Category: Wales

Positive Welsh Business News – #PositiveCoronavirusNews

The fund will support firms of all sizes, including social enterprises

First Minister Mark Drakeford has today announced a new £500m fund to provide extra support to the Welsh economy, businesses and charities experiencing a sharp drop in trading as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Economic Resilience Fund aims to plug the gaps in the support schemes already announced by the UK Government, including the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which will guarantee 80% of people’s wages and income.

The new £500m Welsh fund will support firms of all sizes, including social enterprises, with a focus on those which have not already benefited from the coronavirus grants already announced by the Welsh Government.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“The pace at which the coronavirus pandemic is affecting our economy is extraordinary. Now, more than ever, government needs to do all it can to support the economy and business.

“The recent announcements by the UK Government provided some much-needed protection for many workers and their families in Wales. Only the UK Government has the macro-economic and fiscal levers to minimise the enormous damage this economic shut-down will do to the UK economy.

“But even with these interventions, there are elements of the economy, businesses and charities in Wales facing insolvency because fixed and operating costs – rent, residual salary costs, leasing charges for vital equipment and maintaining operations – cannot be met during this crisis.

“We made a commitment as a Welsh Government to fill the gaps and support the economy and businesses through this incredibly difficult time.

“This package of support provides further assurance to firms, charities and social enterprises that we will do just that – help them deal with the economic impact of the pandemic.”

The £500m fund is made up of two main elements:

  • A new £100m Development Bank of Wales fund will be available for companies experiencing cash flow problems as a result of the pandemic and will provide loans of between £5,000 and £250,000 at favourable interest rates.
  • Businesses will also be able to benefit from a £400m emergency pot providing:
  1.  Grants of £10,000 for micro-businesses employing up to nine people. This includes sole traders employing staff. Qualifying businesses will be able to apply by mid-April.
  2.  Grants of up to £100,000 for small and medium sized firms with between 10 and 249 employees. Qualifying businesses will be able to apply from next week.
  3. Support for larger Welsh companies, which are of critical social or economic importance to Wales. This element will be open to qualifying businesses within the next two weeks.

The £500m Economic Resilience Fund will support businesses forced to temporarily cease trading – to go into “hibernation” – or which need cash-flow support to adapt to a remote way of working.

The new fund builds on the £1.4bn business support package announced by the Welsh Government on March 18, which provides a year-long rate relief holiday for all but the largest premises in the retail, hospitality and leisure sectors and grant-support for more than 70,000 small businesses.

Ken Skates, Minister for the Economy, Transport and North Wales, said:

“This £500m package will provide further vital assistance to thousands of firms and third sector organisations, which normally rely on trading income.

“We have been very clear, we are here to support the economy and the business community. We stand with every business and worker. Together we will get through this exceptionally challenging period.”

Responding to the Welsh Government announcement on £500million Economic Resilience Fund, Ben Francis, FSB Wales Policy Chair, said:

“Many businesses will feel reassured by the grant funding announced by Welsh Government this afternoon. Welsh Government made a promise to go above and beyond the level of support offered in England, and they have.

“This increased grant funding will provide a safety net for those businesses who will not have benefitted from the initial round of grants, and demonstrates that Welsh Government has sought to fill those gaps. We were also pleased to see a particular focus on social enterprises, which until now had not been a large part of the conversation. This will help ensure that those businesses can make it through this disruptive time.

“The emphasis for the Economic Resilience Fund must now must be on delivery; ensuring that the detail of this fund is made available to those eligible for it, and making sure that the money gets out of the door as quickly as possible, so that it can start to have an impact on the ground.

“This is reassuring news for businesses, and for the Welsh economy. We must now turn our attention to how we can fill other gaps, including for those that are recently self-employed.

“Once we come out of the other side of this crisis, Wales will need our entrepreneurs to be innovating and stimulating our economy. Those businesses need us now, and we are encouraged to see that Welsh Government has introduced such a strong package today.”

Ian Price, CBI Wales Director, said: 

“The economic resilience fund will be welcome news for Welsh enterprise. During this unprecedented time it’s vital support for businesses – large and small – gets to where it’s needed most, and fast. More may be needed as the situation develops.

“Meanwhile firms will continue to do their best by their employees, adapting quickly to new guidance and helping national efforts by supplying essential goods and services.

“Longer term, close cooperation and communication between business, unions, devolved and national governments will be essential to ensuring as many firms as possible can emerge from hibernation intact once the pandemic passes.”

Lloyd Powell, head of ACCA Wales, said:

‘We welcome the proposals announced today by the Welsh Government during what is a regional, national and global emergency.

‘The economic response from Government has been swift and very welcome at a time of huge uncertainty for micro, small and medium sized businesses and the millions of people they serve, employ and trade with.

‘With unprecedented economic stimuli being released to support the Welsh and the UK economy, it is encouraging the Welsh Government is attempting to demonstrate fiscal prudence by using cash reallocated from existing budgets and indeed new money from the UK Treasury.

‘We await further schemes being announced throughout the week, it is important government continues to be receptive to the needs of business and acts as a vital safety net throughout the Coronavirus pandemic – however long its duration.’

