Last week the First Minister confirmed that the Alert Level Four restrictions would continue for at least a further three weeks, helping us to continue to reduce the spread of the virus, but also significantly increase the level of vaccinations across the country.
Some minor changes have been made to the measures, which now mean that you are able to meet one other person locally to exercise outdoors, and that bubbles with single-person households can be changed to reflect individual circumstances. Guidance on these changes will be published on the Welsh Government website – www.gov.wales/coronavirus.
A breakdown of the allocation of £200 million of further financial support for businesses across Wales was also provided. This is again based on non-domestic rates payments and discretionary grants. I have this week written to over 60 businesses to advise them of the support which is being made available and will continue to support our businesses through these challenging times.
If a business is not already in touch with me then I would encourage them to email me at Hannah.Blythyn@senedd.wales and I will do all I can to help. It is vital that we do all we can to help keep businesses and our high streets and town centres going, and to keep people in work wherever possible.
During the press conference the First Minister also thanked the “small army” of NHS and Council staff, army personnel, and volunteers for their efforts. I want to give my thanks to everyone involved in the local vaccination programme, from the community pharmacies and GP surgeries, to the hospital and mass vaccination centres.
This “small army” truly has stepped up to the challenge and at the end of Monday evening, Betsi Cadwaladr UHB had vaccinated over 100,000 people across North Wales. This meant that Betsi Cadwaladr was the first health board in Wales to reach this milestone. They also believe they are still on track to reach the mid-February target of vaccinating everyone in the top four priority groups.
I have been advised that almost everyone over 80 should have been invited for an appointment, however to ensure that no one is missed out, the health board has set up a booking line. This number should only be used if you, or your loved one, is over 80 and has not been invited for an appointment yet. The lines are open between 8am and 8pm and the number is 03000 840004.
Another issue I have raised on my social media, but also has been covered this week by the Flintshire Leader, is my frustration at the proposed closure of the Barclays branch in Flint. Barclays has written to their customers advising them of their proposals to close the branch permanently from 30 April 2021, and I have written to them to urgently request a meeting to have these proposals dismissed.
I firmly believe that banks have a duty to our communities, high streets and town centres, and should meaningfully consider the impact these proposals will have on the community. I am particularly concerned that a number of more vulnerable or elderly customers, will be forced to travel such a distance to the nearest branch, especially when public transport may be the only option available to them.
With proposed closures in Prestatyn too, communities as far as Holywell, Ffynnongroyw, Trelogan and Gronant will also be impacted by this decision, if Barclays decide to plough ahead with it.
I want to hear directly from Barclays customers who will be impacted by these decisions, so that I can relay the true community impact when I meet with them in the coming weeks. I will also be meeting with Banc Cambria in the coming weeks to discuss their efforts to develop a new community bank for Wales, based on a co-operative model where it is owned and directed by it’s members, not shareholders.
Please do get in touch with your views via email me at Hannah.Blythyn@senedd.wales or call my office on 01352 762102, or if I can help you or your loved ones in any other way.