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Welsh First Minister confirms Father Christmas will be allowed to visit children’s homes this year

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First Minister, Mark Drakeford has confirmed Father Christmas will be allowed to enter Welsh airspace to deliver presents across the country. However, he has warned there are some special precautions that even Santa himself needs to take.

Earlier this month Darren Millar MS wrote to the First Minister on behalf of children in his constituency, to make sure that the coronavirus restrictions would not prevent Father Christmas visiting homes in Wales this year.

In his reply, the First Minister has set the record straight.

(Lead image: Andrea Piacquadio / Pexels.com)


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Farming

Thousands of Welsh farms to receive early payment support

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More than 15,600 farm businesses across Wales will tomorrow receive a share of over £159.6m in Basic Payment Scheme (BPS) Advance payments, Rural Affairs Minister Lesley Griffiths has announced.

This news means 97% of claimants will receive an automatic payment worth 70% of their estimated full claim value.

Historically, BPS payments have commenced from 1 December annually. However, regulation changes made by the Welsh Government following the end of the EU Exit Implementation Period has simplified the requirements of BPS for 2021 and beyond.

This has allowed BPS Advance payments to be made prior to December to eligible BPS 2021 claimants, without the need to submit an application, as opposed to the opt-in BPS Support Scheme administered in previous years.

Full and Balance BPS 2021 payments will commence from 15 December as agreed with industry representatives.

The Welsh Government has already announced its intention for the Basic Payment Scheme to run until the end of 2023, subject to the UK Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

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A new system is being introduced which will move away from income support for famers to a system which pays farmers for the environmental benefit they deliver.

Rural Affairs Minister, Lesley Griffiths said: “As we move to our new Sustainable Farming Scheme it is crucial we provide support to secure the long term sustainability and resilience of the farming sector.

“Following the end of the EU Exit Implementation Period and through consultation, I introduced legislation which simplified the requirements of BPS and will provide early payments to the vast majority of farm businesses in Wales.

“Full and remaining balance BPS 2021 payments will be made from 15 December, subject to full validation of a BPS claim and my officials will use the next two months to maximise the number of farmers receiving these payments early in the payment window.”

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Coronavirus

‘Vaccines are best way to help NHS ahead of challenging winter’ says Health Minister

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People eligible for booster COVID-19 vaccinations and flu jabs are encouraged to take up the offer ahead of a challenging winter for NHS Wales, the Health Minister has said.

In an updated COVID-19 vaccination strategy, being published today (Tuesday October 12), Health Minister Eluned Morgan confirms that the majority of people eligible will be offered their booster vaccination by December 31, 2021.

People who are severely immuno-suppressed will be offered a third dose of vaccine to provide them with as much protection as possible.  They will be prioritised for an urgent appointment at a time that’s right for them based on their treatment and the advice of their clinician.

The strategy also confirms that by November 1, 2021, offers will be made for;

  • one dose for all 12-15 year olds and,
  • a booster vaccination for care home residents and health and care staff.

Everyone in the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI)’s 1-9 priority groups will be invited for a booster vaccination when it has been at least six months since their last dose. As before, invitation letters will be sent directly from health boards and people are requested not to contact their GP.

Health Minister Eluned Morgan said: “This winter will be incredibly difficult for our health service so it is vitally important for people to take up the offer of their COVID-19 and Flu vaccine if eligible to protect themselves and the NHS.

“Vaccinations for coronavirus are highly effective and protection against hospitalisation is estimated at around 95 per cent after the second dose. The flu vaccine will also protect people from serious complications and I encourage anyone who is eligible to get their flu vaccine regardless of their eligibility for a COVID-19 booster vaccine.

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“We have so far given more than 4.6 million COVID-19 vaccinations and 85 per cent of the over 16 population are fully vaccinated.

“There is no concern over the supply of any of the vaccines and we hope as many people as possible take up the offers to continue to protect those most vulnerable and the NHS.”