For more on this news or other Welsh News Visit Wales 24/7

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Positive Coronavirus News roundup… #PositiveCoronavirusNews

  • Battersea Dogs and Cats Home reportedly rehomed more than double their usual amount of cats and dogs last week. Pet shops were also cleared as people looked for a companion for the lockdown.
  • British scientists have developed a new ventilator for the NHS in just a week – they hope the simple design will make it easy for manufacturers to produce en masse.
  • Families in America, Canada and some parts of Britain, have been decking their houses like it’s Christmas with fairy lights, decorations and inflatables.
  • Millions of the world’s poorest people will receive over 20 million hygiene and cleaning products, including soap and bleach, from a new campaign by Unilever and the Department for International Development.
  • A mental health company called Unmind has made their online resources free for all NHS workers to combat the impact of pressure and demand on staff mental health caused by the COVID-19 outbreak. They’ve already had 7,000 NHS staff members sign up.
  • A 96-year-old woman is now the oldest South Korean to fully recover from the coronavirus.
  • The National Emergencies Trust Coronavirus Appeal has raised almost £11 million since launching a week ago (Weds 18). The first £2.5 million is now being distributed to front-line charities, which will deliver food to isolated people, help people recover after leaving hospital, and protect vulnerable children now schools are closed.

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Positive Coronavirus News – We have the Internet To Keep Us Connected – #PositiveCoronavirusNews

We have the internet to keep us connected…

Before the internet, isolation would have been extremely lonely.

But thanks to the advent of modern technology, it is easy to FaceTime & video call our loved ones and keep up with them on Social Media, making us feel much more connected then we otherwise would have.

Dr Shmerling said: “We currently have ways to practice social distancing that preserve at least some social and medical connections.

“People in isolation or quarantine can ask for help, visit friends, ‘see’ family and doctors virtually and provide updates on their condition.”

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Royal Mint changed Tac and making Covid-19 Visors for NHS – Positive Coronavirus News #PositiveCoronavirusNews


Credit: Royal MintThe Royal Mint has begun mass manufacturing medical visors to protect frontline NHS staff from coronavirus.

Based in Llantrisant, engineers at The Royal Mint developed a medically approved visor design which they can produce thousands of each day. 

The first batch of visors are already in use at The Royal Glamorgan Hospital in south Wales. 

Health care workers have expressed concern over the amount of PPEavailable to them, despite Welsh Government reassurance that there is enough to go around. 

The Royal Mint, usually known for making money and coins, are turning their focus to helping protect people against COVID-19 by making valuable personal protective equipment (PPE).

Engineers at the site found a basic design for medical visors online. They then adapted and developed their own prototype, which was approved for medical use within 48 hours.

The design will also soon be released online, enabling other companies to manufacture even more.

The Royal Mint say they can produce thousands of masks every day, subject to getting enough of the raw components.

The masks are made with a type of 1mm clear plastic which is currently in low supply. They are appealing to manufacturers across the UK to help them source the material that forms the potentially life-saving protective equipment.

The first batch of visors manufactured by The Royal Mint are already in use at The Royal Glamorgan Hospital. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board will receive the visors initially, with some already in use at The Royal Glamorgan Hospital.

The CEO of Cwm Tag Morgannwg University Health Board thanked The Royal Mint for their support.

We are incredibly grateful to the Royal Mint for this work. This equipment will be vitally important for our frontline staff to protect themselves and others as they work to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The generosity of organisations such as The Royal Mint as well as our communities has been humbling and I would like to thank everyone for their continued support for our staff and the NHS.

– DR SHARON HOPKINS, CEO CWM TAF MORGANNWG UNIVERSITY HEALTH BOARD

Leighton John, Director of Operations for The Royal Mint said: “My sister works for the NHS and it really focuses your mind on the challenges they are facing, and the opportunity we have to support them.

“On Wednesday at 9am we knew nothing about medical visors, but we set our engineers the task of developing essential medical equipment which could be easily made on site – within seven hours they’d created a medical visor, and within 48 hours it was approved for mass manufacture. We’ll shortly post the specifications on our website to enable other firms to make them too.

“We are now developing the production line, and urgently calling for help to source 1.0mm PET clear plastic which is in low supply across the UK. We believe firms will have this in stock, and we’d urge them to get in touch with us so we can continue to support our NHS.”

Visors, masks, aprons and gloves are all valuable items of PPE used to prevent frontline workers from contracting coronavirus. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Some health care workers are worried about access to protective equipment like masks. One GP based in Bangor told ITV Cymru Wales that she and her colleagues feel “forced to make decisions” based on the “availability of PPE” and not based on “clinical judgement”.

On Wednesday 25, the Welsh Government announced that they would be making more PPE available to health and social care staff.


Positivity:

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Police ask train passengers why they travel as the coronoavirus blockade continues

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Brexit: EU-UK meeting to continue via video link

Copyright of the imagePA Media Caption of the image Michael Gove will not meet EU officials face to face for a whileA post-Brexit meeting between the…

Brexit: EU-UK meeting to continue via video link

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All the latest UK & Global Coronavirus News from the BBC

 

 
 
It was an emotional moment for those who took part – not least the NHS staff and care workers being saluted by the nation. The Royal Family and prime minister joined well-wishers who flocked to front doorsteps, balconies and windows on Thursday evening night to applaud those dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. It came after figures revealed the UK death toll rose from 475 to 578 in one day, with 11,658 confirmed cases.

