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Thursday, April 30, 2020

Old Vicarage people send out testing plea to Health Minister

UPDATE: See comment from Clwyd South AM Ken Skates at foot of story

* From left, Old Vicarage carer Arfona Hughes, residents Jill Lidgett, 84, and 89-year-old Pat Preston and carer Tammy Callaghan hold up a banner outside the home which says in Welsh “Come on Wales – we need testing.” 

A Llangollen care home owner has put out an urgent personal plea to Wales’s Health Minister to extend coronavirus testing to her residents and staff.
The Welsh NHS is testing both groups who have symptoms but not those who do not.

That is not the case in England, where all residents and staff will now be covered after the policy changed on Tuesday.

But Wales’s First Minister Mark Drakeford said there would be “no value" to providing tests to everybody in the country’s care homes and that to do so would "divert capacity".
Bethan Mascarenhas, who runs The Old Vicarage care home in Llangollen strongly disagrees and says the lack of testing is creating “huge levels of anxiety” there.
And she has today sent out a strongly-worded letter to Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething AM.
In it she says: “Residents, staff and I are very concerned about the disparity between Wales and England on the decision to test all residents and staff in care homes whether they are showing symptoms of COVID-19 or not.

“The impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic is weighing heavily on the well-being of all staff and residents, each worried that they may be carrying the virus and unintentionally spreading it - with fatal consequences.

“Testing is the only way to know if we are carrying the virus and would allow us to act to prevent further spread.

“Providing testing to all care homes and staff may be largely rhetoric on the part of the UK government. However, both residents and staff listen to the news and are at loss to understand why the same opportunity that is available to people, living 10 minutes away over the border, is not being offered to them.

“Daily reports of deaths in care homes and reports that care homes are the most dangerous place to be in creates huge levels of anxiety for residents who are fragile and currently unable to have visits from relatives who are also understandably concerned.”

Ms Mascarenhas goes on to explain how one of her elderly residents, who was being treated for a known and diagnosed infection, ended up being taken to hospital by ambulance after developing a cough, different to that of Covid-19, and a high temperature.

She says: “There is now a high risk of her contracting COVID-19 with a little hope of recovery. This could have been avoided with testing.

“The care staff are also on the frontline. They have families and responsibilities but come to work each day.

“NHS staff are rightly lauded for their dedication, but care staff seems to have be forgotten and unsupported. Testing them would raise their status and give them some peace of mind while they continue to provide a demanding and dangerous service.”

Ms Mascarenhas attaches to her letter some comments from her residents about the situation. These say:

* ‘We're the United Kingdom and it should be inclusive to all, not breaking countries up with their responses, we should be united in our approach together' - resident aged 99.

‘We need to know what positive things they are putting together for the people, why is testing not one of them and why? We don’t want to be left out. We are writing to you, to ask you to protect our futures. We must be kept up to date and informed’ - Bill Gosson aged 89

* ‘Please think about us, we want this done for our safety. If we are doing our part by staying indoors and isolating ourselves from our families and community you should be doing your part by protecting us. All our relatives are anxious to know what’s going on and what our status is and if there’s a way to help prevent the spread’ - Joan Fell aged 96

* ‘If every home in England is being tested, then it’s being classed as essential – are we not essential too? Why are you choosing not to test? Is it financial? Can you not afford it? Is our safety not seen as valuable enough? Please don’t leave it until it’s too late, if we know we have confirmed cases, we can do something about it – Jill Lidgett aged 84

* ‘I feel very isolated from my family, they are all very worried for me as they don’t know for definite how I am without testing. I myself am regularly ill but with the pandemic, every time I am ill it raises concerns for them not knowing my status or if it may be COVID-19, everyone gets upset and worried about the unknown. Please test us all in Care Homes’ - Iola Roberts aged 86

‘* I’m very angry – why should we be left out? We are not different, we are all people, all the same. It’s awful knowing that a care home 10 minutes away from us are able to test everyone and we are left here not knowing. I love my life; I have never been so happy as I am here in this home – I have a life to live and I deserve to have that protected. I want our wonderful staff and their family members protected too. We need the same treatment as England, we need to know!’ - Amy Lawton aged 98.

