Update by the First Minister (10.06.20)

TITLE Coronavirus (COVID-19)
DATE 10 June 2020
BY Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister

Llywydd, bydd fy adroddiad i’r Senedd heddiw yn delio gyda’r datblygiadau mwyaf pwysig yn ein ymateb i’r coronafeirws.

Fel arfer, byddaf yn crynhoi’r dystiolaeth ddiweddaraf am ledaeniad y feirws.

Byddaf yn diweddaru ar y trefniadau profi ac olrhain sydd yn allweddol wrth i ni symud allan o’r cyfnod clo.

Byddaf yn tynnu sylw’r Senedd at y rheoliadau sydd angen i ni wneud er mwyn gweithredu rheolau ynysu i deithwyr wrth gyrraedd ffiniau’r Deyrnas Unedig.

Byddaf yn trafod effaith y feirws ar blant a phobl ifanc yn Nghymru.

Yn olaf, byddaf yn cyfeirio at y digwyddiadau erchyll yn yr Unol Daleithiau yn yr wythnos diwethaf.

Llywydd, as in previous weeks, I will focus my report on matters not covered in the statements which follow from the Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales and the Minister for International Relations and the Welsh Language.

Llywydd, the number of new cases of the virus in Wales continues to fall, as does the number of admissions to hospital and to critical care. There were 42 new cases reported by Public Health Wales yesterday. There are now 40 patients in critical care with coronavirus, down from a peak of 164 in April. The number of new admissions has fallen from over 1,000 a week at the peak to 710 last week. These trends are encouraging, and again I thank the people of Wales for the commitment and solidarity they have shown over the past weeks and months.

Nevertheless, yesterday the ONS reported that, in all settings, up to 29 May, there have been a total of 2,240 deaths involving coronavirus in Wales. The numbers of deaths reported yesterday by Public Health Wales was 9, continuing the downward trend. Each individual will be greatly missed, and it remains imperative that we all continue to follow the rules to protect ourselves and others.

Llywydd, I reported last week on the decisions taken as part of the latest review of the regulations, to ease some of the restrictions currently in place.  We will make further easements as soon as it is safe to do so, but only when it is safe to do so.

 We have taken these cautious steps supported by our Test, Trace and Protect system which came into effect last week.  As I’ve said, the number of positive cases of coronavirus in Wales continues to fall.  Last week the highest number on any one day was 82, the lowest 35.  These cases generated 651 people for follow-up by the contact tracing teams, of whom 619 have been successfully contacted and advised.

 Llywydd, our system is a partnership between Public Health Wales, Local Health Boards and local authorities.  Over 600 staff, experienced in working with the public, have been recruited and trained by local authorities and other public services.   Not all will be undertaking contact tracing work yet due to the low number of new positive cases – but the capacity is there to step up if needed. Careful arrangements have been made to protect personal data and to guard against fraud.

This is a trust-based system, enabled by technology and staffed by local people.  It will provide the essential infrastructure to help us prevent transmission of the virus and gradually reduce the restrictions on day-to-day life in Wales.

 Llywydd, we have to be prepared for a potential upturn in transmission, because as the lockdown eases, so the number of personal contacts increases. In that context, we have reviewed the evidence on the role of face coverings and the Minister for Health and Social Services reported on new advice yesterday, endorsing the use of non-medical face coverings on public transport.

The Minister updated in a written statement yesterday that we are on track to complete the first phase of testing all residents and staff in care homes by the end of this week, and will now test all care home workers each week for a further four week period.

The UK Government’s plans for quarantine requirements at the Border came into effect this week. Border security is a reserved matter, but because the quarantine arrangements are implemented through public health legislation, it was necessary for the Welsh Ministers to make parallel regulations for Wales.  Where people notify an intention to quarantine at an address in Wales, they will be contacted by Public Health Wales.

Llywydd, in previous statements I have considered the impact of the virus on the work of the Welsh Government, on its budget and other areas. The legislative programme is no exception, with a sharp reduction in the capacity of the Government to bring forward our proposals, and challenges for the legislature in discharging the responsibility to scrutinise those plans in current circumstances.

The Education Minister’s statement yesterday informed Members that, very reluctantly, the Government has concluded that it will not be practicable to proceed as planned with the Tertiary Education Reform Bill. It will now be published as a draft Bill for consultation.

I will make a Statement next month on the Government’s legislative plans for the remainder of the Senedd term.

Llywydd, yesterday we received important evidence on how coronavirus is impacting the lives of children in Wales. This has been an extraordinary period for us all, but for children the coronavirus crisis will make up a significant proportion of their lives. Attending to their needs and experience is an important strand in our response to the emergency.

Over 23,700 children and young people aged 3-18 shared their views through the Coronavirus and Me Survey.

This survey is a partnership between the Welsh Government, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales, Children in Wales and the Youth Parliament.

The survey underlined how much young people have been missing their family and friends during this period.  For young people in particular, it underlined their anxieties about their education and their worries about falling behind.

As our Chief Medical Officer has made clear, there is more than one form of harm from coronavirus. Children’s needs must be a real concern as we try to balance the benefits of protection from coronavirus against the harms caused by loss of education and social contact.  There is no doubt that those harms will impact most on those who are already disadvantaged.

From the start, we set out to mitigate those harms by keeping schools open for children receiving free school meals, and the children of key workers.  But for many children, there has been no contact with school, and their experience of remote learning may have been mixed.

That is why, in considering the options for the remainder of this term, the Minister for Education has given priority to ensuring that all pupils will meet their teacher, in small groups, to support them with their learning and planning for the next stage.  The Minister’s statement last week confirmed that this phased return to school will start from 29 June and continue till the end of July, ensuring a full month of school in its new format, for all pupils before the summer break.

Finally Llywydd, last week the leader of Plaid Cymru raised the issue of Black Lives Matter protests, and I was grateful to him for doing so. The anger felt at the death of George Floyd has quite rightly cast a spotlight on the wider experience of black people in our society.

We have as great a need as any, here in Wales, to confront our own history, to recognise the part played in that history by black communities and to address the systemic discrimination and disadvantage faced by black people today.

Nobody’s record on this is perfect : no political party, no organisation, public or private, and no government. All I want to say to black citizens here in Wales today is that, imperfect as the record has been, the Welsh Government is here to stand by you, to work with you, to learn from you, as we recommit to making a real difference in the future.

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