Distinctive Welsh Government Response to Covid 19 

  1. We were the first part of the UK to suspend routine work in the NHS, to give the NHS time to prepare for coronavirus, including staff to be retrained in the skills they need to treat patients.
    • This has helped the NHS in Wales prepare for coronavirus. Having a national planned and provided NHS Wales has meant we have been able to double the number of critical care beds, with more coming online every week; we have distributed over 600 ventilators and CPAP machines, have more ventilators on order which will double capacity, and up to 7,000 extra hospital beds are being created – increasing NHS Wales’ bed numbers by up to 70%.
  2. Wales began testing symptomatic individuals returning from their travels for COVID-19 on 29 January and we have been testing frontline NHS staff since 7 March – two weeks before routine testing of NHS staff began in England.
  3. In Wales we are funding the provision of PPE for all care homes in Wales including private care homes who are able to draw from local stocks at no cost to themselves. NHS England’s PPE for private care homes is being distributed to wholesalers who then charge the care homes.
    • In Wales, PPE is being distributed from our central stores and pandemic stocks to all health boards for use by hospital and primary care staff and to local authority joint stores for onward delivery to all social care settings.
    • We have had an overwhelming response from Welsh companies to our call to action to manufacture PPE and equipment for the Welsh NHS during the coronavirus pandemic. More than 300 companies are supporting our national effort to produce vital PPE supplies – including Penderyn Whiskey which is producing Hand Sanitiser for our NHS and Airbus which is producing ventilators.
  4. Wales is the first country of the UK to make a new once a month injection for recovering heroin addicts routinely available. The new service will replace daily oral medication services to support recovering addicts, helping to relieve pressure on pharmacy and NHS services during the coronavirus pandemic.
  5. All GP practices in Wales can now access a new system, which allows people to have online appointments with their doctor and other healthcare professionals within the community. Thanks to our national organisation delivering technology and first class digital health systems needed for modern patient care in Wales, this is a service already used widely in primary care. Its success is not able to be replicated in the fragmented system in NHS England.
  6. Wales is using a single, self-swab test for coronavirus in the drive-through testing centres. This means the test is carried out by the person being tested in their own car – a healthcare worker is not exposed to a potentially symptomatic person when the test is being carried out. This test was developed in Wales, it is over 95% effective, less invasive, more pleasant for patients and does not require fluid for transport.
  7. We are providing an extra thank you payment of up to £500 to every social care worker and domiciliary care worker in Wales, to provide some further recognition of the value we attach to everything they are doing. We are challenging the UK Government to not tax this payment or penalise people with working tax credits or other benefits.
  8. We have our own regulations in place in Wales. Uniquely, we have in law the requirement that exercise should be taken only once a day. We have kept the levels of fines here in Wales to under £200, when in England they can be more than £900.
  9. We have different rules on how funerals can be organised and who can attend, giving more choice to families. We moved ahead of anywhere in the UK in closing caravan and camping sites.
  10. We are the only part of the UK to have the 2m physical distancing duty in law, to protect people in the workplace and prevent the spread of coronavirus. This provides a means of taking action against the small minority of irresponsible employers who are putting their workforce at risk.
  11. We have arrangements in place with the food bank movement in Wales to help ensure they have the supplies they need – the barriers are not always financial, but other bottlenecks in supply chains or very local difficulties, which we can help to resolve.
  12. We’re working much more closely with local authorities, who also have not had spending decimated in the last few years as they have in England. We have provided £110m of funding to local authorities across wales, which is more than the £95m consequential.
  13. We’re using local authorities to coordinate alternative Free School Meal funding, rather than the EdenRed system being used by the UK government which is at breaking point.
  14. Wales has become the first country in the UK to guarantee ongoing funding for children to continue to receive free school meals through the summer holidays during the coronavirus pandemic. With the support of the Welsh Local Government Association, the Welsh Government will make £33m available to help local authorities continue to provide free school meals.
  15. Wales was one of the first countries in the world to secure a national licensing deal with Microsoft that ensures every learner and teacher in state schools have access to the latest Microsoft Office tools, including Minecraft Education Edition, on their personal devices at home.
  16. Wales has just become the first country in the world to deploy Adobe Spark nationally, enabling more than 500,000 teachers and learners across Wales to access Adobe Spark for Education.
  17. We are providing key workers with free childcare for their pre-school children during the coronavirus pandemic. Wales’ 30 hours of free childcare will be suspended for three months and instead, councils can use the funding so childcare providers can offer support to people working on the front line of the outbreak. We will continue to pay childcare firms for the hours already booked under the 30-hour provision.
  18. There has been no delay to the establishment of the supermarket priority shopping slots for the shielded group in Wales – the complete list of all eligible individuals has been transferred to all retailers offering online shopping and delivery schemes. Our system in Wales has the advantage of not requiring shielding people to undertake a separate registration process.