There will be additional support for the NHS from firefighters, who have agreed to drive ambulances and deliver essential supplies if required. However, unions point out many are off-work in self-isolation. And, with NHS leaders saying staff feel “at risk” of contracting the virus unless they wear protective equipment while dealing with all patients, the BBC is told guidance is expected to be updated within two days. 

Normal life continues to be seriously affected. As vulnerable people continue to report problems getting groceries while in isolation, supermarkets are to use a government database of the 1.5 million people deemed most at risk to help prioritise delivery slots. Sharon Cranfield, from Surrey, tells us she’s reliant on deliveries because her daughter Jessica, 19, has cystic fibrosis, adding: “I’m terrified of going to the shops.” There are signs, too, the housing market is grinding to a halt, with transactions agreed before the lockdown falling through.

We dig into the detail of the government’s latest financial support package to find out what help is available to self-employed people. Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn says the government’s response to coronavirus proves he was “absolutely right” during December’s election campaign that public spending could be increased .

 
 
 

 
 
The US now has more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with more than 85,500 positive tests – overtaking both China and Italy. However, the US death toll remains much lower, at less than 1,300. Some 8,215 people have died in Italy. President Donald Trump predicts the US will get back to work “pretty quickly”, calling the figures “a tribute to the amount of testing that we’re doing”. 

Back in China, where the outbreak began, the government is temporarily banning all foreign visitors to prevent a further rise in the number of imported cases. Meanwhile, South Africa has begun a three-week lockdown. And while recent numbers from Italy’s worst-hit northern region suggest the epidemic might be slowing there, fresh fearshave arisen for poorer communities in the south.

Meanwhile, doctors, aid workers and the United Nations say camps for the displaced in north-western Syriacould be devastated by an outbreak. Follow all the latest global developments via our live page.

 
 
 

 
 
 

 
EU leaders meeting on Thursday – by socially-distant video conference – glaringly failed to agree to share the debt they are all racking up fighting Covid-19. From her flat in Berlin, where she is self-isolating after her doctor tested positive for the virus, German Chancellor Angela Merkel openly admitted to the disharmony over financial instruments.

What leaders did agree on was asking Eurogroup finance ministers to explore the subject further, reporting back in two weeks‘ time. The EU is famous for kicking difficult decisions down the road but in coronavirus terms, with spiralling infection and death rates, two weeks feels like an eternity.

 
 
 
Katya Adler

BBC Europe editor

 
 
 
 

 
 
The Coronavirus Newscast team is joined by Sean Farrington, from Radio 5 live’s Wake Up To Money, to help unpack the government’s new measures to support the self-employed. And musician Charli XCX offers some tips on keeping fit, staying creative and painting rocks in self-isolation. Meanwhile, the World Service’s Science in Actionexamines why China’s strong social distancing policies seem to have been successful in stopping the spread of the virus .

 
 
 

 
 
Some front pages use photographs of staff at the Royal Liverpool Hospital taking in the nation’s gratitude for the work of the NHS during the applause that rang around the UK. Others feature the members of the public – and young royals Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis – saluting the medical staff and carers. “Checkpoint Britain” is the main headline for both the Daily Express and the Metro, as they report police measures to enforce social distancing. The Daily Star describes those driving without good reason as “Checkpoint Charlies”. The effects of the virus on the property market is the big story for the Daily Mail, under the headline: “Don’t move home.” The housing market was “plunged into chaos” after the government called on people to delay moving home, the Times reports. Meanwhile, the Sun looks at the UK’s latest virus statistics to declare: “One Brit dies every 13 minutes.”

 
 
   
   
 

 

For more UK News, Global News or Coronavirus News please follow the links.

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All the latest Coronavirus News from the BBC – UK & Global News…

 

 
 

It seems self-employed people are about to get some of the help they have been demanding since the government agreed to pay 80% of the salary of staff kept on by employers during the coronavirus outbreak. Chancellor Rishi Sunak is expected to reveal what’s in the package at a press conference later. It comes as MPs criticise banks for asking business owners to put up personal assets such as property – other than their family home – to secure loans. This is despite government promises to cover 80% of losses if the money is not repaid, up to £5m. 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has offered a “special thank you” to those who have volunteered to help the NHS during the outbreak. More than half a million – including 11,000 former medics and 24,000 final-year students – have answered the call. That’s more than double the government’s recruitment target. Meanwhile, the Royal College of General Practitioners has written to Health Secretary Matt Hancock to ask whether family doctors should wear protective equipment to examine all patients, rather than just those showing coronavirus symptoms.


We look at how well prepared the health service is for the anticipated surge in cases. That includes a race to acquire ventilators, with the government ordering 10,000 from Dyson. Insiders at the firm, best known for vacuum cleaners and hand dryers, says it has a prototype “ready to go”, provided it passes stringent medical tests. Find out which companies are desperately seeking staff as they ramp up their roles in helping the country cope.

 
 

 

 
 

You can keep up with all the global developments via our live page, which has been reporting how the number of deaths in the US has topped 1,000.

The number of cases in the US had increased by more than 10,000 in 24 hours. One retired physician, 69-year-old Claudia Bahorik, who documented the frustrations in her quest to get tested for the virus, says her case is an example of Washington’s failure to implement the “trace, test and treat” mantra of global health bodies. Meanwhile, the US Senate has passed a $2tn (£1.7tn) aid bill, including direct payments of $1,200 to most adults and help for small businesses to pay workers. 