‘* Our duty of care means we need to know whether we might be putting our residents at risk by bringing the virus into the home. The Health Minister has a duty of care towards us to make it possible to test, so we can put residents’ minds to rest and be able to provide the safest care possible’ - Staff member.

Clwyd South AM Ken Skates said: "Bethan has been in touch with my office and I'm aware she has written to the Health Minister on this important issue. 

"I completely understand the anxiety residents and staff in care homes are experiencing during this crisis and will be raising the matter with the Welsh Government on behalf of everyone at The Old Vicarage and the other care homes in our area." 

Caravan parks urged to stick to lockdown regulations

Denbighshire County Council’s Public Protection team is working closely with North Wales Police to remind owners of caravan parks and campsites to adhere to national regulations to remain closed and to continue protecting local communities.

Welsh Government’s First Minister Mark Drakeford made the order last month to close all campsites and caravan parks.

This came after significant concerns were raised across the country about the number of visitors and holidaymakers that had made their way to these sites during the outbreak of coronavirus, placing extreme added pressure on vital services.  

They must remain closed until further notice, unless specifically exempt or requested and approved by the Welsh Government or the council.

Now Denbighshire and police have issued a reminder for these sites to remain closed until the order has been lifted.

Councillor Mark Young, Cabinet Lead Member for Safer Communities, said: “We are living in unprecedented times due to Coronavirus Covid-19 and clear guidelines have been issued by the Welsh and UK Governments that people should adhere to social-distancing, self-isolation and only undertake essential journeys.

“Welsh Government made the order to close campsite and caravan park accommodation immediately to assist in preventing the spread of the virus, and to limit the impact of visitors on our health and care services locally which are already under considerable pressure. Asking customers to stay at their main home address is helping to protect their safety, that of the people of Denbighshire as well as our vital health and care services.

“We are extremely grateful to those owners or caravan sites and campsites that have shown great co-operation and it is a timely reminder with the current good weather to continue adhering to these regulations until further notice."

Darryl seeks funding to continue making shields for key workers

* Darryl Maxwell at work on his 3D printer.

* A key worker gives the thumbs up to one of Darryl's face shields.

A community-minded Llangollen man who has already made 600 face shields to protect key workers from Covid-19 is looking for funding to go on producing them.

Former bus driver Darryl Maxwell has been using the 3D printer he and partner Clare MacPartland bought to turn out toys for their children to fashion the plastic shields which he has so far donated to hospital and care home staff.

Cash to pay for the raw materials necessary to make them has just run out, so Darryl has started an online funding appeal to carry on with the good work.

Clare said: “Darryl and I have lived in Llangollen for two years. He used to be a bus driver until I started to get ill with bad back pain and nerve damage and he had to stop work to help with our family.

“We came to have 3D printing equipment because our children love anime and the stuff they like and want to buy is expensive as it isn’t a common thing you see in every shop.

“So we invested in a 3D printing machine to make things that our children like.

“Darryl started making the shields because his mum works for the NHS and the personal protective equipment was under-supplied.

“So he used the printer to make some for his mum and it went from there.”

Clare added: “We did what we could out of our own money and what filament we had before setting up a fundraiser on Facebook which has now finished after bringing in £600.

“We now have a gofundme page after speaking to family and people who have supported him.

“He has made about 600 face shields and a few little bits like door pullers and ear savers and each shield costs about £1 to make.

“We have handed out these out to the chemist, the doctors, care homes and Home Bargains, all in Llangollen, and also to Wrexham Maelor Hospital. We have even been sending some to Bangor as they need them too.” 

Darryl’s new funding appeal has so far raised less than £100 of his £1,000 target figure.

He says on the page: “Any money donated will be used to purchase more filament, acetate sheets, material and elastic.

“If you can donate any filament, acetate sheets of 240 micron or more, elastic or material then please contact me.

