Jack Sargeant Column: Two week ‘fire-break’ – We must pull together to help protect our NHS
The First Minister this week announced a two week ‘fire-break’ to slow the spread of Covid-19. This will commence 6pm on Friday 23rd October and end on the 9th November and is being brought into effect due to a continued rise in the number of cases across Wales.
During this time, we are being asked to stay at home, working from home wherever possible. All nonessential retail, hospitality and tourism will be closing, along with community centres, libraries and places of worship (except for funerals or wedding ceremonies).
Additionally, in order to break the cycle of transmission, there will be no gatherings with people you do not live with, either indoors or outdoors for the two-week period, meaning Halloween and Bonfire night gatherings will not be allowed. There will however be an exception for adults living alone and single parents who are able to join with one other household for support.
The Welsh Government has highlighted that children are its top priority and that during this fire-break, childcare will remain open and primary schools will reopen after the half-term. Similarly, secondary schools will reopen after half term to year 7 and 8.
In his announcement, First Minister Mark Drakeford said, “this is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much-longer – and damaging – national lockdown. We have a small window of opportunity to act.”
“To be successful, we need everyone’s help. Here in Wales, this is the moment to come together; to play our part in a common endeavour to once again protect the NHS and save lives.”
“If we can do this, our health service will be able to care for people with coronavirus and everyone who needs emergency treatment as well as providing more routine care this winter. And, most importantly, it will save lives.”
This is a difficult time for everyone, and we are all tired of the coronavirus and the many rules and regulations we are being asked to follow. The new fire-breaker restrictions are designed as a short, sharp response to bring cases down and ensure the NHS is not overwhelmed as we approach winter.
As we approach Remembrance Sunday on the 8th November we must come together to remember the sacrifices made by those who have gone before us to secure a better future for us all and have the strength to pull together at this time of great difficulty to help protect our NHS and save lives.
Together, we can keep Wales safe.
The Welsh Government have announced a series of measures to protect businesses forced to close during this time including an enhanced Economic Resilience Fund of almost £300m. Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses, which are struggling because of Covid restrictions. If you have any further questions on business support please do not hesitate to get in contact at Jack.Sargeant@Senedd.Wales
I am very aware however that the impact of a lockdown is not just financial. We have all had to make difficult sacrifices this year, giving up time with family and friends to protect each other and as we know sadly many have lost loved ones during this awful time.
Support is available if you are struggling with your mental health, the mental health charity Mind has online resources available to help cope with the impact of Covid.
The Community Advice and Listening Line (C.A.L.L) also offers emotional support and information on mental health for people in Wales, freephone 0800 132 737 or text help to 81066. You can find further support here – https://111.wales.nhs.uk/Mentalhealthservices/
Sadly, for some home is not a safe place to be. If you or someone you know has experienced domestic abuse you can contact the Live Fear Free Helpline 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free advice and support or to talk through your options. If you are in immediate danger always call the police on 999.
You can find a full explanation of the upcoming fire-break on the Welsh Government website.
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