Closer to home, our correspondents gauge the mood in Europe’s locked-down capitals. The death toll in Spainhas risen to 3,434 – surpassing that of China. And coronavirus has triggered the downfall of the government in Kosovo .

 
 

 

 
 

As many countries grow accustomed to increasingly stringent lockdowns, personal stories are emerging that demonstrate how dramatically life has changed. For example, the world of dating has got a lot more complicated. One dad tells us how he’s told his daughter he’s gone to Africa when, in reality, he’s self-isolating in a campervan parked in the field next door. And we hear from young gay people forced into isolation with homophobic parents.

 
 
 
 

 

Continuing pictures of empty shelves at UK supermarkets have sparked ongoing worries about food shortages. The supermarkets are confident that they can cope, not least because there is a limit to how much people can sensibly stockpile. So they believe that shopping patterns should return to normal eventually.

But the coronavirus pandemic has awakened wider fears about the security and strength of the hugely complicated supply chains, or logistics systems, that modern societies depend on. The Chinese military theorist Sun Tzu wrote that “the line between disorder and order lies in logistics”. To test that idea, you only have to look in your kitchen cupboard or fridge. Almost certainly nearly everything in there came from a shop that was stocked by a lorry or van.

 
 
 

Jonty Bloom

Business reporter, BBC News

 
 

 

 
 

The Coronavirus Newscast hears from reporters patrolling the country’s parks to find out whether people are following the government’s rules on social distancing. And the Inquiry, on the BBC World Service, asks what lessons can be learned from South Korea, which quickly got to grips with the outbreak and kept mortality rates low.

 
 
 

 
 

There is much praise for the more than 500,000 people who have volunteered to help the NHS deal with the coronavirus outbreak. They make up an “army of kindness”, according to the Daily Express, while they are “kindhearts” in the Daily Mirror’s front-page headline. For the Daily Mail it shows the UK to be “a nation of heroes”. Meanwhile, in a thinly veiled dig at the Prince of Wales, who has tested positive, the Daily Star suggests NHS workers are “not amused” by celebrities and royalty “jumping the queue” to be tested ahead of them. The Financial Times says the government is under pressure to test front-line health workers. The Times and Daily Telegraph say testing kits could be available on a mass scale within weeks, while the Guardian and i suggest the government is to announce financial support for self-employed people.

 
 
   
   
 

 
 

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All new rules and opening hours for Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Aldi and Asda

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Breaking Business News / Coronavirus News

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Coronavirus could have ‘already infected HALF the population – and it’s been spreading since January’

Coronavirus could already have infected HALF the British population and has been spreading in the UK since January, a new study claims. Oxford …

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Wales Airshow in Swansea is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic

Swansea Council said it had not taken the decision lightly

Wales Airshow in Swansea is cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic

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Coronavirus UK: What happens if you can no longer work because of the lockdown?

Police patrolling a deserted Trafalgar Square as the UK enforces new measures because of the Coronovirus pandemic. (Picture: Barry Lewis/In Pictures …

Coronavirus UK: What happens if you can no longer work because of the lockdown?

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Coronavirus: Supermarkets limit shoppers as rules tighten

Shops have brought in a host of measures following the introduction of strict new government curbs.

Coronavirus: Supermarkets limit shoppers as rules tighten

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Tesco stops sale of skimmed milk and multibuy offers to meet demand for other products

Queues outside a Tesco store in Shropshire (Picture: PA Wire )Tesco will no longer sell skimmed milk and scrap multi-pack offers to allow suppliers …

Tesco stops sale of skimmed milk and multibuy offers to meet demand for other products

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More details on the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)…

Further details have emerged for the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) which is designed to assist qualifying businesses during these unprecedented times.

The Scheme aims to support long-term viable businesses who may need to respond to cash-flow pressures by seeking additional finance.  The loan will be provided by the British Business Bank through participating providers during the Covid-19 outbreak.

Full details of the CBILS scheme can be found here – but the main criteria are:

  • Loan facilities of up to £5m
  • 80% of the lenders risk is covered
  • Repayment terms up to 6 years for term loans and asset finance, but overdraft and invoice facilities will be up to 3 years.
  • No upfront fees and interest is covered by Government for up to 12 months
  • Companies remain 100% liable for the debt repayments. Total unsecured lending of up to £250,000.
  • Application for loans from the scheme is administered by over 40 approved lenders including main banks, challenger banks and asset finance etc. Businesses need to apply directly to the lenders and present their case for the finance needed.

Further details on all available business support schemes in response to Covid-19 can be seen at this Government website page: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/guidance-to-employers-and-businesses-about-covid-19

To be eligible for support in the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), the small business must:

  • Be a UK-based SME
  • Operate within an eligible sector
  • Comply with relevant state aid rules
  • Have a sound borrowing proposal but insufficient security to meet the lender’s requirements

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Latest BBC News update…

Latest BBC News Update including Coronavirus News

 
 

First it was advice, now it’s an order. Boris Johnson has issued a stark message to the country: “At this moment of national emergency… stay at home.” Speaking after the UK death toll reached 335, the prime minister introduced unprecedented restrictions on everyday life, meaning people must only leave their house for one of four reasons – to exercise once a day, to travel to and from work where “absolutely necessary”, to shop for essential items, and to fulfil any medical or care needs. 