“This will help loads of people massively and we would be very thankful for your support.

* The link to Darryl’s funding page is: 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Sun Trevor's virtual pub quiz goes international

* Team Barflies on their weekly pub quiz at 
the ‘virtual’ Sun Trevor pub, Llangollen.

A charity pub quiz organiser is attracting online visitors from across the UK and parts of Europe to  Llangollen - and raising vital funds for people with life-limiting illnesses.

Maggie Smith is quiz master for the weekly showdown at The Sun Trevor pub. 

Every Wednesday evening they host a quiz with the entry fees being donated to Nightingale House Hospice in Wrexham. 

And  quizzers have raised a whopping £1,800 in the past few months.

Following the Covid-19 restrictions when pubs and restaurants closed their doors Maggie took the decision to keep the quiz going and set up The Sun Trevor ‘virtual’ quiz. 

As people have struggled to find a sense of routine during the pandemic the game has been attracting new entrants - many of them have previously visited the pub during holidays, day trips and weekend breaks, including a man from Catalonia in Spain.

Nightingale House is the quiz group's chosen charity following the death of Maggie’s sister-in-law, Sandra Cragg in 2015. 

Sandra spent her final days at the hospice receiving what Maggie described as "the most unbelievable care and attention.” 

To date the quiz has raised £15,000 in Sandra’s memory.

She said: “When Sandra passed away I realised how important the hospice had been to her and our family during such a difficult and sad time. 

I know how much Sandra appreciated the care and attention the clinical team gave to her and the sensitive and thoughtful way they supported my brother. The family had already set up an In Memory fund so it seemed the right thing to make Nightingale House our chosen charity through our fun quiz nights.

“The hospice is such an invaluable facility but one that you probably never know you need until it is necessary. We are just happy to help them out. We would normally wait to give the donation and donate a few times a year but we felt that more than ever the hospice needs the cash in the bank now. It is our privilege to be able to enjoy a fun night and help the charity as well.”

Paul Jones, owner of the Sun Trevor, said: “The quiz has been an amazing success, not only as a chance for locals and visitors to get together but also to raise money for such a good cause like Nightingale House. 

"We were all so sad when we had to close the pub but we hope that once lockdown is over we will all reunite either in person and perhaps with even more people on line so we can continue to help those with life-limiting illnesses."

* If you want to join The Sun Trevor quiz for Nightingale House Hospice - the questions are posted on their Facebook page(@TheSunTrevorLlangollen) at 8pm every Wednesday night and answers given at 9pm.

Wales will not test all care home residents, says BBC

The BBC is reporting this afternoon that the Welsh Health Minister has said Wales will not follow England in providing tests to all care home residents and workers.
The Welsh NHS is testing residents and staff who have symptoms, but not those who do not.
The policy was expanded in England on Tuesday.

Council staff continue wellbeing checks on vulnerable residents

Denbighshire County Council is contacting vulnerable residents to check on their wellbeing and offer community support during the coronavirus outbreak.

Everybody receiving shielding letters from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales is being called by a council officer to arrange community support or food box deliveries if required.

So far more than 3,000 residents have been contacted and support provided has included referrals to community groups or local charities for help with, for example, advice about finances, grocery shopping or dog walking.

A number of residents have contacted the council to offer their thanks to staff as well as posting their thanks on social media.

One resident said: “I recently received a call from the council advising me I was on the NHS shielding list and I was given valuable information about the available services for myself and my wife. This included food and medical deliveries.

“We later received a food parcel with much needed essentials. I would like to pass on our thanks and appreciation to the staff for everything they are doing for the community and everyone else making deliveries and other jobs during these difficult times.”

Another resident said: “I would like to applaud what Denbighshire County Council is doing and I’d like to thank the council for the call. We really appreciate it and we really appreciate all those still going to work and everything that has been done for us. Well done.”

Cllr Bobby Feeley, the council’s Lead Member for Well-being and Independence, said: “We have been getting some fantastic feedback from residents receiving these calls, it is encouraging to know the calls are providing the right support for our residents.

