Plenary meeting in the Senedd today

The virtual Senedd is back in action today which provides an ongoing opportunity for selected Members of the Senedd (on a rota) to hear statements by Ministers and and ask questions.

The First Minister has made the opening statement of the session which you can read here.

TITLE Coronavirus (Covid-19)
DATE 8th April 2020
BY Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister

Llywydd – heddiw byddaf yn rhoi’r wybodaeth diweddaraf i Aelodau am y gwaith sy’n gyrru ymlaen ar draws Cymru mewn ymateb i’r coronafeirws.

Mae pob rhan o Lywodraeth Cymru, llywodraeth leol, y gwasanaeth iechyd, y gwasanaethau brys, y sector wirfoddol, a busnes yn rhan o’r ymdrech enfawr hon.

Mae pawb yn cydweithio i baratoi gwasanaethau ac i gefnogi busnesau a phobl bregus.

Mae pob unigolyn yng Nghymru yn gwneud cyfraniad pwysig drwy ddilyn y cyngor i aros gartre.

Mae hyn yn gwneud gwahaniaeth yn barod.

Rhaid i ni ddal ati er lles pawb.

Llywydd, I want to start my statement this week my sending my best wishes to the Prime Minister after he was admitted to intensive care for treatment for coronavirus.

I also want to wish our colleague Alun Davies a speedy recovery following his treatment in hospital this week.

We wish them both well.

Llywydd, my aim in these weekly statements is to provide Members with an account of the most recent and significant developments across Wales since our last plenary meeting.

Over the course of the last week, the Welsh Government has taken further action to protect people’s health; to strengthen our NHS and to support businesses as we continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

Today we are approaching the end of the initial three-week period of the stay-at-home rules. I want to again place on record my thanks to people throughout Wales for the solidarity which has been shown in complying with these vitally necessary restrictions.

These are having an impact; the actions every one of us is taking to limit contact with others; to stay at home and to work from home wherever possible, is helping to slow down the spread of the virus and to protect the most vulnerable.

But because of the lag time between these measures coming into effect and seeing their results – we know that things will get worse before they get better. More people will fall ill, more people will need to be admitted to hospital, and more families across Wales will face the human heartbreak of losing someone they love.

The latest figures show a further 291 cases in Wales bringing the overall confirmed total to 3,790, although the true number of cases is likely to be higher.  Very sadly, the total number of deaths now stands at 212, each one an individual, each one whose absence we now mourn.

Yesterday, just after midnight, an amendment to those stay-at-home rules came into force, extending the social distancing duty to all workplaces.

The workforce is the greatest asset in any workplace, and these regulations underline the obligation to safeguard the health and wellbeing of those workers through all reasonable measures.

This means all workplaces, which remain open in Wales, must take all reasonable steps to maintain a 2m distance between people to reduce the spread of coronavirus.

Llywydd, this week has seen a set of developments in our health and social care services, from retuning doctors and carers to the creation of field hospitals. In relation to testing, we have seen the development of drive-in testing centres in Wales and testing for social care staff. As our capacity to do more tests increases, we will roll out testing to more people and professional groups, including the police and prison staff, as set out in our National Testing Plan for Wales..

Llywydd, ensuring health and social care staff have the right personal protective equipment (PPE) to do their job is a priority for my government.

Last week, new UK-wide PPE guidance was issued..This has simplified when PPE should be used but also extended its use.

The new guidance will increase the pressure on our stocks of PPE. To date we have issued more than 8 million additional items from our pandemic stocks to the NHS and local authorities – this is over and above the supplies, which are normally held by the NHS.

We are working with England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to ensure an ongoing supply of PPE but we have also called on Welsh businesses to switch their normal production lines to make PPE for the NHS.

We have had a tremendous response from Welsh companies to date. Amongst others, – the Royal Mint and the Rototherm Group are making face visors and shields, which will be worn by healthcare staff.  Gin distillery, In The Welsh Wind, is making World Health Organisation-approved hand sanitiser.

Turning to the economy, I’m pleased to be able to update Members about the progress we have made – with much thanks to our colleagues in local government – in supporting small businesses during the pandemic.

We have announced a series of support schemes, including a £1.2bn package consisting of a year-long rates holiday for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses and grants for small businesses.

In the 10 days since the grants scheme was opened, our local authorities have made more than 17,700 awards and paid out £229m. This figure is rising daily. I want to extend my thanks to local authorities for their help in ensuring those who need it most.

We have also confirmed support for Cardiff Airport this week and will announce further details about the £500m Economic Resilience Fund next week.

Llywydd, I am very grateful to you and to the Business Committee, for agreeing these Plenary sessions can be used for priority legislation. The Welsh Government continues to identify key European legislation which will need to be brought before the Senedd.

Llywydd, I want to end by looking ahead.

The three weeks of stay-at- home restrictions provided for in legislation, and which we have all faced, are due to end next week.

I must be plain with all Members, these restrictions will not end then.

We will not throw away the gains we have made, and the lives we can save, by abandoning our efforts, just as they begin to bear fruit.

Since we last met, I have discussed this matter with the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland, with the Secretary of State for Health in the UK Government and today with the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and the Secretary of State for Wales.

There is more work to do, in reviewing the regulations and in receiving the most up-to-date scientific and medical advice.

The precise nature of what will follow the current regime will be agreed over the coming days, but I need to leave Welsh citizens in no doubt.

The efforts we are all making are not yet over. They will not be over next week. Before the restrictions can begin to be lifted, and the return to normality begins there is more for us all to do.

I thank every one of those thousands and thousands of people in Wales who make their contribution every day and who will go on doing so over the days ahead.

Together we are making a real difference, we are protecting our NHS and, together, we are saving lives.

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