Senedd meeting – statement by Welsh Government

Due to the current circumstances the Senedd is holding a virtual meeting today, with a reduced number of AMs listening to Ministerial statements and asking questions via live link. I am not on the rota this week. The First Minister has just made his statement which you can read below.

TITLE Coronavirus (Covid-19)
DATE 1st April 2020
BY Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister

Llywydd, yn y datganiad hwn byddaf yn rhoi gwybodaeth i Aelodau am y camau rydym ni wedi cymryd mewn ymateb i’r argyfwng coronafeirws ers cyfarfod diwethaf y Senedd.

Mewn un wythnos, mae Llywodraeth Cymru wedi gweithredu i roi mesurau llym mewn lle i atal pobl rhag cwrdd a’i gilydd a felly i arafu lledaeniad y feirws.

Ar yr un pryd rydym yn gweithio’n ddyfal, ar draws y Llywodraeth, i helpu pobl a busnesau i wynebu newidiadau sylfaenol sy’n effeithio pob rhan o’n cymdeithas.

Rydym yn gwneud popeth posibl i gefnogi’r gwasanaeth iechyd a’r holl wasanaethau cyhoeddus eraill sy’n cefnogi pobl.

Mae’r newidiadau hyn yn anodd ond maent yn angenreidiol.  Maent yn achub bywydau.

Llywydd, the spread of coronavirus in Wales continues to accelerate. The last week has seen a significant increase in the number of people requiring hospital treatment and a further increase in the number of deaths associated with the disease.

Yet it is an inescapable fact that we still stand at the foothills of the mountain which faces us. The measures put in place over the past two weeks will slow the pace of the virus, but that effect will not be felt immediately. The number of people who will be affected, and the number of deaths will grow further. The key thing remains that everything we do together to slow down, and then reverse that trend will save lives.

Today, I will focus on those matters not covered in the statements to be made by my colleagues Vaughan Gething and Ken Skates.

Llywydd, In Wales, the Cabinet Covid Group meets each Wednesday morning. It receives reports of the latest developments from the Chief Medical Officer, the Chief Executive of NHS Wales, the Emergency Coordinating Centre and the Welsh Local Government Association. In recognition of the uniquely serious position we face, I have invited the leaders of the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru to join that Group. I am very grateful to Paul Davies and Adam Price for accepting my invitation.

Cross-administration working has, this week, also resulted in a formal agreement through the Military Assistance to Civilian Authorities mechanism for logistical planning support to be provided in Wales. As a result Armed Forces assistance is now available to our Emergency Coordinating Centre and to key public services in their efforts to combat the disease. I am very grateful for the speed and scale of assistance that is being afforded.

Llywydd, when we last met, the Senedd provided Legislative Consent to the Emergency Coronavirus Bill. It has since completed its passage through the Houses of Parliament and received Royal Assent on 25 March. We drew attention in our legislative consent memorandum to amendments that we anticipated would be made to the Bill. I can confirm that these amendments were indeed made to the Bill.

On Sunday last, on the advice of the Chief Medical Officer that coronavirus represents a ‘serious and imminent threat to public health in Wales’ I made a formal Declaration to that effect, in order to trigger powers under Schedule 22 of the Coronavirus Act. Those powers allow directions to be issued to restrict events, gatherings and the location of people and the use of powers to close premises or limit access by direction.

The making of a Declaration does not require the use of its powers but ensures that, if the need arises to do so, we have already taken the preliminary step required to enable that to take place. I have made the Declaration on that precautionary basis.

The powers of the Act allow normal decision-making systems to be adapted to meet the current circumstances. On Friday of last week, I approved the Practice Direction since issued jointly by the President of the Welsh Tribunals and the President of the Mental Health Review Tribunal for Wales. The Practice Direction allows the Tribunal to continue its work even where it is not possible to hold face to face hearings or where there is a shortage of available members.

Over the past week, regulations have been passed in Wales to give legal force to decisions made to close holiday and camping sites, public rights of way and access land.  We have also given full effect to the measures announced on Monday 23 March.

Llywydd, across the Welsh Government my colleagues continue to take the decisions, and to provide the advice necessary, to assist our fellow citizens at this difficult time.

On 26 March, Eluned Morgan wrote to all Members outlining the actions taken by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to assist UK nationals still abroad. We continue to highlight the cases of Welsh citizens in such circumstances.

On Friday of last week, Julie Morgan issued new guidance to those providing Families First and Flying Start services during the pandemic. Even in the most challenging circumstances, our aim remains to support those at greatest risk and vulnerability through whatever safe means can be deployed.

Also on Friday, Jane Hutt announced new funding to support volunteers and third sector groups. It includes £24m for Wales’ voluntary sector and £15m for a direct delivery food scheme for Wales’ most vulnerable people. COVID-19 volunteer numbers have passed 30,000 in Wales. I am immensely grateful to the WCVA and the County Voluntary Councils for everything they are doing, in close partnership with our local authorities, to match together the huge upswell of volunteers with the tasks which need to be carried out.

In relation to education, since the decision to close schools and cancel this summer’s exams, we have worked quickly to provide the vital information students need. Last week, Kirsty Williams announced that Year 10 and 12 students who were due to sit exams this summer will not be required to sit those exams at a later date, with their full qualifications being provided in 2021.

Over 800 schools across Wales have remained open to support our most vulnerable learners and the children of critical workers. I thank school staff for the work they have done so far, and for the fact that the majority of these schools will remain open over the Easter holiday.

Llywydd, the demands being made of our public services, businesses and Welsh citizens are enormous. The common task on which we are all engaged, however, is to save lives. We publish figures everyday of deaths from coronavirus in Wales, but each of those figures is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s parent or grandparent. It is to reduce that loss and suffering that we are all asked to do what we do, and the Welsh Government remains fully and single mindedly focused on that task.

 

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