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Notwithstanding a national two-week lag in the supply of the vaccine ahead of us now, congratulations to all involved in Wales attaining the first UK-wide vaccine roll-out milestone. The WG attracted widely held criticism for a slow start (including from me) but, by the same token, credit should be given for a superb roll-out effort. It is of course a huge collaborative effort on the part of NHS staff, GP surgeries, vaccination centres, military services, pharmacies and a countless army of volunteers to name a few, who have all contributed and deserve our appreciation for their hard work. I am some way down the list yet, and am happy to continue to follow advice and wait my turn, but like many others, I am heartened to see so many people now receiving their vaccines. This means that we know our turn will come in good time.
The wearing of masks and social distancing etc. will be with us for some time yet in one form or another, but let’s keep it up to the next milestone(s). I just hope that everyone accepts their invitations to get vaccinated as there is evidence of some vaccine hesitancy, and that everyone keeps their appointments. Mass-vaccination has to be the only way to go so that we can all get our lives back. Hopefully, that will be this year.
High Streets the world over are irreversibly changing out of all recognition from how they used to be, and have been doing so with increasing vigour over the past two decades. Big-name High Street stores (excluding supermarkets) are fast becoming a thing of the past. It’s something we have to recognise, accept and respond to. Perhaps we should encourage small independent shops and restaurants instead.
I read that we are now contemplating a fresh injection of ideas into the development of the town centre. But my word, it looks like a right confusing mess. I can’t see any clear vision of outcome or destiny. All I see is a mass of protracted rhetoric. Who is driving this, who is pulling everything together, what are the clearly defined and costed stages and the final vision? Who is accountable? Maybe I’ve missed this, in which case I’d be happy to be pointed in the right direction.
Why has Wrexham Council always had a morbid fixation on spending huge amounts of scarce public funds on the use of external consultants and agents, who do not know the area, for everything they do. It’s little wonder we face such a high annual rise to the Council Tax. Never mind subsidising lost income for which the Council has written off as an unrecoverable debt, it’s the constant leaching of funds to external ‘experts’. Is it because they have no confidence in the ability of their own officers, or is it so that they can conveniently point the finger elsewhere when it fails?
I read that the latest initiative is the ‘Common Purpose’ led by Wrexham’s Civic Leadership Group. The Council are hiring an agency to develop a fresh and engaging brand identity for Wrexham. To give a further couple of examples of the meaningless ramblings, Mark Pritchard says “we are well placed to bring investment and confidence to the town centre in addition to all the other initiatives”. The Deputy Minister for Housing and Local Government says “This project will not only boost sustainability, footfall and economic growth by creating jobs, homes and business opportunities but will have a beneficial impact on the wellbeing of the local community. By having a town centre first approach we can better connect our communities”. What does that even mean?
I’m all for investing wisely in our town centre, but rather than listen to the BS ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ merchants, I hope the ‘Group listen to local people and businesses, those whose future is intrinsically linked to a vibrant town. Their town.January 26, 2021 at 11:12 am in reply to: Mark Pritchard says he has done excellent to keep council tax down to 6.95% #199609
Can I just take this opportunity to remind anyone who may be interested that the Council has a fresh consultation (via yourvoicewrexham.net) on its approach to setting the budget figure for 2021/22. It’s currently open until 5th February. There is only one question, so you have to include all your views and opinions in the first box. It doesn’t take long to complete.
The article and link is also available in Wrexham.com
I see that Paul Davies, Leader of the Welsh Conservatives in the Welsh Parliament, has resigned. I’m afraid he had to go, and it’s just a pity that his colleagues and the Senedd Commission were not more decisive earlier on and reached this conclusion themselves. This was not a petty case of someone having a pint just after time outside of Covid conditions. This happened on two separate occasions, took place in Senedd premises, and was just days after the Senedd passed laws banning the sale of alcohol for all pubs and restaurants in Wales. He was the party Leader, and with the Senedd elections due to be held on 6th May, his position was untenable.
