As a result of a rise in infections across the country, there are new restrictions that have come into force for the whole of Wales. Anyone over the age of 11 who is able to wear a face covering is asked to do so in all indoor public places and only 6 people from the same exclusive extended household group can meet indoors. From Thursday at 6pm, all hospitality businesses in Wales, including pubs, cafes, restaurants, and casinos, will have to close at 10pm and provide table service only. Off-licences and supermarkets will also have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm. A number of local authority areas are facing stricter restrictions in South Wales – Rhondda Cynon Taf, Bridgend, Torfaen and Blaenau Gwent, and Caerphilly – and we need to continue to follow social distancing guidelines and practise good personal hygiene to prevent the infection rate rising further and more restrictions having to come into force.
The NHS Covid-19 app launched this week. Please download the app to your smartphone from either the App Store or Google Play to know your local risk level, to book a test, and to help keep our communities safe.
I appeared on Times Radio on Sunday afternoon and discussed the shambles that is the Government testing scheme. We in Labour are deeply concerned about the sharp rise in coronavirus cases and the difficulty that people are having in accessing tests. We have a Welsh Labour Government in Wales but we bought into a UK-wide system which is only causing problems. We now have local lockdowns in place across South Wales, and although people understand these to be necessary to protect public health, they want to know why we do not have an effective testing operation. MPs are not being properly consulted in Parliament and there is no real debate that could yield effective ideas for good results. We want clear, measurable, and sensible guidance and an understanding of the impact that decisions made in Westminster will have on the public. An order to self-isolate is fine for those able to work from home or with a steady income, but for those who are already struggling financially, a 2-week self-isolation without income will be impossible. The UK Government need to seriously think about ways of supporting people so that we are truly in this together and communities are supported.
This week, I was lucky to be called for two questions in the House of Commons. Firstly, I tackled the Ministry of Defence on their callous lack of communication with a constituent of mine, David. David is a serving member of the Armed Forces, as was his brother, Dan, who tragically killed himself last year. David wrote to me about the lack of support that Dan had received while he was serving and after he left the Army, saying that the Army washed its hands of former soldiers. David had written twice to the MoD and it was only in reply to an email from my office, 9 months after David’s first letter, that we had a reply. I put this to the Minister for Veterans, Johnny Mercer MP, who always speaks about the depth of support available, and he promised to look into this case and to assure me that support was available. Our service personnel do such an incredible job supporting and protecting the UK, and we must ensure that that support is reciprocated when they need it. For any serving personnel or veterans in South Wales who need help, the relevant Veterans UK helpline is 01562 825527 or you can email on firstname.lastname@example.org. Please do not suffer in silence – reach out to the support services that are there to help.
I also tackled the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock on the absurd decision by the Department of Work and Pensions to reintroduce face-to-face 10-minute Work Search interviews in job centres. Considering the rising number of cases of coronavirus, the local lockdowns that are being brought into effect across the country, and the exhortations from ministers that we should all be ‘doing our bit’, this does not seem a sensible approach to be taking, to say the least. The Health Secretary dodged the question, suggesting that the Secretary for Work and Pensions should answer it, but considering that he is supposed to be leading the public health campaign, surely he should have a say in the decision? We are all trying to do our bit – maintain a social distance, wash our hands, wear face coverings – but the messaging is confusing. We can go to an indoor face-to-face work interview that could easily be done over zoom or the phone, but we can’t sit in our friend’s house. The rules are inconsistent and unfair. We appreciate that restrictions are necessary to protect ourselves and our families, but they need to be applied consistently and in a logical manner and currently, they are not.
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 increase, 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!