheidol, Aeron, Ystwyth)
  • Teifi
  • Pembrokeshire (Eastern and Western Cleddau)
  • Carmarthen (Tywi and Taf)
  • Swansea and Llanelli (Tawe and Loughor)
  • Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend (Neath, Afan, Ogmore)

South West Wales received just 65.5% of its average rainfall in July and all river levels in the area are lower than expected for this time of the year, with the Ewenny, Teifi and Taf exceptionally low.

Low groundwater levels coupled with record high temperatures, have also put a strain on the region’s ecosystems as well as public water supplies in Pembrokeshire and parts of Carmarthenshire.

The rest of the country continues to experience a period of prolonged dry weather, despite there being some recent rainfall.

Across the rest of Wales, the majority of rivers across Wales are lower than expected for the time of year, with many exceptionally low including the Alyn, Conwy, Clwyd, Taf, Teifi, Ewenny, Wye, Usk and Ebbw. 

Between March and July Wales received just 61% of its expected rainfall resulting in the driest five-month period in 40 years

NRW is advising the residents of Pembrokeshire to follow water conservation advice given by Dwr Cymru/Welsh Water, who have introduced a temporary use ban,  more commonly known as a hosepipe ban, which will also come into effect today (Friday 19 August).

NRW and Welsh Government (WG) also attend the national drought group for England to address any cross-border concerns.

Natalie added: “While certain parts of Wales may be experiencing rain, it can still take a long time to recover from drought, making water a precious resource.

“We’re urging the public to save water where possible; you can find the latest ad advice on water by visiting your water company’s website or Waterwise (www.waterwise.org.uk).

“Please report any incidents on the current dry weather on our 24-hour hotline on 0300 065 3000.”

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Llandeilo Youth Club Thrown a Lifeline 

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“A SUBSTANTIAL private donation has dramatically changed our position,” says Llandeilo Children and Youth Society chair Christoph Fischer. “The promise of £10,000 over a period of one year has changed the way we can run the club dramatically.”

The society has had a struggle over the last two years. Set up in response to minor vandalism in Llandeilo during the pandemic, the committee secured a large number of volunteers, support from the Wales Sports Association, CWWYS and secured a grant from the Fund for Wales – BIG scheme. 

Yet, further lockdowns delayed the projects, volunteers returned to work or moved away and buildings that were earmarked as locations for the club were demolished or sold.

“We found the most benevolent support from the Civic Hall where we will share space with the Box of Fists club,” explains Fischer.

“We can now look for a youth worker to run our sessions on Monday and Thursday afternoons,” says the society’s secretary Richard Lashley. “We’re looking for applicants as well as for a suitable partner organisation to take on the administrative sign of this.”

“This money couldn’t have come at a more perfect time,” says treasurer John Meredith Williams. “We almost completed the required training and bureaucratic procedures.”

“It is time there’s something new going on in town for kids,” says Fischer, “and we can’t wait to finally get started.”

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Education

Carmarthenshire students celebrate A Level and A.S. results

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CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council wishes to congratulate all of the county’s students that are receiving their A-Level and A.S. results today, Thursday 18th August 2022.

Whilst this year has seen a return to exam-based results, following two years of assessment-based grading during the COVID-19 pandemic, students and teachers have still had to contend with the ongoing impact of the last 2 years.

A total of 98.6% of A Level students in Carmarthenshire achieved A*-E, which is higher than the 97.3% in 2019 when exams were last sat.

Across Carmarthenshire, a total of 40.1% of A level students have received A or A* this year, which is vastly higher than the 24.9% when exams were last sat in 2019.

After 2 years without examinations, students at AS Level also had the opportunity this year to show what knowledge they had learned and skills they had developed, through a combination of exams and assessments, applicable to different courses. 91.8 % of AS students in Carmarthenshire achieved A-E grades which, again, is higher than in 2019.

Cllr. Glynog Davies, Cabinet Member for Education and Welsh Language said: “Congratulations to every single student receiving their A-Level and A.S. results today. These young people and their teachers have worked extremely hard, within the uncertain climate that exists due to the pandemic, and they should be very proud, as am I, of their fantastic achievements.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank the students, teachers and support staff of Carmarthenshire as well as their families for their hard work over the last two years.”

In a joint statement, Carmarthenshire County Council’s Chief Executive, Wendy Walters and Director of Education and Children’s Services, Gareth Morgans added: “Congratulations to our A-Level and A.S. students for their, well deserved, excellent results. The last two years have been very challenging for students, teachers, support staff, families and friends and we are grateful to everyone for their commitment and support to each other during this period.

“These young people are a credit to their schools and our county, and we wish them every success for the future.”

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