I would like to thank everyone for their care and concern towards each other, their families and communities in this terrible pandemic which has blighted so many lives in 2020 and my heartfelt sympathies go out to all those who have lost loved ones and to those working at the front line in health and social care and in all other key worker posts.
As your Member in the Senedd I have been so thankful that you have come to me with your views, concerns, needs and issues and my team has worked flat out to respond working closely with the Vale of Glamorgan Council, the Health Board, Police, businesses and our voluntary sector here in the Vale.
As a minister in the Welsh Government I have been fully engaged in delivering my responsibilities as part of the Cabinet led by the First Minister Mark Drakeford MS including equalities, the faith communities forum, crime and justice, advice services, violence against women and domestic abuse services and international relations.
I know so many of you are feeling great disappointment about the changes that came about on Saturday night. Those decisions were made at the weekend to save lives as a result of new and very worrying information about a new mutated strain of the virus that came to us on Saturday morning which required swift and decisive action.
I hope it will be helpful just to recount how this came about.
On Saturday there was a meeting of the First Ministers of Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK Government Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove MP.
The Welsh Cabinet was then urgently called to meet to hear from the First Minister and our senior medical and scientific advisers that a new, highly-infectious strain of coronavirus was spreading rapidly in London, the South East of England and in Wales. Cases of this strain have been identified in the Vale of Glamorgan.
We had an update about the rapid acceleration of cases in Wales and the huge pressure the NHS is under.
Later that day the First Minister announced the very difficult decision we had reached to bring forward the ‘alert level four restrictions’ for Wales at midnight on Saturday – this was in line with the Prime Minister’s announcement about action being taken in London and the South East of England.
The First Minister also said we needed to look at again at the arrangements for Christmas as we cannot expose people to the risks of this new more virulent strain of the virus. Two households can still come together to form a Christmas bubble but this will only apply on Christmas Day but as we had already agreed for the alert level four period a single person household is able to with one other household.
I know the changes to the Christmas arrangements will be disappointing but this new strain of the virus poses a new threat to our health and we need to do all we can to keep people safe at this time of year.
I hope this explanation of the events of the last few days is helpful. Alongside this response to the latest developments with coronavirus we have the positive vaccination programme making progressing with immunisations underway in the Vale of Glamorgan and across Wales.
I hope this gives some hope for you in this most difficult time as we look forward to a happier and healthier new year.
If you would like any further information do not hesitate to contact my office – Jane.Hutt@senedd.wales