We now await the outcome of the investigation into the other 3 MS members who enjoyed the same drinks. I’m not suggesting they should all resign, that was the Leader’s fete, but there should be a fitting outcome to reflect the level of hypocrisy shown.
The catering company involved are also answerable for being open for business in the first place, although I do hope the investigation (and the company) doesn’t seek to pass the blame onto the individual behind the bar.
I agree that we should not have ‘queue-jumping’ when it comes to allocating priority. Sure, strong cases can be made for many groups of profession. For example:
Public transport drivers – we need these, after all they oil the wheels of economic recovery
Retail staff – we need these to keep us supplied with our essential items for our very survival
Police officers – we need these, after all law and order is the fabric of a civilised society
Teachers – we need these to nurture the development of our future generations
Politicians – we need these to make important moral decisions on all our behalf and to bring purpose, stability and equilibrium to our society
Okay apologies, the last one was intended as a moment of levity, but a case could be made for all the others, and I do not doubt that many other worthy groups could be added to any list. The above examples are included purely for illustrative purposes only, not intended to imply any order of merit, or insult to any not included. The point is that you can’t make special cases for groups of profession (apart from healthcare staff who provide care dedicated to the most vulnerable and to Covid-infected patients) because, whilst they are all meritorious, to separate any out would be too controversial and too divisive. It is better to strictly adhere to the agreed list of clinical risk priority grouping and concentrate on setting up the vaccine roll-out to as many people as possible as quickly as possible.
I am more comfortable that allocation is being driven by the health profession rather than by politicians. But the WG needs to set up the roll-out infrastructure quicker – more mass vaccination hubs, a co-ordinated approach using all qualified professionals to assist in rural locations, 24/7 operations, etc. The current thinking in all four nations is to vaccinate as many people as possible as soon as the Oxford vaccines arrive. I understand there are concerns over the Pfizer vaccines. There are concerns that if they give out all the vaccines they have as a first dose, they may not have a supply available for the second dose – and you can’t give someone a different type of vaccine for their second dose. If they are guaranteed supplies (and I don’t know) then they should vaccinate everyone with what is available now. It is better to give as many people as possible some protection rather than hold back vaccines to give people their second dose three weeks later. Not all will agree with this, but you can see the logic. It’s not perfect, but it will save more lives and reduce serious illness (and hospitalisation).
My biggest concern is that we (Wales) are ‘allocated’ our vaccine batches by the UK Government and then the WG and, for some reason, we are rolling out the vaccine percentage to population slower than the other 3 nations – Scotland has just mobilised the Army. Why is this, is it because we are being allocated fewer vaccines per population ratio than elsewhere, or are we slower at getting an efficient vaccine programme organised, or perhaps a combination of the two? At the risk of being accused of following England’s lead, perhaps a dedicated WG Vaccine Minister needs to be appointed to drive the roll-out procedure at full-speed. Apparently, we may have some spare resources available in the form of vaccinators standing around. They have said that this is not a race, but that is exactly what it is: a race to save lives. As I have said before, I am not a special group and I am happy to wait my turn later in the year, but there is not enough urgency about mass vaccination for me, and I don’t see a will to turn that around. Too many elderly people in Wales still haven’t heard anything.
I don’t know why or how there are so many cases of drivers of one company getting the virus. It should be investigated by the Council / Traffic Commissioner so that all lessons are learnt for the general good of public safety. It’s probably the only way we’ll get to find out why so many drivers are infected. Are TTP staff now tracing passengers who have used bus passes / card payment?
You see PCV drivers driving buses with their masks removed, mostly though not exclusively, when there are no passengers on board.
I would have thought that their fleet managers would refrain them from doing this when compiling their Covid Risk Assessments, for their own safety, as well as general passenger safety. If an infected passenger did board a vehicle, it is obvious that the virus would remain in circulation in the vehicle for sometime after they alighted, depending on the level of ventilation. This would be particularly poignant if some idiot had gone to the trouble of downloading and putting together a false ‘exemption’ label and lanyard.