 

Shops selling non-essential goods have been told to shut, along with libraries and children’s playgrounds, and gatherings in public of more than two people who do not live together will be prohibited. The restrictions will be in place for at least three weeks and police will have the power to enforce them, including through fines.  Read the prime minister’s statement in full and get a more detailed breakdown of the new rules.

 

The BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, says it’s still not quite the kind of total crackdown seen in other countries, at least not yet – no curfews, for example – and there will be a time on the other side of this crisis to analyse whether the government made the right decisions at the right time.

 

A reminder here of the symptoms of coronavirus and how you can minimise your risk. And here we answer 10 of your most-asked questions .

 
 
 

 
 

The World Health Organization says the pandemic is “accelerating”, with more than 360,000 cases globally and more than 16,000 deaths. But WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said it was still possible to “change the trajectory” with rigorous testing and contact-tracing strategies. 

 

Many other nations have now imposed lockdowns along the lines of that in the UK. France is strictly limiting physical exercise and closing outdoor markets, and South Africa’s government is preparing for the worst. India is stopping all domestic flights, but there are particular fears surrounding one textile city.

 

In Italy, the worst-hit country, the latest daily increase in deaths was the smallest since last Thursday, raising hope that stringent restrictions on public life are starting to have an effect. The BBC’s Sima Kotecha describes the haunting experience of Rome under lockdown. 

 

In the US, where 481 people have died, state governors and city mayors are pleading for more help from the federal government. However, the BBC’s Anthony Zurcher explains why the president may be having second thoughts about following suit with a large-scale lockdown. 

 

Our live page has all the latest developments, while health correspondent James Gallagher looks at when and how life might return to normal.

 l.
 
 

 
 
 

 

It is clearly not a good time for the world and it is not a good time for relations between the US and China. President Donald Trump has repeatedly chosen to call the coronavirus the “Chinese virus”. The president and his secretary of state have both denounced China for its failings in the initial handling of the outbreak. Meanwhile, social media in China has spread stories that the pandemic has been caused by a US military germ warfare programme; rumours that gained considerable traction. But this is not just a war of words, something more fundamental is going on . 

 
 
 

Jonathan Marcus

BBC defence and diplomatic correspondent

 
 
 
 

 
 

The drastic measures announced by Boris Johnson are reflected in dramatic headlines. “End of freedom”, the Daily Telegraph declares. “Britain shuts up shop”, the Daily Mail says, while the Sun has a picture of a giant padlock with the headline “House arrest”. As the Financial Times puts it, the prime minister has been “forced to close Britain”. While there’s widespread support for the measures, there’s also a feeling that, as the i puts it, the prime minister has dragged his heels. The Guardian says he significantly “escalated his language” after days of being accused of “sending mixed messages about what the public should do”. Leo McKinstry, writing in the Daily Express, says the imposition of these “savage rules” will have been particularly difficult for the PM, who is “an optimistic liberal at heart, with a deep suspicion of the big state”, but he had no alternative.

 
 
   
   
 

 
 

 

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Morning Motivation / Coronavirus Motivation for Entrepreneurs (and anyone else who needs it)…

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

Free Trains in Wales for NHS Staff On TfW and other Transport News…

NHS staff in Wales are being offered free travel on Transport for Wales rail services with immediate effect, the company has announced.

NHS workers will just need to show their work ID to access services to get themselves back and forth to work until 30 April.

Public transport is to operate on a reduced scale throughout Wales because of the coronavirus pandemic.

However the reduced service has led to crowding on some trains.

New timetables are now in place for trains and buses until further notice.

Announcing the move for NHS workers, Transport for Wales (TfW) said: “At Transport for Wales our primary focus is keeping our colleagues and customers safe, and to keep key workers moving.

“From Monday 23 March, Transport for Wales will provide all NHS workers free travel to and from work until 30th April on production of their NHS ID.”

A statement on its website added: “We are doing all we can to keep vital services running, so that emergency service staff who are using our trains and key workers are to travel in safety with confidence.” 

Some passengers were reporting difficulties in maintaining social distancing on trains on Monday morning.

Hospital worker Emma Lamorte highlighted the situation on Twitter and called for more trains.

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Tube travellers in London have also experienced crowded carriages, with unions saying it left transport staff feeling “furious” as they were unable to maintain social distancing.

However, other travellers in Wales reported quieter than usual carriages.

Aurora Heathfield

Image captionAurora Heathfield, outside Cardiff Central, was on a train carriage with only three other people

Commuter Aurora Heathfield from Bridgend, said there was an “eerie feel” on the train to Cardiff on Monday morning with carriages much quieter than usual.

“It would usually be pretty busy and you’d be looking for a seat. There was three people in my carriage,” she said.

Jake Newberry from Cross Keys, Caerphilly county, said there was “hardly anyone” on his train on the Ebbw Vale line and he had expected to see more people due to the reduced timetable.

Alex Varney said the train from Barry to Cardiff was also quiet with the conductor providing advice over a speaker rather than walking through the train to check tickets.

“It was nice and quiet and nice to have some space,” he said.

“Everyone was calm and pleasant and just going through their day.”

A TfW spokesman said on Monday afternoon: “Whilst some services were busy this morning, on average most were 50-60% full. However, we will continue to prioritise peak periods services in order to ensure we do not create overly busy services.

