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Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh dies aged 99

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The Duke of Edinburgh has died aged 99 Buckingham Palace has confirmed in a statement this morning (Friday 9 April)

The official statement from the Royal household said: “It is with deep sorrow that Her Majesty The Queen announces the death of her beloved husband, His Royal Highness The Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

“His Royal Highness passed away peacefully this morning at Windsor Castle. The Royal Family join with people around the world in mourning his loss.”

The news of the Duke’s death comes only a short while after a month-long stay in hospital undergoing a procedure for a pre-existing heart condition.

Speaking at Downing Street, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “It was with great sadness that a short time ago I received word from Buckingham Palace that His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh has passed away at the age of 99.

“Prince Philip earned the affection of generations here in the United Kingdom, across the Commonwealth and around the world.

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“He was the longest serving consort in history, one of the last surviving people in this country to have served in the second world war at Cape Matapan, where he was mentioned in despatches for bravery and in the invasion of Sicily, where he saved his ship by his quick thinking and from that conflict he took an ethic of service that he applied throughout the unprecedented changes of the post war era.

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson speaking at Downing Street earlier today

“Like the expert carriage driver that he was he helped to steer the royal family and the monarchy so that it remains an institution indisputably vital to the balance and happiness of our national life.

“He was an environmentalist, and a champion of the natural world long before it was fashionable.

“With his Duke of Edinburgh awards scheme he shaped and inspired the lives of countless young people and at literally tens of thousands of events he fostered their hopes and encouraged their ambitions.

“We remember the Duke for all of this and above all for his steadfast support for Her Majesty The Queen. Not just as her consort, by her side every day of her reign, but as her husband, her “strength and stay”, of more than 70 years.

“And it is to Her Majesty, and her family, that our nation’s thoughts must turn today.

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“Because they have lost not just a much-loved and highly respected public figure, but a devoted husband and a proud and loving father, grandfather and, in recent years, great-grandfather.

“Speaking on their golden wedding anniversary, Her Majesty said that our country owed her husband “a greater debt than he would ever claim or we shall ever know” and I am sure that estimate is correct.

“So we mourn today with Her Majesty The Queen, we offer our condolences to her and to all her family and we give thanks, as a nation and a Kingdom, for the extraordinary life and work of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.”

The Royal Family released this photograph of the Duke of Edinburgh after his death.

The leader of Swansea Council, Cllr Rob Stewart and The Lord Mayor of Swansea, Cllr Mark Child said in a joint statement: “On behalf of the people of Swansea we wish to express our great sadness on hearing the news of the death of His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh.

“Alongside many other communities in Wales and around the world, we extend our heartfelt condolences to the Royal Family at this time.

“Flags are flying at half-mast on all civic buildings and an electronic book of condolence has also been opened online at www.swansea.gov.uk/bookofcondolence

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“A period of silence will be observed at the beginning of official meetings.”


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Royal Family

Royal recognition for role in planning health board’s response to pandemic

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A Swansea Bay University Health Board staff member has been thanked for her work through the pandemic by attending a Royal Garden Party

Planning for and responding to emergencies is second nature to Karen Jones. As Swansea Bay’s Head of Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response (EPRR) Karen is used to expecting the unexpected.

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But nothing could have prepared her for the special invitation she received in recognition of her role in the health board’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

As a way of thanking her for her hard work, Karen (pictured) was invited to attend one of the Royal garden parties held annually at Buckingham Palace.

It is her duty to ensure the health board is prepared for high risks and emergencies and is able to respond and recover when necessary.

Over the last two years, much of her day-to-day work has unsurprisingly been focused on the response to Covid-19.

This has involved preparing and responding to various scenarios, the initial setting up of testing centres and creating a co-ordination centre where vital information could be shared between services.

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“My job is to try to be one step ahead to try and stop us going into an emergency situation but also being prepared to deal with them if they occur,” Karen said.

“I could see flurries of information coming through about the outbreak in Wuhan in December 2019. In January I spoke to our Executive Director of Public Health, Dr Keith Reid, about it as it seemed to be increasing in activity.

“After learning more, I said I think we should invoke our pandemic response plan. I dealt with the measles outbreak in 2013 and I knew this was a rising tide emergency and going the same way so we reacted early.

“I am very proud to say that we stood up our pandemic plans early in order to be prepared.

“We developed templates based on the information about what was going on in Wuhan and asked service groups to develop responses based on a number of ‘what if’ scenarios.

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“We had to set things up very quickly.”

As part of her role, delivering on training and exercising is paramount and Karen has to organise staff exercises as a way of testing the emergency plans in place, should they be needed in future.

Just months before Covid-19 emerged, she had arranged a pandemic response exercise, in conjunction with Public Health Wales, the learning of which went on to form the basis of the real-life response in Swansea Bay.

Karen said having a Covid co-ordination centre, known as Gold Command, where senior members of staff could receive situation updates and share information had been crucial in managing the response.

At the height of the pandemic, meetings were held three times a day as guidance and information was changing rapidly.

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“It was a lifesaver because in an emergency you need a central point for all information to come in so you can manage it and distribute it,” Karen said.

“It was like a tsunami coming towards us and we were trying to make sense of all of the information, especially when we were receiving several versions of guidance about the same thing within a short space of time.

“As well as the massive response within the health board, we also had to link in with multi-agencies and their equivalents to Gold Command structures.

“It was a phenomenal response.”

Karen said she was very surprised to receive the invitation to one of the Royal garden parties but she emphasised that it was a team effort thanks to the hard work from those around her, as well as wider health board staff.

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She added: “It was a complete and utter surprise and I was extremely humbled as I really wasn’t expecting it. I was honoured.