Another factor for the Fleet Managers / Operators responsible for drivers of public passenger carrying vehicles to consider within their Covid related driver Risk Assessments is, how is a driver expected to drive safely whilst wearing a mask if they need to wear spectacles? I know I have to hold my breath in order to read a label in a supermarket due to instant misting up. Imagine how many more people would now be infected in Wrexham if drivers needing to wear spectacles to drive have simply failed to wear a mask.
What is the point in introducing laws to prevent people from buying ‘non-essential’ goods in a multi-merchandise setting such as a supermarket? What constitutes an item as being ‘non-essential’ and who determines it? What harm is it for someone to purchase a ‘non-essential’ item in the supermarket? Does it impact on the spread of the virus in any way? The official line is that it would be unfair to allow supermarkets to sell items when other shops have been required to close. But if a store can’t offer the requisite level of protection then it has to close. If you need an item because the one you had is no longer serviceable, then it is essential to you, or you wouldn’t have worn out the one you had in the first place. You cannot pass on the responsibility to police this onto the supermarket check-out staff to determine what’s ‘exceptional circumstances’ in determining whether someone may purchase a non-essential item or not – they have a hard enough task as it is. It is unenforceable and a completely unnecessary restriction placed on people’s already difficult lives during a protracted period of lockdown. Is anyone going to form a disruptive queue to buy new winter PJs or a replacement kettle just because they can? Some of these measures brought into legislation are just plain daft, and you have to ask why are they there? We’re introducing silly 40mph restrictions on random short stretches of road for ‘environmental’ reasons, but encouraging everyone to arrange for a big van to bring any item to the front door that we fear might fall foul of the spurious definition of the naughty, sorry, ‘non-essential’ list.
People have to go to stores to buy provisions, there isn’t the retail infrastructure to deliver to everyone. I agree with the notion to remind stores to tighten up their practices and restrict numbers such as the use of ‘traffic light’ entry system, to fully endorse social distancing, one-way routing, screens, wearing of masks as a condition of entry (unless exempted on medical grounds or age), provide hand sanitisation stations etc. The Council should be playing a much bigger role through the introduction of a small but conspicuous pro-active Covid monitoring team, working alongside the police in visiting open retail outlets to ensure public safety compliance. They have the authority to issue ‘Premises Improvement Notices’ or ‘Premises Closure Notices’ where appropriate, for open display to gain public confidence. They could issue a dedicated Covid telephone number for people to report any concerns to, to make shoppers feel more in control, and keep retailers on their toes. They could re-train and re-deploy traffic parking enforcement officers to begin with, we hardly need them during a lockdown.
And then the regulations say that you can’t meet-up with a friend outdoors to exercise. Why? Surely exercise needs to be encouraged, on both physical and mental health grounds. Some people are not comfortable walking around alone. It’s far safer outdoors with social distancing than anywhere else.
The trouble with introducing too many regulations and rules that are just nonsensical is that no-one takes any notice of them, people will look for a way to work around them, they become confusing and people will lose respect for other related regulations, which are both sensible and necessary.
Paradoxically, having called for a reduction of pointless regulations, with the current rate of increases of new cases across Wales, I believe that masks should now be worn at all times outside of the home or vehicle (many people do anyway) as well as inside public premises. Yes, masks are a pain, especially for those of us who wear glasses. But extra measures are needed. And we’re not outdoors for long anyway. Make it become the new social-norm to bring cases down, and it will largely police itself as it is so conspicuous. It will be more likely that people will comply with rules if they can see that they are both relevant and measured. Lockdown is fast becoming a way of life, we need to re-visit the rules around them. Putting on a mask will become as natural as putting on a coat. It can be relaxed when and if the numbers come down. There will always be some who will refuse to wear one, of course there will. Anyone witnessing this needs to simply ignore them, give them a wide berth for safety, and carry on with your own business to avoid potential unwanted hassle or confrontation.
