Please find below my monthly newsletter to update you on my work on your behalf in the Senedd and around Montgomeryshire.
As always, if you have any comments on the situation unfolding in Ukraine, Covid or any of the other issues in this newsletter or if you would like to raise other matters with me on which you require my support, please contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone by calling 01686 610887.
Russell George MS
Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire
Update on Covid-19
Easing of Restrictions
You will likely be aware that as the UK and Wales move into a new position, of living alongside Covid, masks are no longer required in shops or on public transport - although they are recommended - but they remain compulsory in health and social care settings.
The legal requirement for people to self-isolate if they have Covid has also ended - although doing so is strongly advised.
The 30th of March was the last day on which the public were able to book a PCR test if they have symptoms, and testing sites have now closed.
From 1 April, those with COVID-19 symptoms should use a lateral flow test to check whether they have the virus. These can be ordered here or by calling 119.
Wales will maintain some testing measures until the end of June. Free lateral flow tests (LFTs) for people with symptoms and contact tracing will continue, but after the end of June, free LFTs won't be available and contact tracing and self-isolation support payments will also end.
Information on Second Booster
Across Powys, spring booster appointments are already under way. These are currently being offered (or will be in the coming weeks) to:
residents of care home for older adults
people over 75
people aged 12+ with immunosuppression.
If you are eligible for a second booster (based on the definitions above) then you should receive an invitation letter by early June, and in most cases, this will be much sooner. Invitations are currently being sent out around six months after your first booster, but the time interval is likely to reduce to around three months by June. Most appointments for Montgomeryshire residents are taking place at the Health Board’s vaccination clinic in Newtown, which is now located in Park Street.
In the meantime, people aged 75+ can join the reserve list to help ensure that every appointment slot is used and no vaccine is wasted. The reserve list is currently open to people aged 75+ who received their first booster before 30 November 2021.
Second boosters are currently available by appointment only (including through the reserve list) and not by drop-in.
Eligibility for COVID-19 vaccination is set nationally by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) rather than locally by the health board or Welsh Government. At the moment second boosters are only recommended for the groups mentioned above, and the JCVI has not yet announced whether the eligibility will expand in future.
Remember that first doses, second doses and first boosters are still available if you haven’t yet taken up the offer. The best source of information on the second booster roll out as well as other vaccine doses can be found here.
Flooding mitigation projects sought
Last week in the Senedd, I urged the First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS, to support communities in Mid Wales and support work to alleviate future flooding incidents.
In February, rivers across Powys saw record levels of flooding and residents in Llandinam had to be evacuated from their homes as water levels rose and seven people were rescued by boat after the River Severn burst its banks during Storm Franklin.
The flooding caused much disruption throughout local communities and many roads had to be closed due to safety concerns.
I also raised the affected areas of Llandrinio and Pool Quay and asked why the committments which were made two years ago by Natural Resources Wales hadn't been enacted.
I have met with several residents whose homes were flooded, and they fear that they will now carry out refurbishment works to their properties, only then to be flooded again in the future.
I also asked for the Welsh Government to change its policy and offer households that were most affected by the flooding to receive compensation like that of households affected by the flooding in 2020 in other areas of Wales. You can view the full exchange in the above video.
Transport Update - Reopening of Cambrian Line & Golfa Road
Last week, I attended a briefing from Network Rail on the repair works being carried out on the railway between Newtown and Welshpool.
Network Rail has now reopened the railway following some pre-opening track testing on this section of the railway.
Network Rail said the length of the closure was also down to the surrounding land which was flooded so they couldn’t get on site for a week after the flooding occurred until the water subsided.
I also took up the problems encountered with the replacement buses with Transport for Wales who confirmed that they would look into these issues and take them up with the bus companies contracted.
The Golfa road has also been reopened and I'm grateful to the people who campaigned for the early reopening of the road and the hundreds of people who responded to my residents' survey on the roadworks that are taking place on the A458 between Welshpool & Llanfair Caereinion.
Support for the people of Ukraine
Advice if you are a host living in Wales and sponsoring a person or family from Ukraine is available here.
Advice on how public bodies can support the Homes for Ukraine scheme is available here.
There is a dedicated helpline for people arriving in Wales from Ukraine and for people who are acting as sponsors to provide advice and guidance.
For callers in the UK, the number is: Freephone 0808 175 1508.
For callers outside the UK, the number is: +44 20 4542 5671.
Supporting "The Walking Men of Mid Wales"
I was so pleased that I had the opportunity in the Senedd to raise the great work of ‘The Walking Men of Mid Wales'.
I would like to thank Andrew Coppin and the wider team of volunteers for setting up the group in Newtown and Welshpool.
The Walking Men of Mid Wales is a non-judgmental group meeting for men of any ages who meet fortnightly in Newtown at 7pm on Fridays and have a leisurely stroll that lasts approximately an hour.
The group meetings are always in a safe place to talk to one another in a friendly manner and an environment to offer support to one another during times of anxiety, stress, sadness,or even loneliness.
They are now inviting men in the Welshpool area to join them for a Walk and Talk on Thursday evenings.
The initiative has proved very successful in Newtown since launching last year and has expanded to Welshpool where it has been warmly received. No booking is required, simply turn up!
More information is available by visiting the group's Facebook page here.