“”We will be monitoring the situation on a daily basis and increase capacity where necessary but we do strongly urge customers to carefully consider whether they do have to travel so that priority can be given to key workers.”

Why are services being reduced?

The changes reflect the fall in demand, reduced availability of staff and the latest public health guidance, transport companies said.

Transport Minister Ken Skates said it remained “crucial” to keep some services going for key workers and supply chains.

“This action aims to balance the current significantly reduced levels of passenger demand as people follow the guidelines to socially isolate with the need to reduce the number of people required to run the network,” he said.

“This contingency measure will help to ensure there are enough staff to keep services running over the coming weeks and months.”

Ken Skates

Image copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Image captionKen Skates hopes the new plans will keep transport on track for the coming months

The move comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should avoid “non-essential” travel.

Operators said the closure of schools, as well as people increasingly working from home, was expected to see a further significant decline in demand.

How have bus services changed?

First Cymru, which operates services across south and west Wales, warned customers face disruption to services because “increasing numbers of staff” were self-isolating.

It said there would be a reduced timetable for services in Ammanford, Bridgend, Carmarthen, Haverfordwest, Llanelli, Maesteg, Port Talbot and Swansea.

The company also urged passengers not use cash payments to buy tickets wherever possible, to “stop the spread” of coronavirus.

Arriva bus at Wrexham Bus Station

Image copyrightALAN SANSBURY

Image captionMany bus operators are running a Saturday timetable

Stagecoach, which operates throughout south-east Wales, said a reduced timetable would operate until further notice but had been created to ensure “critical routes are maintained wherever possible”.

Nigel Winter, managing director, said the company was working to maintain essential services, safeguard jobs and ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry in a “challenging” situation.

“We also know that our bus services play a vital role in keeping the country running and ensuring key sector personnel get to work,” he added.

“Our objective has been to focus resources on where we know they are needed most at this time.”

In north Wales, Arriva Bus is running an emergency service but will still operate key routes “to ensure customers can continue to access critical services”.

Cardiff bus

Image copyrightJAGGERY/GEOGRAPH

Image captionOnly eight Cardiff Bus routes will continue as normal

Cardiff Bus is now following a Saturday timetable for most of its services across the capital with the exception of some services which are running normally. School buses will continue for eligible children.

All Newport Bus services are also now following a Saturday timetable in “these unprecedented times”, the company said.

It added: “We will maintain bus services for our customers for as long as we are able to.”

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How are trains affected?

Train operators across Britain will gradually reduce services following talks with the UK and Welsh governments.

However operators will still run core services to ensure key workers can get to their jobs and the flow of goods continues.

Class 170 train

Image copyrightRICHARD JONES/MLA PHOTOGRAPHY/TFW

Image captionBusy commuter lines will be prioritised

TfW said Sunday service times will be applied throughout the week though some additional services will operate to support busier commuter routes. 

“This timetable has been designed to be as resilient as possible, whilst ensuring we balance a reduction in demand, availability of our people and the need to support key workers such as health, food retailers and delivery teams,” it said.

The operator said advanced tickets were now eligible for refunds.

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The New Welsh Inventions inspired by the Global Pandemic…

A new ventilator, a virus-killing snood and a hands-free door pull are just some of the innovations coming out of Wales to tackle coronavirus.

Since the outbreak, doctors, scientists and designers have been working on ideas to stop the virus spreading.

The ventilator has already successfully treated a Covid-19 patient and has been backed by the Welsh Government.

Mass production of the snood-type mask is under way while a 3D design of the handle has been widely circulated.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, who was part of the impetus to get the ventilator into mass production, said the innovations put Wales “on the front foot” in the battle against the pandemic.

“It shows that Wales, as a small nation, can get things done quickly as we face the biggest challenge of our generation,” he said.

The Covid Emergency Ventilator

It took just three days to design but the senior doctor involved believes the easy-to-build device could dramatically ease the strain on NHS staff.

ventilator

Image caption“The patient can self-care, releasing specialist nurses for other duties,” said Dr Rhys Thomas

Dr Rhys Thomas, from Glangwili Hospital in Carmarthen, was “desperately concerned” at the lack of intensive care unit (ICU) ventilators to deal with the expected influx of patients.

Along with engineering company CR Clark & Co of Ammanford, he created a machine that not only helps patients to breath but cleans the room of viral particles.

“It’s simple and robust and specifically designed to work against Covid virus in a contagious environment,” said Dr Thomas.

“Although it won’t replace an ICU ventilator, the majority of patients won’t need intensive care if they are treated with this ventilator first.

“The machine will [also] clean the room of viral particles and only supply purified air to the patient. The patient can self-care, releasing specialist nurses for other duties.”

Dr Rhys Thomas

Image copyrightPLAID CYMRU

Image captionDr Rhys Thomas served for 17 years with the British Army, including seven tours of Afghanistan

He said a patient in Llanelli who was treated with the machine at the weekend was now “recovering well”.

Welsh ministers have given the go-ahead for production of up to 100 ventilators a day.

The ‘virus-killing’ snood

Designers claim the mask kills more than 95% of any viruses – including Covid-19.

woman wearing snood mask

Image captionThe snood has been developed in response to the pandemic

The company hopes to make as many as a million-a-week and plans to reserve part of that stock for the NHS.

