As a result of increasing levels of infection across Wales, the Welsh Government have implemented a ‘firebreak lockdown’. From 6pm today until the start of Monday 9 November, there will be a new set of restrictions in place. We must now stay at home, except for limited and specific purposes, and we must not visit other households or meet with people indoors or outdoors who do not live in our households. Most shops and hospitality venues will close, including pubs and restaurants. For the week after half term, secondary schools will provide online learning only for all pupils except those in years 7 and 8, but primary schools and childcare settings will remain open. Face coverings will continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open, such as in supermarkets and on public transport. I know this will be a difficult and frustrating fortnight, but it's clear that we are facing a very difficult winter and we must all play our part to help keep levels of infection down. For more information and to find the answers to frequently asked questions, take a look at the Welsh Government website here.
I was pleased to question the Health Secretary this week as the chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Cancer on the resources that the UK Government are deploying to tackle the more than 110,000 people waiting more than 52 weeks in England for cancer services – the most in 12 years. We had a meeting with the Catch Up With Cancer campaign recently and impressed upon Matt Hancock the importance of not neglecting cancer now and experiencing a tragic and unnecessary loss of lives. The NHS has dealt admirably with the pandemic but now we must ensure that they have the resources they need to support cancer services to deal with their backlog alongside normal winter pressures.
A survey from a cross-university research team with the Welsh Rugby Union has been launched this week about women in rugby. Players and coaches are encouraged to complete the survey, from which the data will be used to help create an evidence base to develop targeted, female-specific interventions to improve player safety. I’ve said for a long time how important it is that we get women into sport and feeling comfortable playing sport, but unfortunately there is a significant sex data gap which exists in medical and sport science, particularly in contact sports. Contrary to popular belief, women are not ‘small men’ and we need to find out exactly how women are impacted by certain sports and what can be done specifically to support them. This survey is a fantastic innovation from some great universities with great reputations for sport and I look forward to reading their findings!
On Wednesday this week, the Labour Party held an opposition debate on free school meals and asked the UK Government to ensure provision of free school meals throughout the holidays in England until at least Easter 2021, given the likely impact of Covid on household finances over the coming months. More than 300 Tory MPs voted against this motion. There are many differences between Labour and Conservative political beliefs, of course, but I had not thought that ensuring children had at least one square meal a day would be a difference. More than 1.4 million children in England are eligible for free school meals. That’s more than 1.4 million children who will go hungry during the holidays. This shouldn’t be an issue that divides politicians; it’s not a political issue, it’s moral. The Welsh Government have already committed to ensuring the provision of free school meals for children in Wales during the holidays until at least Easter 2021. That’s the difference a Labour Government makes.
This week we marked the 54th anniversary of the tragedy at Aberfan. At 9.13am on the 21st October 1966, the village school clock stopped for the final time. We remember the 116 children and 28 adults who were killed, those families who had to face the unimaginable, the survivors who struggled to deal with the trauma, and the rescuers who rushed from across South Wales to help in the rescue effort. We will not forget them and we will work everyday to ensure that no such tragedy befalls the Welsh valleys again.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!