Statement by First Minister 6th May 2020

I am sitting in the online Plenary session today. The First Minister has just completed his update to the Senedd, which you can read below:

 

TITLE Coronavirus (COVID-19)
DATE 6th May 2020
BY Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

 

Llywydd, unwaith eto byddaf yn rhoi gwybodaeth i Aelodau’r Senedd am y datblygiadau mwyaf pwysig yn yr wythnos a aeth heibio.

Byddaf yn canolbwyntio ar y gwasanaethau iechyd a gofal, a sut rydym yn ymateb i effaith coronafeirws ar y bobl mwyaf bregus yng Nghymru.

Mae’r rheolau ymbellhau yn dal i fod mewn lle wrth gwrs, a rhaid i ni gyd gadw atynt.

Mae nifer o bethau calonogol i ddweud, ond rhaid i ni barhau i fod yn ofalus iawn wrth gynllunio am y camau nesaf.

Llywydd, once again I will update Members on the key developments since my statement a week ago.

As in previous weeks, I will deal with issues not covered in the statements which follow from the Minister for: Economy, Transport and North Wales; International Relations and Welsh Language and the Counsel General and Minister for European Transition.

Llywydd, as we head towards the end of the second period of lockdown, I would like to provide Members with the latest figures on the progression of the disease in Wales.

Thanks to the enormous efforts of people throughout Wales, the number of coronavirus cases is decreasing and the rate at which the virus is circulating has come down.  It remains, however, close to the level which would put us back in danger. The crisis is certainly not over, even as some signs improve.

The number of new confirmed cases of coronavirus reported every day by Public Health Wales is now consistently less than 200.

The number of people in hospital with coronavirus has fallen to just over 900 on 5th May.

There are now fewer than 70 people in critical care with coronavirus, down from more than 100 in mid-April.

 Taken together, this body of evidence shows that everything we are doing as a community is helping us move past the peak of the virus.

But this week we note that the number of deaths in Wales has exceeded 1,000.  This sombre milestone underlines the need for great caution as we approach the end of the second review period this week.

Llywydd, I turn now to some practical matters. Thanks to the unstinting efforts of many colleagues, the positive position on PPE I reported last week has been maintained.  Deliveries from Cambodia and China have put our stocks in a more stable position.  We continue to work with partners to ensure supplies are distributed fairly across Wales, to meet the needs of hospital and care staff, as well as GPs, optometrists, urgent dental centres and pharmacies.

Llywydd, our testing capacity continues to increase, now at 2,100 tests a day up from 1,800 last week. The North Wales and Carmarthen drive-through testing centres opened last week. The new Swansea Bay facility will open this week.  We are testing health and social care workers, police, the fire service and prison staff, and will expand to other key workers as capacity increases.

Yesterday we received a significant delivery of testing equipment from overseas.  Today it is being installed and validated.  That process is being completed as rapidly as possible, and will lead to a further step up in capacity next week.

Last week I reported to Members that we were working with the care home sector on a wider testing remit in those care homes where there is an outbreak of coronavirus.  The Health Minister announced the changes to give effect to that wider remit in a Written Statement on 2 May.

In essence, the changes do more to prevent the introduction of coronavirus in care homes where none is in circulation, and more to respond to new outbreaks. As part of that effort, from the beginning of this week, 8 new mobile testing units will be deployed as part of the plan to test all residents where an outbreak occurs.

Llywydd, last week I mentioned the work underway on the enhanced public health infrastructure which will underpin recovery in Wales.  This will include 3 core elements: contact tracing; sampling and testing; and surveillance.  That has now been the subject of a Topical Question answered by the Minister for Health.

Llywydd, the publication last week of the ONS report ’Coronavirus and the social impacts on disabled people in Great Britain’ demonstrated the stark inequality dimension of the current crisis. It is clear that the virus will have the greatest impact on those will fewest resources.  It will deepen the inequalities already entrenched by a decade of austerity.

This impact will be more intense in Wales due to the age profile of our population, and the higher levels of deprivation in our communities.

As we made clear in the Framework for recovery document published on 24 April, addressing inequality will be a key factor in our plans for coming out of lockdown.

In the meantime, we have already taken a series of actions to mitigate, where we can the impacts of the crisis on the poorest and most vulnerable citizens in Wales.

As Members will know, research has established that ethnic minority groups are experiencing greater harm from the virus than the majority of the population, and that there is a differential impact within the BAME communities. Through our stakeholder groups we are working to understand these impacts and how these are affecting our communities in Wales.

A BAME Covid-19 Advisory Group has been established to examine the evidence, and to identify measures that could be taken to further protect the most vulnerable.  I will attend a meeting of the Group later this afternoon.

We have continued to prioritise the welfare of families who need help the most. The Minister for Education has announced funding of up to £40million to enable local authorities to continue free school meal provision until schools re-open, or to the end of August.  Wales is the first country in the UK to provide this continued assurance of support during school holidays.

We are funding Free Child Care for the pre-school children of critical workers, and we are the only country in the UK providing free childcare for vulnerable children.

The Digital Exclusion Grant of £3million, announced since the Senedd last met, will enable all children to access the IT they need for remote learning during the lockdown.

We have recognised the exceptional service provided by care workers through a flat rate £500 payment to the social care workforce.  Like our £60,0000 death in service payment, this will have the greatest relative benefit for the lowest paid.

Llywydd, women bear the brunt of low-paid work in our society.  More than 80% of workers in social care are women, and our decision to make a payment of £500 will have an equality impact in gender as well as finance.

At the same time, Llywydd, I should welcome the decision of the Ministry of Justice to locate the first new women offenders’ residential centre in Wales, a long overdue development and much assisted by the advocacy of my colleagues Alun Davies and Jane Hutt.

Llywydd, in providing financial support from within a limited block budget, we work to target funding where it is most needed.  By providing a ceiling of £500,000 on the rateable value eligibility for our business rate relief scheme, we freed up more than £100 million to support smaller businesses.

In Wales, we have kept two important schemes, which benefit low paid and vulnerable people.

The Discretionary Assistance Fund was particularly important during the flooding emergency, and continues to offer vital protection to people in financial crisis.  We have allocated an additional £11 million to the fund this year.

Llywydd, in normal times, the DAF makes around 5,600 payments each month, totalling £330,000. Since the impact of the crisis, 12,000 payments are being made monthly, totalling £750,000.

We continue to support households experiencing hardship through the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, and are encouraging people to contact their local authority to see if they are eligible.

Llywydd, last week marked 5 years since the Well-being of Future Generations Act became Welsh law, as noted in an important statement yesterday by the Deputy Minister and Chief Whip.

As we respond to the current crisis, and plan for a post Covid Wales, the Welsh Government will hold fast to the principles of that Act, to build a more prosperous, greener and more equal Wales.   The actions I have outlined today are rooted in our commitment to socio-economic and environmental justice, and this will continue to drive our actions in the future.

 

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