“We have been working on the anti-viral coating since 2011 but it’s only in the last five weeks that we have developed the snood in response to the current pandemic,” said Anna Roberts, of Virustatic Shield.

The hands-free door handle

Wyn Griffiths came up with the idea after his wife visited a local hospital last week and had to touch door handles after sanitising her hands. 

door pull being made

Image captionAnyone with a 3D printer can now make the door pull

That evening he had designed a prototype ‘arm’ which attaches to an existing door handle, with a crook to open the door. 

He has now distributed the 3D design online for anyone to download it for free.

Mr Griffiths said: “Hopefully people who have a 3D printer can help out their local hospital or anywhere the public visits by distributing these around the country.”

Menai Science Park

Image captionM-Sparc in Gaerwen is supported by Bangor University

The innovation centre

The handle and snood were both designed at the Menai Science Park in Gaerwen on Anglesey, a hub for small start-up companies and scientific research.

Pryderi ap Rhisiart, managing director of M-Sparc, said it was “vital” the park plays its part in coming up with innovative ideas.

Pryderi ap Rhisiart

Image captionMr Rhisiart praised small companies developing “new innovative solutions”

“In the middle of all the doom and gloom it’s good to see small companies developing new innovative solutions,” he said.

“It’s just a glimpse. We’re not saying it’s the answer but it’s something.”

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Latest update on Coronavirus from The PM as UK goes in to lockdown!

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that the UK is going into lockdown in a televised address to the nation last evening.

The PM made the announcement from 10 Downing Street amid widespread calls for tougher measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 / Coronavirus.

He ordered the immediate closure of all shops selling non-essentials items on Monday evening.

He told people to only leave the house to shop for basic necessities “as infrequently as possible” and to perform one form of exercise a day.

“If you don’t follow the rules the police will have the powers to enforce them, including through fines and dispersing gatherings.”

To ensure people follow the rules, Mr Johnson ordered the immediate closure of non-essential stores including those selling electronics and clothing.

All public gatherings of more than two people – other than those you live with – will be banned, the PM said.

Other premises being shuttered are libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship.

The UK coronavirus lockdown rules you must now comply with, or face police action, are as follows:

Coronavirus: Boris Johnson orders lockdown of the UK and orders people to stay at home

And, while parks will remain open for exercise, all social events including weddings and baptisms will be stopped.

Funerals, however, can continue.

Mr Johnson said the measures will be “under constant review” and will be considered for relaxation in three weeks’ time if the evidence allows.

Earlier in the day all Britons travelling abroad were told to return to the UK “while you still can”.

The Welsh Government has also announced the closure of all caravan parks, campsites and tourist hotspots after people flocked to Welsh landmarks on the weekend.

The First Minister will also take additional powers over licensing because some pubs didn’t close over the weekend.

The measures come after it was announced four more people have died after contracting the coronavirus in Wales.

There are now 418 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Wales and there have so far been 16 deaths.

But Dr Giri Shankar, Incident Director for the Covid-19 outbreak response at Public Health Wales, said the “the true number of cases is likely to be higher” as the virus continues to circulate in every part of Wales.

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

The Wales Team that could face Scotland when the Six Nations resumes…

The very different and stronger-looking Wales XV that could face Scotland when Six Nations clash is rescheduled (According to Wales Online):

Certain Wales players may be fit again, while others could be unavailable if the clash takes place in October like its expected too.

Gareth Anscombe is amongst the players who could be back for Wales:

In these uncertain times, with rugby and sport generally pretty much in hibernation because of the Covid-19 emergency, it’s hard to look much beyond next week let alone seven months ahead.

But all will hope the nasty little bug will be seen off in the coming months.

If it is, and the Six Nations is able to resume, then the next challenge will be to find suitable dates for the four postponed matches.

October 31 has been mooted as a potential option for the three round-five matches, namely France v Ireland, Italy v England, and Wales v Scotland. A weekend also would have to be found for the Ireland v Italy match that was also called off.

The problem is that October isn’t an international-window month, meaning clubs would not have to release players.

Could special dispensation be arranged given that the matches are Six Nations fixtures?

We do not know, with all of us operating in uncharted waters.

But the way things stand, neither Wales nor Scotland would be able to choose their England-based players.

What team would Wayne Pivac be able to field, then?

Here’s our best guess…

15. Liam Williams

Liam Williams eased his way back into Test rugby against England.

It’s set to be a straight choice between Williams and Leigh Halfpenny for the No. 15 shirt. If the 2020-21 season starts on time, Williams will have had opportunities to move back up the gears and the assumption is he’ll be back to his exceptional best. It’s very much a flick-of-a-coin call, mind, with Halfpenny having beaten off threats to his position before.

14. George North

Let’s assume the big man makes his determined and gutsy performance against England at Twickenham his default setting. If that happens, the No. 14 jersey will surely stay with him.

13. Jonathan Davies

Back in November, there was a suggestion Wales’ number one centre would be sidelined for six months after knee surgery. Predicting how long it will take for any injury to clear up isn’t a precise science, but the hope will be that master midfield organiser is playing again by the autumn.

12. Nick Tompkins

Let’s take a punt and say Tompkins will have hooked up to a Welsh region by the time the new season starts, with Cardiff Blues said to be the favourites. If he has and he’s available for any Wales game in October, the likelihood is he will switch to inside centre, where he has played with impressive effect for Saracens. If such a move doesn’t happen, it will be Hadleigh Parkes wearing the shirt — or Owen Watkin, depending on whether Wayne Pivac is in live-for-today mode or looking to tomorrow.