Health boards are already making good progress in providing the booster, vaccinating 16 and 17 year olds and 12-15 year olds, including those most of risk due to underlying health conditions.

We are also encouraging 12-15 year olds to have a conversation about having the vaccine with their family or trusted adult.

Most younger adults will only have received their second COVID-19 vaccine dose in late summer or early autumn and they will still have a high level of protection. The benefits of booster vaccination in this group will be considered when more information becomes available.

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The strategy also sets out that a digital booking system is being developed to allow people to book appointments online to try to make it as easy of possible for people to come forward at a time which suits them.

Appointments for first doses of COVID-19 vaccines are still available for anyone unvaccinated.

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Arts and Entertainment

COVID Pass for events and nightclubs in Wales start from today

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group of people in a concert

People in Wales must show a Covid Pass or demonstrate their Covid status to enter nightclubs and attend large events from today (11th October).

Businesses could be fined up to £10,000 and issued closure notices for non-compliance. Fines could also be issued for people faking test results or vaccine status.

Cases of coronavirus continue to be high across Wales, especially among younger adults the Welsh Government have warned.

The new law starting today mandates that all adults over-18 will need to show an NHS Covid Pass or a negative Covid test to enter certain premises:

  • Nightclubs and similar venues;
  • Indoor, non-seated events for more than 500 people;
  • Outdoor non-seated events for more than 4,000 people;
  • Any setting or event with more than 10,000 people in attendance.

The controversial law passed by just one vote, after Welsh Conservative minister Gareth Davies, who was attending the party’s conference in Manchester, couldn’t log onto Zoom to vote against the proposal.

Economy Minister, Vaughan Gething said: “Our fantastic vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength but the pandemic is not over. Cases of remain high across Wales and, unfortunately, families across the country are losing loved ones to this awful virus.

“The clear advice from our scientific advisers is that we need to take early action now.

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“The Covid Pass is just one of a series of measures in place to help prevent people spreading and catching coronavirus while helping to keep the economy open. None of us want to see further lockdowns and for businesses to have to close their doors once again.

“Showing a Covid Pass is already part of our collective effort to keep businesses open, with some major events, such as the successful Green Man Festival, using it.

“Together, if we all continue to follow the clear guidelines we’re all used to by now, we’ll be doing everything we can to Keep Wales Safe.”

People who are fully vaccinated in Wales can already download the NHS Covid Pass to securely show and share their vaccine status. It also allows people to show they have had a negative lateral flow test result within the last 48 hours.

Only people attending these venues and events will need to show their Covid status. Staff working or volunteering in these venues are encouraged to take lateral flow tests twice a week to check they do not have the virus. Workplaces are required by law to undertake Covid risk assessments, and to put reasonable measures in place to ensure staff safety.

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The Welsh Government say that Covid passes have been used successfully in many venues and events in Wales throughout the summer.

The First Minister confirmed last week that Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks. Plans are in place to respond to a challenging winter ahead with both coronavirus and seasonal flu both in circulation.

Welsh Government Ministers are continuing to encourage people to take steps to reduce the spread of the virus by continuing to work from home whenever possible, ensuring they take up the offer of a Covid vaccine, keeping your distance, isolating and taking a PCR test if you have symptoms, and wearing a face covering in indoor public places and on public transport.

The Welsh Government say they will use the current enforcement regimes for monitoring compliance – this means businesses and events will need to ensure their proposed arrangements to comply with the Covid pass regulations are included in their risk assessments, and reasonable measures to ensure compliance.

Penalties for non-compliance will include:

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  • a premises improvement notice or premises closure notice;
  • a fixed penalty notice and a maximum fine for businesses of £10,000.

In addition, it is now an offence for a person to provide false or misleading evidence of vaccination or testing status where that evidence is required as part of the requirement for holding a Covid pass.

(Lead image: Mark Angelo Sampan / Pexels.com)

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