  19. We already have legislation in place to explicitly address violence against women and since 2015 Ministers, local authorities and local health boards have been required to have strategies in place to address it. To have his landmark legislation and our national advisers in place at a time when many are at a higher risk from an abuser has put Wales in a much stronger position.
    • During this crisis our communications campaign is designed to reach out to those people who are yet to ask for help, providing them with access to support and information. To this end, we have recently trained more than 3,300 people to recognise the signs of domestic abuse and sexual violence through a Wales only E-learning module.
    • This is compared to the situation in England, where the long-delayed domestic abuse bill is only now returning to parliament for its second reading.
  20. In total the Welsh Government’s economic support for businesses affected by Covid 19 is almost £2bn, equivalent to 2.7% of GDP in Wales.
    • Our £500m Economic Resilience Fund is unique to Wales – it is making additional support available to micro-businesses, SMEs and social enterprises, which are not eligible for other support schemes. Around 700 applications are being appraised daily, with the first batch approved for payment in the first week of the scheme. This is not available in England.
    • As part of this, the Development Bank of Wales (DBW) is making available real money to businesses – not bank guarantees, which are available from the UK Government, which have been very slow in translating into support from the high street banks. DBW is processing applications faster and more efficiently than many of the high street banks. The first loans were approved within three days of the fund launch, with the first loans reaching applicants before the end of the first week.
  21. Our decision not to provide relief for companies with a rateable value of more than £500,000 was based on a careful assessment of the needs of all Welsh businesses – small businesses are the backbone of the Welsh economy – and our intention to prioritise scarce resources on those who need it most.
    • There are fewer than 200 such properties in Wales, occupied by around 50 companies. Extending non-domestic rates relief to them would have cost the Welsh Government nearly £120m.
    • All funding that would have gone to large supermarkets is now being utilised to support vital Small and Medium Sized Enterprises across Wales that wouldn’t have got support had they been in England.
  22. We’re bringing overseas jobs back to Wales, making all the scrubs the Welsh NHS needs in Wales – we’re working with a UK company supplying the NHS with scrubs and with three Welsh business and social enterprises to produce the garments. Two of the factories making the scrubs are in North Wales and the third is a factory we created from scratch in Ebbw Vale in partnership with a social enterprise, creating jobs for 15 machinists who were long-term unemployed.
    • We can’t simply rely on supplies from overseas – we have to have a home-grown supply of essential equipment. As part of our ongoing efforts to build up local businesses to make more of the everyday goods we use in Wales, we’ll be looking at how we can make more of the PPE we need closer to home.
  23. We have kept supporting Cardiff Airport when opposition politicians wanted it to go bankrupt, giving us the ability to directly fly in vital PPE supplies from Cambodia and China to protect our frontline health and social care workers.
  24. Wales has made available free transport for our fantastic NHS workers, a benefit not made available by the UK Government in England.
  25. Where the UK Government has fallen short, the First Minister has published a framework to lead Wales out of the pandemic. This includes seven questions, which will help determine whether restrictions should be lifted. Decisions about when restrictions will be eased will be based on the best available health and scientific advice and any easing will be accompanied by a Wales-wide coronavirus surveillance, testing and contact-tracing programme, which is being developed by the Chief Medical Officer for Wales. Wales is taking an internationalist approach to facing the pandemic, drawing in expertise from around the world to help is secure our future, starting with a series of meetings with globally recognised experts in their field.
  26. We have provided specific funding of £10m to house and support rough sleepers in Wales and have a clear focus on the wrap around support required with clear guidance on our expectations. We have ensured that emergency accommodation and support is available to all who need it – including those who have no recourse to public funds – and have made clear statements on this unlike the UK Government who have no clear approach.
  27. We have reached an agreement with Community Housing Cymru and the WLGA on principles/protocols for dealing with rent arrears due to financial hardship and on a no eviction into homelessness protocol.
  28. We are developing a departure hub model for prisoner release and have made provision of additional regional capacity in case of larger scale prison release. This will support local authorities who may not be able to easily facilitate provision of accommodation for symptomatic prisoners on release as well as others on early and standard release.
  29. The long-standing volunteering infrastructure in Wales, from a national to a hyperlocal level, is responding to the huge appetite amongst Welsh citizens to assist in the coronavirus context. This predated the announcement of a volunteer app in England, which to date despite registering 750,000 ready volunteers, have yet to issue a single request.
  30. Wales is one of the first national parliaments in the world to meet virtually and bilingually. After a break of only two weeks Welsh Government Ministers resumed their plenary scrutiny on a virtual basis, have held daily press conferences and have appeared before scrutiny committees. The UK Government have held press conferences but remained largely unaccountable since the lockdown began.