“Staff are extremely appreciative of the comments and I would like to thank them for their outstanding work during this time.

“We will continue to stay in touch with residents who have received a call throughout the lockdown period. We also understand it is not only those in receipt of a shielding letter that need support. If anyone is worried about themselves or a friend, relative or neighbour they can call the Council on 01824 706000 and a call-back will be arranged as soon as possible.”

* Residents who are concerned about the legitimacy of these calls can hang up and call the council back direct on 01824 706000.

County chiefs put out virus scam warning

Denbighshire businesses are being warned about scams as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Malicious email attachments, false government grant phone calls and impersonation scams have led National Trading Standards to launch Businesses Against Scams – a free online training tool to help protect businesses from costly scams.
With remote working and many businesses having to diversify their trading practices, criminals are seizing the opportunity to target employees isolated from colleagues.
Scams include criminals impersonating government officials or a senior member of the business to pressure employees to give out sensitive information or make payments.
Cllr Mark Young, Denbighshire County Council’s Lead Member for Planning, Public Protection and Safer Communities, said: “As a council we are supporting Businesses Against Scams and I would encourage traders in the county make use of this free resource.
“It is important businesses are aware of scams at this time and do everything they can to protect themselves. At a time when businesses are facing unprecedented challenges these scams are adding further unnecessary strain. Taking part in this training will help protect against these scams.”
Criminals will try and gain access to businesses devices and networks by sending emails with malicious attachments, exploiting vulnerabilities in operating systems if they are not up-to-date and trying to get you to click links or visit malicious websites.
Scams targeting customers also undermine businesses, as criminals often impersonate businesses to defraud their customer base, causing reputational damage and potential loss of business.
Louise Baxter, Head of the National Trading Standards Scams Team, said: “Criminals will use every opportunity they can to defraud innocent people. They will continue to exploit every angle of this national crisis and we want businesses to be prepared. We’ve launched Businesses Against Scams as a free tool for organisations to help them protect their business, their staff and their customers.”
If a business believes they have been the victim of a scam they must contact their bank immediately and report any suspicious activity to Action Fraud or by calling 0300 123 2040.
Businesses Against Scams is a new element of the successful Friends Against Scams initiative, run by National Trading Standards, and to sign up visit

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Latest news from North Wales Resilience Forum

The latest update from North Wales Resilience Forum is:
"North Wales will increase its Coronavirus testing capacity with the opening of a new drive-through centre in Llandudno this week.
The North Wales drive-through testing centre, located on the Builder Street coach park, becomes operational on Wednesday (April 29th) and will begin by testing critical workers.
Given its central regional location and significant size, the site greatly increases testing capability as North Wales Resilience Forum partners continue to work with the Welsh and UK Governments to protect communities during the outbreak.
Only critical workers displaying symptoms of the virus will be referred to the drive-through at present. These include staff from the NHS, police, fire and ambulance services; care homes and other critical workers defined in Welsh Government policy. They will be able to drive on to the site and self-swab without leaving their vehicles.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board’s Executive Director of Public Health, Teresa Owen, has led work to set up the centre on behalf of the North Wales Resilience Forum.
She explained, “The new drive-through testing centre in Llandudno will play an integral part in our response to Coronavirus in North Wales.”
“The site will greatly increase our regional testing capability and complements several existing Health Board Community Testing Units (CTUs) for critical workers and NHS staff across the region. Together, these facilities will help safeguard the public, provide the best possible outcome for patients and keep essential services running.”
The Builder Street drive-through testing centre is being developed in partnership with UK Government and Deloitte to deliver the UK-wide coronavirus testing of critical workers. Key partners on the North Wales facility also include the Welsh Government, Public Health Wales, North Wales Police, Conwy County Borough Council and other Resilience Forum partners.
North Wales Police's Assistant Chief Constable, Sacha Hatchett, who chairs the North Wales Resilience Forum, added, “The demand for Coronavirus testing amongst our critical workers is growing. The site on Builder Street represents the next phase of our testing response to support critical workers in vital areas of public service.”
“We have mobilised quickly with the support of partners and the military to create a suitable drive-through centre which increases our testing capacity in North Wales. This new centre allows us to provide Coronavirus testing in a convenient, timely and, above all else, a safe way for all involved in the process.”
The testing centre will not pose a risk to the public as stringent infection prevention measures are in place to protect people, staff and the wider community."