I read lots of accounts of how well the vaccine is being rolled out. It’s being rolled out to specific local vaccination sites, GP-led centres, hospital sites, local pharmacies and seven mass vaccination hubs. Football stadia and even supermarket parking sites are being offered for drive-through vaccinations. And this is just the start, it will improve more as additional qualified staff become available with extra training, and use of additional resources such as pharmacists, dentists, St John’s and the army to name a few obvious ones. Which is excellent news. Except all of this is in England. Now my point here is not to raise this as a cheap shot at the WG, and I remain confident that we will get up to speed. But my point is, what is happening here now? Where are the details? What are the plans for mass rollout? The few figures I have read for Wales are relatively small numbers. What are the plans for Wrexham now that we have got over the vaccine ‘supply chain’ problems? What are the Council and Health Board doing? All we’ve heard are rumours about Plas Madoc and the Glyndwr University sites being potential centres. Things will soon change rapidly, and this post will soon be out of date, but right now this is a slow start. The only local article I read is a Betsi Cadwaladr health board spokesperson apologising to people who had to wait 3 hours in a vaccine centre in Llandudno. I take more reassurance from Jimbow (thank you Jimbow, at least we know something is happening) than I get from the authorities here.
I heard Sir Tom Jones tell us on New Year’s Eve that he has had the vaccine, as he is 80 years old. I’m pleased for Sir Tom of course, but he lives in England. All I know is that I have relatives in their 80’s and 90’s here in north Wales, and know of others locally, and no-one has yet heard a thing. I am not asking for information for me personally, I am currently in Group 6 of the rollout priority list and do not expect any vaccination any time soon. But that’s fine, I am happy to bide my time. I will continue to lead a low-profile existence while I wait, but I do think that the elderly and vulnerable people of Wales deserve to be better informed than this.
When the huge spike in new variant cases was thriving in South East Wales towards the end of last year, our Cardiff-based leaders described it as a Wales problem. They did nothing to target the isolated areas for fear of creating an unwanted label. Now that it has reached North East Wales, they don’t hesitate in identifying North East Wales from the off and specifically pin-pointing Wrexham as the hotspot.
The Gresford, Marford and Rossett area is currently showing the highest number of new cases in north Wales with 113 new cases in the week up to 31st December. These high numbers of new cases now emerging reflect the extent of the level of household mixing restrictions people believed related to them over the festive period, and the fall-out from New Year’s Eve is yet to be felt. It just shows how easily transmissible the virus is.
I think your musings are perfectly logical to me Zinger, apart from that we now have the recently mutated more virulent and transmissible variant in circulation and firmly in control. It has increased spread factor by an R rate of around 0.7.
It goes without saying that rates will increase in line with levels of population. It needs people to spread. This is why we have to take the necessary precautions. For this reason, it will continue to infect different areas at different rates as people’s pattern of behaviour changes. Today it is Gwersyllt and West Wrexham, next week it will be somewhere else. It’s the same across the country. It is for this reason that I believe we are heading inextricably towards a national lockdown, with one eye on maximising the national roll-out of the Oxford vaccine. I do not believe it will be possible to prevent its spread by good practice alone. Too many people do not have the necessary will-power or self-control. You see it in every aspect of life. The covid rules in place, such as travel restrictions, are highly unenforcible, and you will always have 10% non-compliance. And then you have the deniers, the flat-earthers of this world. We are told that the principle way of transmission is inside buildings, particularly the home. People going into other people’s homes. The 10% who do this will continue to spread the new virus variant into our communities. A national lockdown won’t stop this, which is why I say it will not be possible to stop its spread, but it is better than doing nothing or fudging the issue and chasing our tale playing catch-up. It’s not that different to current life anyway. All we can hope for is for a concerted full-scale roll-out effort for mass vaccination for everyone as soon as possible. For those who do not wish to take up their offer; that’s fine, they take their chance. I just hope they don’t fall off the edge of their flat earth. It will be of little consequence for those of us who have been vaccinated anyway.
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