This week, the Coronavirus Alert Level in Wales has now been downgraded to level 2 and restrictions have been loosened further. Holiday accommodation is now able to fully reopen, along with entertainment venues and indoor visitor attractions, including cinemas, bowling alleys, theatres, and museums and galleries. Up to 30 people can take part in organised indoor activities and up to 50 people in outdoor activities. Indoor hospitality has also reopened with up to 6 people (from 6 different households) now able to book a table together - and I can’t wait to enjoy food and drink with my friends in some of Gower’s amazing pubs and restaurants!
We have all been waiting for the easing of restrictions, looking forward to seeing friends and family after such a long and difficult year. But we have to continue to be cautious. We should continue to social distance when not meeting friends, continue to wash our hands regularly, and continue to wear a mask on public transport and in public places such as supermarkets. The vaccine programme in Wales is going tremendously well – thank you so much to all our hardworking vaccinators! – but we mustn’t throw away our hard work so far. Lets enjoy our greater freedoms responsibly.
The Swansea Bay Health Board are doing incredibly well with the vaccination programme. If you are aged 30 and above and have not been called for your appointment, or declined an appointment but have now changed your mind, you can join the reserve list to have the chance of being offered an appointment at short term earlier than you would otherwise be called. There have been some reports of scam vaccination calls so do remember - the NHS will NEVER ask you for personal details such as your bank account information.
This week I joined more than 50 other MPs in writing to the Prime Minister to express our concerns about the EU Settlement Scheme and to call for urgent action to ensure that our European friends and neighbours can continue living in the UK after the deadline. The UK Government continues to emphasise that EU citizens are our friends, family, and neighbours, and that they want them to stay. However, their actions don’t seem to agree. Many face barriers to secure their settled status, and the consequences of that are far-reaching and potentially life-threatening. Overwhelming evidence shows that it is the most vulnerable in society – including older and disabled people, looked-after children, Roma communities, and survivors of abuse – who face often insurmountable barriers to securing settled status and continuing their lives in the UK. EU care workers and other key workers – the very people we are relying on to pull us through the Covid crisis – are also in very real danger of being left behind. We are calling on the UK Government to remove the deadline and to grant all EU citizens and their family members automatic settled status.
I am supporting Maternity Action’s call for the promised Employment Bill to include major reform relating to paid parental leave. The Employment Bill was a surprise omission from last week’s Queen Speech which is disappointing, particularly for the delay this suggests for measures such as additional paid leave for parents with babies requiring neonatal care, and a move to greater flexible working by default for parents. Along with Maternity Action, I fear that this delay will mean a lack of protection for the thousands of pregnant women and new mothers currently at risk of job losses as the furlough scheme winds down. This delay does provide time, however, and I will be pushing the UK Government to use this time to properly develop plans, consult with stakeholders, and make this Bill as comprehensive as it can be.
I signed a letter to the Foreign Secretary this week regarding the continued detention of British-Iranian citizen Anoosheh Ashoori in Iran. We know that his case has been raised with the Iranian Foreign Minister, but Anoosheh remains in detention. He was arrested in 2017 and baselessly charged with espionage. The Iranian Government have repeatedly violated his human rights with solitary confinement, incommunicado detention, coercive and abusive interrogations without a lawyer, forced confession, and threats to his family’s safety. We are deeply concerned at the apparent lack of a UK Government strategy for securing the release of Anoosheh and the other British-Iranian nationals currently being detained by the Iranian Government for purely political reasons, and we will continue to push for answers.
You can keep up to date with Welsh Government announcements and information on their dedicated coronavirus page. If you have any issues or concerns to raise with me as your local MP, please get in touch by emailing email@example.com or calling 01792 899025. My office is not open, my staff and I are working from home, but my email and phone are still being monitored and responded to. You may experience a slight delay in receiving a response from us as the demand has increased, but we will get back to you as soon as we can.
Keep well and remember – and remember - observe social distancing, wash your hands regularly and keep Wales safe!