Last week's news that the Pfizer Covid vaccination was approved has filled us all with hope that 2021 will be a better year than 2020. It will now require a strong public health campaign around take up of the vaccine and the people of Wales need this information to give them some confidence in how the programme will be handled here. Nevertheless, this is positive news as we approach the Christmas period.
However, my immediate concern is for the many businesses in the hospitality sector which have been thrown into an uncertain time by the Welsh Government's decision to force them to close at 6pm and the ban from selling alcohol on their premises from Friday 4th December. Indoor entertainment venues and visitor attractions including museums, galleries, heritage sites, cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, soft play centres and casinos have also been told to close.
Rather than allowing the Welsh Parliament to vote on this before the policies are to be enacted, the First Minister has enforced these policies with a vote to follow. I don't believe that this is the right way of doing politics and as your representative in the Senedd, I believe that we should have had a vote on measures which will have a devastating effect on Powys' hospitality industry during what is one of their most important trading periods in the run up to Christmas.
It is my view that the Government is not taking a proportionate response to the pandemic, choosing to implement a one size fits all approach which is needlessly damaging businesses across parts of Wales with a relatively low infection and transmission rate such as Powys, Conwy, Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Pembrokeshire.
The new rules are a devastating blow to those businesses here in Powys that have worked hard to protect their staff and customers by implementing Covid safe arrangements.
We need targeted intervention, that's backed by science, and reflects the different levels of risk in different parts of the country.
I will continue to make these points to the First Minister and the Welsh Government at every available opportunity.
Finally, I'm pleased that all four governments are currently committed to a four nation approach to Christmas and the festive season. Along with a vaccine, it is essential that the four governments work together to get us out of the pandemic united and together.
People have family members and loved ones in all corners of the UK so having a joined up approach that allows people to get together no matter where they may live is vital.
I hope that you enjoy this month's e-newsletter and I would like to wish you and your families a Merry Christmas.
As always, if you have any comments or issues you would like to raise, please contact me by email at email@example.com or by phone by calling 01686 610887.
Russell George MS
Member of the Welsh Parliament for Montgomeryshire
A big thank you to Cynan Williams from Brookfield Day Nursery
who designed my Christmas card this year. Thank you Cynan and Merry Christmas!
Coronavirus - Useful Links & Frequently Asked Questions
Advice from Powys County Council is available here.
Information and Support for the Third Sector is available from the Powys Association of Voluntary Organisations (PAVO) here.
The Business Wales website is a good point of reference, which is updated regularly for those who want advice about business support.
The symptoms of Coronavirus are a high temperature, a new, continuous cough and a loss of smell or taste. To view more advice on what to do if you think you have symptoms, please click here.
Public Health Wales provides a daily update about the number of cases of coronavirus in Wales. It is available here.
COVID-19 Vaccination Programme
I have spoken to Powys Teaching Health Board and I have been informed that it has already launched its COVID-19 vaccination programme. The first vaccine approved for use in the UK by the Medicines and Healthcare Regulatory Authority (MHRA) is the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine.
Because of the specific characteristics of this vaccine – particularly the requirements for storage at very cold temperatures – the vaccine will be available first from a small number of vaccination centres. People will need to travel to the centres, so the very first priority is for frontline health and care staff in the county.
Work is under way across Wales to expand this as quickly as possible to include people in care homes and people aged 80 and over. Further vaccines are in the pipeline that do not have such stringent requirements around temperature management and control. As more vaccines are approved, they will become more widely available on an opt-in basis for people in the UK-wide priority groups, and then for the general population.
Public vaccination is likely to start early in the new year. Eligible people will be contacted and invited to be vaccinated, so please do not contact your pharmacist or GP about the vaccine at this time.
More information on the vaccination programme in Wales is available from the Public Health Wales website.
Supporting Small Businesses in Montgomeryshire
Following the most difficult year in living memory for small businesses and our economy, I am supporting the campaign to shop locally and support small and independent businesses on high streets in their communities across Montgomeryshire.
It was Small Business Saturday this weekend, and every year, I support this grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to 'shop local'.
Craig Williams MP and I recently visited Mid Wales Music Centre in an effort to recognise and promote the important role which small businesses play within local communities across Montgomeryshire, as well as helping to generate more trade during this important trading period in advance of Christmas.
In what has been an incredibly challenging year for our business community, we must all do what we can to support small local businesses and independent traders on our high streets this Christmas otherwise we risk losing them forever.
Collectively, small businesses are the heart and soul of our town centres and don’t just represent people’s livelihoods but their whole lives. We must do all we can to help them bounce back in 2021 after what has been a disappointing and worrying year.
Mid Wales Health & Wellbeing Centre
I welcome the support in principle from the First Minister for what he described as an "imaginative, creative and effective" set of proposals for a new health and wellbeing facility in Newtown.
Last week, during First Minister's Question in the Senedd, I called on the First Minister to join me in supporting proposals from Powys Teaching Health Board and Powys County Council which have recently been submitted to the Welsh Government for its consideration.
I have been raising the need for a new health and wellbeing facility in our area so I welcome the First Minister's support in principle for the proposals for a new facility in Newtown.
If the Welsh Government approves the proposals, we could see a cutting edge, state of the art health and care facility in Newtown, which would offer more services locally and bring the latest technology and training to Mid Wales. The new facility would also improve health and wellbeing services across North Powys, with enhanced health checks and appointments being offered locally, rather than having to travel out of county.
The new centre would work with the current network of community hospitals in Machynlleth, Llanidloes and Welshpool and district general hospitals around our borders to ensure residents receive the right treatment much closer to home. It would also ensure that there are more integrated health plans in place across Mid Wales, increasing the focus on early prevention, and increasing the number services which we are able to access locally.
For me, like many others, I continue to be concerned that we are unable to attract GPs and other health professionals to take up posts in Mid Wales. My hope is that even before this facility is built, the proposals will attract more health professionals to move to our area.
The fact that the Health Board and County Council has recently submitted what the First Minister described as a set of "imaginative, creative and effective" set of proposals is a massive step forward in the campaign for improved health facilities in our area. While the planning and building of the project will take some years, in the meantime, we must ensure that current GP and hospital services are supported and strengthened.
I will continue to lobby for improvements to support existing health services in our area.
My face-to-face advice surgeries are still on hold due to Covid-19 social distancing requirements but I remain happy to have telephone conversations with residents to provide advice and support so please do contact my office to arrange a call back if you want to discuss any matter.
You can contact me by calling 01686 610887 or by email - firstname.lastname@example.org