Minister to set out plans for allowing more children to return to school

Wales Educatiom Minister Kirsty Williams will today explain her plans for a phased approach in allowing more pupils to return to school.
Schools are currently only open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children, with many local authorities adopting a hub approach rather than opening all schools in their area.
School provision will gradually adapt and extend further during the next phase, in line with changes to the current restrictions outlined by the First Minister last week. The First Minister published a framework with seven key questions to help lead Wales out of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kirsty Williams will set out five guiding principles which will determine when and how schools will return to providing education for most school pupils:
  1. The safety and mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of students and staff
  2. Continuing contribution to the national effort and strategy to fight the spread of COVID-19
  3. Having the confidence of parents, staff and students – based on evidence and information – so that they can plan ahead
  4. Ability to prioritise learners at key points, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds
  5. Consistency with the Welsh Government’s framework for decision making, to have guidance in place to support measures such as distancing, managing attendance and wider protective actions.
The Minister said:

"Our latest understanding of the rate of transmission of COVID-19 allows us to be hopeful, but still requires us to be cautious.
It is vital that parents, staff and students have confidence in returning to school. We will only enter the next phase when the evidence and advice suggests that it is the right thing to do.
I will communicate any decision to change the operation of schools well in advance of any required action, allowing school staff, pupils and parents to plan ahead.
Schools will not immediately return to operating at full capacity. It will be a phased approach and I do not expect schools will suddenly open for all pupils, from all years, all week.
The ongoing challenge of COVID-19 means we will prepare schools for a range of scenarios for the foreseeable future. However unlikely, we must prepare for an eventuality that requires schools to reduce operations at specific future points.
I would like to thank the all those working hard to ensure that schools and hubs are able to provide support for those who need it. As I have said previously, our teachers, support staff and childcare workers have proved themselves to be national heroes."

* Following the announcement of the free school meals funding made by Education Minister Kirsty Williams AM last week, Denbighshire County Council will be increasing the amount of the direct payment for free school meals from the current £15 per child, per week to £19.50 as of Monday, 4 May. The council says it is still in the process of processing a small number of applications.

It said: "Please bear with us, the funding will be made available very soon."

Latest Welsh Government coronavirus updates

Latest updates from the Welsh Government, issued yesterday, are

  • Health Minister Vaughan Gething has today confirmed financial support of £60,000 will be provided to an eligible beneficiary of frontline staff working in the NHS and social care, if they die in service as a result of Covid-19.
    • The scheme will see eligible beneficiaries receive a one off sum of £60,000 and will apply particularly to those working in frontline roles and locations where personal care is provided to individuals who may have contracted coronavirus.
    • The scheme is non-contributory and there are no additional costs to employers. The payment will be made in addition to any existing benefits already earned through existing pension scheme membership.

Where to find the latest information

County thanks people for staying away from beauty spots

* People stayed away from the Horseshoe Falls at the weekend.

Denbighshire County Council and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty have thanked residents and visitors for staying away from the county’s beauty spots over the weekend.

Concerns had been raised last week about an increase in visitors to the Panorama and Horseshoe Falls in the Dee Valley and Loggerheads and Moel Famau country parks.

his prompted a warning from the council and North Wales Police for people to heed the national message and to stay at home.

The council monitored the position over the weekend, supported by North Wales Police patrols and says very few visitors were reported at these locations.

Councillor Tony Thomas,  the council’s Lead Member for Housing and Communities, said: “We fully understand that the great weather makes it extremely tempting to go for exercise in our scenic countryside, but we are in the middle of a pandemic and we all need to listen to the stay at home messages. 

