Response to the coronavirus pandemic is developing on a daily basis, so here you’ll find the latest updates from Welsh Government. Because guidance and information may change over time it is important that you always follow the most recent guidance. If you don’t find the information you need, please get in touch with my office on 01443 406400.
Public Health Wales provides a daily update about the number of cases of coronavirus in Wales. It is available at: https://phw.nhs.wales/news/public-health-wales-statement-on-novel-coronavirus-outbreak/
Click here for Coronavirus Q&A.
Update 19 March 2020*
- The Welsh Government last night confirmed a £1.4bn package of support for businesses to help them as the coronavirus outbreak progresses.
- The new package provides retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in Wales with a year-long business rates holiday in 2020-21;
- A grant of £25,000 for retail, leisure and hospitality businesses with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £51,000;
- A £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for small business rates relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.
- As far as possible, the rates relief will be operated through the non-domestic rates system for 2020-21. We will reduce the red tape for businesses to receive grants.
- This matches the measures the Chancellor announced this week for businesses in England, and provides a much-needed boost for small businesses in Wales, which are at the heart of our economy and are struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
- The £1.4bn package extends the emergency £200m rates relief support we were able to announce on March 17.
- Further information about the business support available in Wales is set out in the attached Q&A.
- Economy Minister Ken Skates today held an emergency meeting of the Council for Economic Development to discuss businesses’ needs and also held talks with the banks.
- HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has a dedicated helpline for businesses concerned about being able to pay tax due to COVID-19: 0800 0159 559.
- Acas provides workplace advice for employers and employees. It has a page on Coronavirus that is being updated daily. It also provides a £10,000 grant to all businesses eligible for Small Business Rates Relief with a rateable value of £12,000 or less. Business Advice can been found here:•
- Business Wales has a page on Coronavirus and support packages https://businesswales.gov.wales/coronavirus-advice and can be contacted on 03000 6 03000.• UK Government Business Advice see the page here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19
- Education Minister Kirsty Williams will today take part in an online Q&A with children about coronavirus. It is being broadcast on our @WelshGovernment Twitter channel at 5.30pm
- All schools in Wales will be closed from Friday for normal classes and exams will not be held this summer.
- A Q&A is attached, which sets out the latest education information.
Schools & Childcare
- Childcare Offer for Wales payments will continue even if children do not attend due to coronavirus isolation. The Welsh Government is announcing funding for the Childcare Offer for Wales will continue to be paid to local authorities and childcare settings who currently receive payments for children in their care, even where services are disrupted.Childcare settings are not being required to close, and will remain open for the time being. However Welsh Ministers have agreed that where a setting is closed on medical advice, or if children are not able to attend due to Covid-19, funding will still be made available.Funding will also continue where staffing numbers fall to a level that the setting is no longer safe to operate.Welsh Ministers also expect local authorities to maintain payments for childcare provided under Flying Start and for the provision of early education. The Childcare Offer for Wales provides 30 hours a week of government-funded early education (FPN) and childcare for eligible working parents of 3 to 4 year olds, for up to 48 weeks of the year. This is available throughout Wales.
- Pharmacist Natalie Proctor has recorded a myth-busting video about the use of ibuprofen and coronavirus. It is available at: https://twitter.com/WGHealthandCare/status/1240352116574732290
- Wales’ Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Andrew Evans has set out the five steps everyone can take to get the right support from their community pharmacy https://gov.wales/simple-steps-help-your-pharmacy-help-you
- Health Minister Vaughan Gething’s written statement setting out Wales’ approach to coronavirus testing is available at: https://gov.wales/written-statement-coronavirus-covid-19-testing
Update: 18 March 2020
- All schools in Wales will close on Friday March 20
- We are acting on a change of expert advice and increasing numbers of staff who are self-isolating.
- From next week, schools will have a new purpose to support those most in need, including those people who are involved in the immediate response to the coronavirus outbreak.
- We are working with local government to finalise these plans, including ensuring children who receive free school meals and those with additional learning needs are looked after.
- Summer exams will not be going ahead. Education Minister Kirsty Williams: “We are in an unprecedented period, one that is changing hour-by-hour, and governments around the world are having to make quick decisions. We recognise the worry and anxiety that the uncertainty around the summer exam series was causing. Today I met with Qualifications Wales and WJEC to consider options that are in the best interests of our learners. We recognise that there are no easy choices but we have agreed that the best way forward is not to proceed with summer exam series. Learners due to sit their GCSEs and A levels this summer will be awarded a fair grade to recognise their work, drawing on the range of information that is available. We will be working with the sector to announce further details shortly but wanted to give this early certainty. We also won’t be using the results to publish performance measure outcomes in 2020.”
- The Welsh Government has confirmed funding for the childcare offer for Wales will continue to be paid to local authorities and childcare settings even if services are disrupted during the coronavirus outbreak.
- Childcare settings will remain open until we have definitive advice from the Chief Medical Officer and from Public Health Wales that closures are required
- The Welsh Government is introducing a temporary three-month interest repayment holiday for interest-bearing Help to Buy Wales customers who may suffer financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, Housing Minister Julie James today confirmed https://gov.wales/housing-minister-confirms-help-buy-wales-loan-interest-repayment-holiday
- Wales is introducing a phased roll-out of coronavirus testing to ensure people who are essential to the response to the outbreak are available. Testing will be prioritised for patients and for those healthcare staff involved in frontline clinical care; as capacity increases, further guidance will be issued about who will be eligible for testing.
