First Minister of Wales urges support for self-employed workers

The First Minister of Wales has called on the UK Government to “urgently” put support for self-employed workers in place.

Mark Drakeford said people would “do the right thing” and stay at home when they were provided with assurances that they would be able to “bear the cost” of doing so.

He told a press conference in Cardiff Bay that it was imperative to slow the spread of coronavirus to protect the NHS.

Public Health Wales said 60 new cases had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total to 478 in Wales.

One further death was announced on Tuesday, meaning that 17 people with the virus have now died in Wales.

“It is urgently necessary that the UK Government put in place arrangements to support the self-employed so people are not put in the invidious position of doing the right thing but not being able to bear the cost of it,” Mr Drakeford said.

“They did the right thing in relation to people who are in employment and find themselves now not having a job to do.

“We need to complete that picture by giving the self-employed the same assurances and then they will do the right thing.”

The total cases of coronavirus recorded by the health board are: 49 in Swansea Bay; 248 in Aneurin Bevan; 19 in Betsi Cadwaladr; 96 in Cardiff and Vale; 23 in Cwm Taf; 27 in Hywel Dda and 11 in Powys.

There are three cases of people who are resident outside Wales and two yet to be confirmed.

Mr Drakeford paid tribute to those working to tackle the pandemic and praised key worker parents for making alternative care arrangements for their children.

Just 4% of schoolchildren in Wales attended school on Monday and the figure was also low on Tuesday, he said.

The First Minister insisted that there is personal protective equipment (PPE) for “everyone who needs it”, adding that it was being rolled out for those working in social care.

Mr Drakeford said there had been an “astonishing groundswell” of people volunteering to help in the fight against coronavirus.

A new hospital, the Grange University Hospital near Cwmbran, is being opened a year early to provide 350 additional hospital beds by the end of April.

An extra care facility is also being opened early in the Rhondda Cynon Taf area of Wales, while a leisure centre in the Hywel Dda area is being adapted.

Mr Drakeford said further ventilators were being sought, with the veterinary sector in Wales offering ventilators that can be used to treat human patients.

“We are extending the number of tests we are able to carry out very rapidly from 200 a day at the moment to 8,000 a day within the next week or so,” he said.

Earlier, health minister Vaughan Gething said “urgent action” had been taken across hospital sites in Wales to increase critical care capacity and to redeploy and train staff.

On Monday, occupancy of critical care units in Wales was at 45% with about 15% of patients having suspected or confirmed cases of Covid-19, Mr Gething said.

“We have plans in place to immediately double the number of critical care beds in Wales to just over 300,” he told the Senedd.

“Extensive work is being undertaken to maximise the number of ventilated beds that can be provided in Wales, including the purchase of over 600 additional ventilators, and we continue to urgently explore further options.”

He concluded his statement by warning: “The situation we face is unprecedented.

“The weeks ahead will be more challenging than any we have known in 20 years of Welsh Government.

“Please, look after yourselves and look after each other.”

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