11. Josh Adams

He makes try-scoring look easy and, within three months, he’ll be recovered from the ankle injury he picked up in this Six Nations. He starts.

10. Gareth Anscombe

Gareth Anscombe is helped off the field after sustaining a serious knee injury while playing for Wales against England at Twickenham

Dan Biggar has had a strong Six Nations, so if he’s available Wayne Pivac will have a difficult call. But, as things stand, the  Northampton-based player would be beyond Pivac’s reach for October.

Jarrod Evans and Sam Davies are in the mix, but if Gareth Anscombe is fit and ready after his long-haul recovery from knee surgery, with his leadership and self-belief, he’d likely be first in line.

9. Rhys Webb

He’ll be frustrated after working his way back to the front of the queue with a strong performance off the bench against England. But the man has unshakeable confidence and that counts for a lot at any level of sport. It’s for others to catch up with him now.

1. Wyn Jones

Not too much to see here. Jones was picked to face Scotland for last Saturday and, assuming his form holds up, the squat, hard-working Scarlet would be fancied to get the nod again.

2. Ken Owens

He’ll blow out 34 candles on his birthday cake come January and there are some who’ve already questioned how much time he has left at Test level. But change for the sake of change is a course past Wales coaches have pursued with sometimes disastrous results. Before saying goodbye to Owens — and everybody has a sell-by date — Pivac will know another No. 2 needs to prove himself better. That hasn’t happened yet, not by a long chalk.

3. Dillon Lewis

Tomas Francis and WillGriff John are likely to be off limits to Wales in October as they play for English clubs. Samson Lee seems to have vanished from the international radar, with injuries not helping, so it could be another chance for Lewis to wear the jersey.  

4. Cory Hill

Like Rhys Webb, the Dragon will be frustrated after working his way back to prominence only to see his scheduled return to the starting line-up take a direct hit. Like Webb, he’s a character who’ll want to keep his foot pressed to the metal, though.

Jake Ball should be available but Hill is tireless on the pitch and the previous Wales regime enjoyed his capacity for hard graft. Adam Beard doesn’t seem to be pressing the right buttons in the eyes of the current coaches. Hill appears out in front.

5. Alun Wyn Jones

It’s a Lions year and Wales’ captain will want a big campaign to stake a claim.

He will also want to put behind him the absurd criticism that’s come his way over the Joe Marler affair. Marler may be ‘a joker and people love him for it’, as England international Mike Brown claimed, but even that’s open to question and, for sure, grabbing a fellow player’s private parts isn’t the wittiest move ever.

In sum, the prop appeared to be trying to force a reaction out of Jones but it didn’t happen and he’ll have 10 weeks to reflect on his actions. Having a go at Jones for his press-conference response to a clearly offensive act isn’t Brown’s finest hour, either.

Anyway, time heals and come the autumn the Wales lock will be keen to kick on. He’ll be 35 in September, but no Welsh rival is yet near him.

6. Ross Moriarty

Will he still be playing in Wales next season? Uncertainty mounts the longer it takes to resolve his contract situation. There’s appears to be an issue over his valuation by the Welsh rugby panel that’s dealt with his case and it’s taking worryingly long to deal with to the satisfaction of all concerned. The Dragons want Moriarty to stay and, apparently, he’s not averse to sticking around and doing his bit under Dean Ryan.  But there’s been no announcement and English and French clubs are watching closely.

Taulupe Faletau won’t be available for an October Test as he plays over the border. If Moriarty’s still in Wales, he’ll be favourite to feature. If not, Aaron Shingler or Aaron Wainwright would likely step up.

7. Justin Tipuric

Justin Tipuric runs in his team’s first try against England.

He’s had a outstanding Six Nations and will be there or thereabouts to be named Welsh rugby’s player of the year. Like a top batsman, he seems to take a fresh guard each season and not content himself with anything but excellence. Wales are lucky to have him.

8. Josh Navidi

His performance against England, after so little rugby over the previous four months, was something else.

Close on three years ago, after New Zealand had defeated Wales in Cardiff, Steve Hansen had enquired of Warren Gatland: “Where did you get the kid with the dreadlocks from?”

Navidi became a Gatland favourite, with the then Wales coach valuing his grit, his selflessness and appetite for unglamorous work.

He still has those qualities.

And he’ll still have them next season.

Business and Sports News from Mike Armstrong – See http://mikearmstrong.me

Primark to close all 189 UK Stores including all stores in Wales – WelshBiz

Retail Giant Primark is to close all 189 of their UK stores in response to coronavirus.

The major high street retailer will close all its shops due to the Covid-19 outbreak in a move affecting some 37,000 people.

The Primark store on Cardiff’s Queens Street, as well as all 189 UK stores will close with immediate effect due to the coronavirus.

The announcement by Primark, which has branches across Wales, will affect 37,000 people.

A Primark spokesman said;

“Our main priority is the health and wellbeing of our employees,”

“Primark has committed to supporting all employees who are directly affected by store closures, with full pay for their contracted hours for 14 days, after which the situation will be reviewed.

“Primark will continue to closely monitor the situation, following WHO advice as well as local and national government guidance.”  

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