“It was a truly memorable day and the weather was beautiful. There were so many people present, all being recognised for their contributions to society, so I really did feel humbled to be part of it.

“At the beginning of the pandemic it was hard but I was in awe as I couldn’t believe how everybody pulled together. The camaraderie and teamwork – that community tight-knit feel was something I’ll never forget.

“It’s been a team effort from an accumulation of people who had to come together from all areas, led by Dr Keith Reid.

“It is an amazing job and I absolutely love it because no one day is the same. It is so varied and you can achieve so much.”

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Siân Harrop-Griffiths, Director of Strategy, said: “Karen was instrumental in establishing Swansea Bay’s response to Covid, meaning that we were in front of most health boards in our planning.

“For example, we were the first to establish a testing centre for staff.

“She has worked tirelessly through the pandemic, utilising her skills and experience on emergency planning and business continuity to enable us to respond so well as an organisation.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for her efforts to be rewarded.”

Lead image: Karen at the Royal garden party with her husband Martin (Image: Swansea Bay NHS)

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Royal visit for Neath Port Talbot Youth Service

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Neath Port Talbot Council’s Youth Service enjoyed a royal visit (Wednesday 9 March) when HRH the Countess of Wessex visited young parents, their children and staff involved in the Young Parents Provision project.

The Provision is funded by the Welsh Government Youth Support Grant run in partnership with the Youth Service, Flying Start and Thrive.

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The Young Parents can access Youth Workers, along with support from Neath Port Talbot Council’s Flying Start programme (an early years support programme for families of children under four) and support from Thrive Group Wales.

The Young Parents group provides valuable support and advice for young parents who are at risk of isolation and it has provided a lifeline for new parents as they navigated caring for babies and toddlers in the Covid-19 pandemic. Support for the group has included a Slow Cooker Project, walk and talk sessions, a parent nurture course and one to one sessions.

The Countess of Wessex has a strong personal interest in improving opportunities and help for young people and she champions national charities such as the NSPCC.

During her visit to The Young Parents Group at Playhem Play Centre, the Countess met parents, children, the Youth Council and staff and she was also welcomed by the Mayor of Neath Port Talbot, Cllr John Warman, Neath Port Talbot Council Deputy Leader, Cllr Leanne Jones, Education, Skills and Culture Cabinet Member Cllr Peter Rees, the Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, Mrs Louise Fleet and Neath Port Talbot’s Deputy Youth Mayor, Maddie Pritchard.

Cllr Warman said: “We were delighted to welcome HRH the Countess of Wessex to Neath Port Talbot who was keen to meet the young parents being helped by our youth service in conjunction with Flying Start and the Thrive Group at Playhem. It is a first class project for helping and supporting young parents who would otherwise be in danger of becoming isolated.”

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Neath Port Talbot Youth Mayor Bethan Nicholas-Thomas added: “It was very nice for HRH the Countess of Wessex to visit us in Neath Port Talbot and talk to the Young Parents Group and Youth Council. It is important for us as young people to have these opportunities where we can voice our opinions on matters that affect our lives. The Young Parents project is an excellent example of the Youth Service working in partnership with others to help young people who need support.”

Earlier in the day, the Countess, a patron of the Scar Free Foundation, visited the London based charity’s research centre in Swansea University – the centre, working with Health and Care Research Wales, aims to enhance facial reconstruction techniques using 3D bioprinting.

Her Royal Highness also planted a Jubilee tree at the city’s new coastal park, which is next door to the newly opened Swansea Arena.

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HRH The Countess of Wessex unveils tree at Swansea Arena’s coastal park

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HRH The Countess of Wessex has been helping celebrate Swansea as a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City” during a Royal Visit to the city on Wednesday 9th March.

To mark the occasion, Her Royal Highness planted a Jubilee tree at the city’s new coastal park, which is next door to the newly opened Swansea Arena.

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The Countess will tour the park, which is the first new urban park in Swansea for a century. HRH will meet VIPs, local groups and school children who are green champions in their communities, planting trees and promoting environmental initiatives in their areas.

Swansea has been recognised as a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City” as a result of ongoing work to plant thousands of trees across the city, and also to the Council’s future plans to plant even more trees. Tree planting has taken place as part of recent new school developments, major improvements to council housing stock and also during the development of new walking and cycling routes.

In November last year, Swansea University planted more than 1,600 whips at Ashlands Playing Fields. City centre major thoroughfares including the Kingsway and Wind Street have also seen dozens of new trees planted.

Rob Stewart, Leader of Swansea Council said Swansea was privileged and honoured to be a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City”, which is both a celebration of the city’s commitment to its local environment and a challenge to do more in the years ahead.

He said: “We are very proud to be designated a Queen’s Green Canopy Champion city. It is a huge honour. We’re delighted that HRH The Countess of Wessex is joining us at a significant time for the future of our city and during Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Year.

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The coastal park has only just been completed and the tree The Countess plants will be the final finishing touch for an innovative new destination that will be enjoyed for generations to come by countless visitors.”Being designated a Queen’s Green Canopy “Champion City” gives Swansea a special responsibility to make sure the legacy we hand over to future generations is a greener, happier and healthier city.

We’ve already established strong links with community groups and schools across Swansea to ensure there is a joint effort aiming to make that ambition a reality. This year we have plans to plant almost 1,000 trees and 5,600 whips trees. We’re also starting a major environmental mapping exercise to identify public land and roadside verges that would benefit from tree planting initiatives.

“It’s a way of putting down green markers now that will boost growth of green space in the years ahead.”

(Lead image: Swansea Council)

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