- Health Minister Vaughan Gething has made regulations to ensure the public are protected as far as possible from the transmission of the virus. In accordance with regulation three, he has declared the incidence or transmission of novel coronavirus constitutes a serious and imminent threat to public health. The measures set out in the regulations will help to delay or prevent further transmission of the virus. Further information is available at https://gov.wales/health-protection-coronavirus-wales-regulations-2020
- The Development Bank of Wales is offering all its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday to help them manage the financial fallout from the coronavirus outbreak.
- Support and advice is available from Business Wales athttps://businesswales.gov.wales/ or call 03000 6 03000. The Development Bank of Wales can be contacted onhttps://developmentbank.wales/ or 0800 587 4140.
Update 17 March 2020
- The Welsh Government has announced a £200m package of support for businesses to help them pay their rates bills. Full details of the announcement are available at:https://gov.wales/emergency-support-businesses-hit-coronavirus
- First Minister Mark Drakeford has written to Chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for an “unprecedented way to enable businesses who are threatened with imminent bankruptcy” as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. A copy of the letter is available @fmwales
- The National Museum for Wales, National Library, Wales Millennium Centre and Cadw sites with staffed visitor centres have been closed to the public
- The First Minister will be meeting the WLGA and WCVA on Wednesday to discuss how vulnerable people who are asked to stay at home to protect themselves from coronavirus can be supported.
- A second death of a person with coronavirus was confirmed by Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton this afternoon. The 96-year-old had underlying health conditions and was being treated at Morriston Hospital, in Swansea.
Update 16 March 2020
- Sadly, Wales recorded its first coronavirus-related death today. The 68-year-old had been treated in Wrexham Maelor Hospital and had underlying health conditions. The First Minister has sent his condolences to the person’s family and friends.
- If anyone in your family or household has symptoms (a new persistent cough or a temperature) the whole household should stay at home for 14 days. We are also asking everyone to think about their daily lives and consider what steps they can take to reduce their contact and interaction with large groups of people – could they work from home, for example, or stop mixing with others while coronavirus is circulating.
- This advice is really important for people over 70; for people who have an underlying medical condition (those who would normally receive a free flu jab) and for pregnant women. For most people coronavirus will be a mild illness, but we believe these are the groups, which are most at risk of developing a more serious illness.
- We understand this is extremely unsettling for people and there will be many questions. We are doing our best to ensure that guidance is available in writing and this will be updated to the Public Health Wales website (link below) and the Welsh Government website as soon as possible.
- It is likely we will be announcing more extraordinary measures in the next week to protect the most vulnerable groups. We will keep you informed about this.
- The advice is that larger gatherings should not go ahead – we want to make sure all our public and emergency services are responding to the outbreak.
- Estyn has announced it will be cancelling all school inspections and visits to ensure school staff are able to focus on keeping schools open and the wellbeing of pupils and students. Further details are available at https://www.estyn.gov.wales/news/estyn-inspections-and-other-visits-suspended-support-providers-stay-open-and-reduce-pressure-%E2%80%93
- The Welsh Government has postponed the St David Awards, which were due to be held on Thursday.
- Economy Minister Ken Skates has announced support for businesses affected by coronavirus and will speak to companies about what else they need to respond to the outbreak. The Development Bank of Wales will offer all its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday https://gov.wales/businesses-offered-capital-repayment-holidays-help-manage-coronavirus-impact
- We will be making further announcements about coronavirus support for businesses, including rates relief.
Update 15 March 2020
- Economy Minister Ken Skates will today (Monday March 16) announce support for businesses affected by coronavirus and will speak to companies about what else they need to respond to the outbreak.
- The Development Bank of Wales will offer all its business customers a three-month capital repayment holiday.
- We will be making further announcements about coronavirus support for businesses in the coming days, including rates relief. Finance Minister Rebecca Evans wrote to the UK Treasury on Friday seeking urgent clarity about the level of rates relief funding it will guarantee, recognising the greater number of small business in Wales and their specific needs.
- Business Wales and the Development Bank of Wales can provide businesses with tailored support and advice about dealing with coronavirus, from financial and supply chain planning to advice on staffing issues. The Welsh Government is also talking to banks about what support they will offer businesses during this period.
- Our NHS is working hard to treat people who have been confirmed with coronavirus while also dealing with the everyday and emergency healthcare needs of the Welsh population. NHS staff are doing a fantastic job and we thank them for their hard work.
- As demand for coronavirus-related hospital treatment increases, the NHS will need to reduce planned activity, including operations and outpatient appointments, to increase capacity.
- The NHS is postponing planned operations and outpatient operations in a phased way to create the extra capacity in hospitals, which will be needed to care for people who become seriously ill with coronavirus and extra critical care capacity. Everyone affected will be contacted by their health board about their treatment.
- Health Minister Vaughan Gething’s statement is available at: https://gov.wales/written-statement-coronavirus-covid-19-2
- We are rolling out video conferencing technology to GP surgeries so people can access healthcare advice and have consultations with healthcare professionals without going into their local surgery. The online symptom checker is also available at https://www.nhsdirect.wales.nhs.uk/SelfAssessments/symptomcheckers/?ScName=CoronaVirusCOVID19&SCTId=175
- Food supplies
- We are extending delivery hours for supermarkets and other food retailers to ensure the food industry can respond to increased consumer demand during the coronavirus outbreak. Local planning authorities have been instructed to temporarily relax the enforcement of the planning conditions restricting night-time and early morning deliveries, which will allow retailers to accept deliveries throughout the day and night where necessary. More information is available at https://gov.wales/new-measures-relax-supermarket-delivery-hours-during-coronavirus-outbreak