“Generally, most people listen to the national guidance and exercise in their local community, but the blip we saw last week in some of our beauty spots did cause us some concern. That’s why we appealed to people to stay away.

“We are very grateful to North Wales Police for providing a visible presence in the area. By working in partnership, we can really send a clear message for people to stay at home. When the time’s right, we will be welcoming people back to Denbighshire with open arms – but not quite yet."

Monday, April 27, 2020

Covid testing station to open in Llandudno

The Daily Post is reporting this afternoon that UK facilities management company Mitie is helping open a Covid-19 test in Llandudno.

The company says as part of Britain’s efforts to fight the Coronavirus pandemic it is providing services at five UK sites.
This includes the car park in Buolder Street, Llandudno with the other four locations at Penrith, Inverness, Bournemouth, and Perth.
For the full story, see:

Hand at Llanarmon amongst first to get Covid-19 business loan

* The Hand at Llanarmon was one of the first to secure Covid-19 assistance. 

The Hand at Llanarmon near Llangollen was one of the first businesses to secure funding from the Development Bank of Wales under the Covid-19 Wales Business Loan Scheme

Since the scheme was launched on March 30 almost 600 businesses across Wales have been awarded funding totalling £36 million.

As of last week the cash approved included 533 loans of less than £100,000 and 222 of which are less than £25,000. 

With more than 80% of applications processed having been approved, 567 loans have gone to small and micro businesses across Wales safeguarding some 4,571 jobs. 

The average deal size is £61,000 and average turnaround time for a decision on funding is around ten days. 

Over 90% of applicants are new to the Development Bank of Wales.

More than 1,600 applications were received in the first week for the £100 million scheme with the first loans agreed on Thursday 2 April just three days later. The first funds reached applicants on Friday 3 April.

Jonathan Greatorex, owner of the Hand at Llanarmon, applied within an hour of the First Minister’s announcement of the new fund. 
An offer of £100,000 from the Development Bank of Wales was received on 2nd April and the funds were transferred on 4th April. 

He said: “The help available in Wales has been fantastic and we are so grateful to the Welsh Government for their support. The scheme really is a lifeline for us. With 25 staff, the funding from the Development Bank of Wales means that their jobs and our future plans are far more secure.”

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales Ken Skates AM, said: “I want to pay tribute to the staff of the Development Bank of Wales who have worked tirelessly alongside the Welsh Government to develop what I believe to be the most comprehensive package of support for business in the UK.

“In such a short time they are processing three times the number of applications for support usually received in a year. By doing so they have delivered vital funds to firms which form the lifeblood of the Welsh economy with maximum speed and efficiency, helping to safeguard thousands of jobs.

“I believe there is a lot the UK Government and high street banks could learn from how the Development Bank of Wales has adapted its policies and processes to get funding and support to businesses.”

Chief Executive of the Development Bank of Wales Giles Thorley added: “These are exceptionally difficult times for businesses of all sizes and sectors across Wales. That’s why we are doing all that we can to get money out quickly to businesses, helping to protect livelihoods and safeguard jobs.

“Every single available person in our team is focussed on processing applications as quickly as possible to ensure that we can get support to those businesses facing unprecedented difficult cashflow challenges as a result of Covid-19. Every day counts when you are desperate for working capital to keep a business afloat and protect jobs. I’m pleased to say that all businesses who applied are now in the process and it is our hope that we will be able to get funds out to all successful applicants by the end of the month.”

Ben Cottam, Head of External Affairs at FSB Cymru commented:“At the start of this crisis, we heard the real and immediate problems faced by businesses struggling to ensure their businesses survival and the jobs of their workforce. It’s therefore been very encouraging to see the speed with which the Development Bank has moved to support some of these businesses. We know that for these businesses, this funding represents a lifeline.

However, the fact that this fund was oversubscribed in the first week shows the scale of the challenge and demand and it’s inevitable that further support will be needed as we navigate through this unprecedented crisis."