Please find below my monthly e-newsletter for the month of August. The Senedd is currently on its summer recess which allows me to spend more time visiting communities across Montgomeryshire and speaking to residents, something which I always enjoy.
As we look forward to easing Covid-19 restrictions tomorrow, I hope that you find this edition of the newsletter informative and as always, you can contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phoning 01686 610887 if you believe I can support you in any way
Russell George MS
Member of the Senedd for Montgomeryshire
Easing of Covid-19 Restrictions
Almost all coronavirus restrictions will be lifted tomorrow as Wales moves to Alert level Zero. I very much welcome this step as we return to some kind or normality and to how life was before the coronavirus pandemic began. We are of course still in uncertain territory, so I have the view that whilst we need to learn to live with the virus, we need to remain cautious.
For the full details of Alert level Zero and the Welsh Government's FAQ page, please click here.
Some Key Information
- Meeting indoors
No limit on the number of people who can meet indoors, including in private homes, in public places or at events. Event organisers will continue to carry out coronavirus risk assessments as a legal requirement.
- Night-time economy
All businesses and premises, including nightclubs will be able to reopen.
- Face coverings
Face coverings will remain a legal requirement indoors in public places, such as on public transport, in shops and when accessing healthcare.
However, this rule is being relaxed for indoor hospitality settings, such as restaurants, on the grounds that people are not required to wear one for the majority of the time spent there.
Wearing face coverings in the classroom will also no longer be recommended from September.
- Social distancing
Social distancing will no longer be a legal requirement indoors or outdoors but it will remain something that businesses and premises can put in place as a safety measure, subject to a risk assessment.
Vaccination Update and Booster Jabs
In my capacity as Shadow Health Minister in Wales, I recently met in London with the UK Government's Vaccination Minister, Nadhim Zahawi MP.
The UK Vaccination Programme has undoubtedly been one of the success stories of tackling the Covid-19 pandemic with over 88% of adults across the UK having received their first dose of the vaccine and over 72% of people having received their full course of two vaccinations.
The UK Government has procured sufficient booster vaccinations for the whole of the UK, which it will provide to the Welsh Government and NHS to distribute in Wales via our Health Boards.
The details of the booster programme have not yet been confirmed, but will start to take place this Autumn, clearly with the most vulnerable groups receiving the booster vaccinations first.
Nadhim and I discussed the requirement to have an annual vaccination programme for variants of COVID-19 as we do with the annual flu vaccination programme.
I was also able to inform Nadhim of how successful our local health board has been in deploying first and second jabs – leading the way in Wales and the UK.
Earlier today, I met with the Health Board and it was confirmed that 95% of the adult population in Powys have received their first dose. Of these, over 90% have received double-dose protection.
If you received your first dose on or before 31 May and have not yet been invited for your second dose or if you are aged 18+ and registered with a Powys GP (or you will turn 18 by 31 October 2021) and have not yet received your first dose then click here to attend a drop in clinic or use the Priority Access Form to let the health board know.
I have been contacted by many constituents regarding the disparity of PCR tests being offered to travellers in Wales compared to other areas of the UK.
The appropriate test in Wales is only available via a Corporate Travel Management system and are substantially more expensive. Travellers in England are being offered a range of prices and providers for a PCR test as low as £20 whilst in Wales we have to go through the web portal system to take an NHS test which costs £88 for one test and £170 for two tests.
I have again written to the First Minister questioning the availability and cost of these tests in Wales.
Powys Teaching Health Board, working with the Powys County Council, have submitted plans for a new healthcare facility in Newtown, serving North Powys. I asked the First Minister if the Welsh Government would agree to take the proposals forward and give the project the green light.
New Community Hospital and Health Facility for North Powys
Powys Teaching Health Board, working with the Powys County Council, have submitted plans for a new healthcare facility in Newtown, serving North Powys. The plans are currently awaiting approval from the Welsh Government.
Earlier this month, I asked the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, if the Welsh Government would agree to take the proposals forward and give the project the green light.
I have been actively supporting these proposals and have been raising the need for a new health facility to support North Powys over many years.
If agreed, the plans would see a cutting edge, state of the art new community hospital and health care facility in Newtown, which would offer more services locally.
The new facility would also improve health and wellbeing services in our area, with enhanced health checks and appointments being offered locally, rather than having to travel out of county.
My hope is that even before this facility is built, the proposals will attract more health professionals to move to our area.
I was pleased that the First Minister agreed and confirmed that the new facility would offer advantages to the local population. I will keep pressing the Government to give the project the green light.
I joined Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, and Craig Williams MP to discuss improvements on the Cambrian Line which have just been completed.
Works on the Cambrian Line
Last month, I joined Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, Craig Williams MP and others to celebrate the completed works at the Black Bridge, Machynlleth.
Many won’t know what these works were about and why they were so important. The train services on the Machynlleth to Shrewsbury line will now be more reliable, as previously, the bridge had to be shut on many occasions due to flooding. The bridge has been lifted 1m so the track now sits above the River Dulas' flood zone.
While the works have been ongoing, it has been frustrating that buses have had to replace trains between Machynlleth and Shrewsbury while the 80-tonne steel and timber bridge was raised. However, now that the works have been completed, normal service has resumed and we have a far more reliable service between Machynlleth and Shrewsbury.
I have also called for more carriages on this route. On one of the hottest days of year, passengers experienced a crowded train, without ventilation, not following the Welsh Government's own social distancing guidance. Passengers were told to try and keep socially distanced over a loudspeaker, but this was just not possible. More carriages are needed!
Celebrating the work of community pharmacists
I was delighted to visit Llanidloes Pharmacy as we marked the birthday of the NHS.
It was a chance to celebrate not only the achievements of community pharmacists as part of the NHS, but also an opportunity to thank the team there for their hard work during the Covid pandemic.
The visit also allowed me to say well done to the pharmacist, Dylan Jones, who has recently purchased Llanidloes Pharmacy in his own right. He is a great example of a businessman taking control of his own future but also - more importantly - a pioneering and community focused pharmacist who is taking a lead in delivering a very important independent prescribing service.