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Live Reporting

Chris Wood and Andy Roberts

All times stated are UK

  1. Thank you and goodbye

    We're bringing our live coverage of today's Welsh Government briefing by Health Minister Vaughan Gething to an end.

    Here are some of the main developments:

    • Another six people have died with coronavirus in Wales, taking the official total to 5,412
    • Cases in care homes are at their lowest level for six months - with 140 reported in the past week
    • £60m extra is to be invested in Wales' track and trace scheme, which will be extended until September
    • Specialist help is to be made available for people with health problems arising from the pandemic, such as long Covid
    • People who are or have recently been homeless are to be offered a vaccine in priority group 6
    • Any new "stay local" guidance may not include the reopening of self-contained tourism accommodation, Mr Gething said
    • Opposition parties welcomed an indication of variations with any future "stay local" rules, saying "five miles in Cardiff means something very different to Anglesey"

    Thanks for joining us - you can follow our Senedd Live blog for coverage of this afternoon's session of the Welsh Parliament, or join us again on Friday when First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce any lockdown changes.

    Until then, stay safe and well.

  2. Intensive care images win award

    Intensive care unit
    Image caption: Nick Mason won praise "for his incredible work both behind the lens and in his day job"

    An intensive care consultant from Wales has won the prestigious Amateur Photographer 2021 Power of Photography Award.

    Dr Nick Mason documented the impact that the Covid-19 pandemic had on Newport's Royal Gwent Hospital where he worked during the pandemic's first wave.

    He captured poignant moments of what life was like at the time working in intensive care.

    The judges described Nick as "a truly impressive individual and image maker who was working right at the front line of one of the biggest emergencies this country has ever seen".

    They said: "There really only could be one choice of subject matter for our Power of Photography Award this year, and it is with great gratitude that we give it to Nick Mason for his incredible work both behind the lens and in his day job."

  3. Weathering the storm with lockdown locks

    Behnaz Akhgar

    Behnaz Akhgar says presenting the weather for BBC Wales while hairdressers are shut is not a breeze.

    "In the first lockdown my partner cut my hair in the bath as it was super long," she says.

    "This lockdown I have just left it, as I have layers and don't want to spoil them," Behnaz added.

    "I have been taking care of my roots with semi-permanent colour that I ordered but my highlights are super brassy and orange now, but there is nothing I can do about that."

    Click here for more tips and tricks on how to cope with your lockdown locks.

  4. Venue's licence suspended over lockdown breach

    Local Democracy Reporting Service

    The Neon, Newport

    A venue in Newport has had its premises licence suspended for three months after allowing a wake to take place in breach of coronavirus rules.

    The Neon in Clarence Place was made the subject of a licensing review following the incident on December 17.

    A Newport council report said police saw 40-45 people attend the venue, when regulations allowed a maximum of 15.

    The council’s licensing sub-committee said it was “clearly evident that the licence holder of the premises was reckless in allowing a wake to take place”.

    He was also “fully aware the venue was unable to allow a wake to be held not least because he had been warned not to do so by a Newport council licensing officer”.

    The Neon has been contacted for comment.

  5. Michael Sheen 'laid low' with coronavirus

    Welsh Hollywood star Michael Sheen has contracted coronavirus, describing the illness as "difficult and quite scary" to deal with.

    The actor said he had been "laid low" with the virus and thanked "all the incredible women" who helped get him through it.

    "Anna, Mum, Lily, Joanne, my friends and all the women I am lucky enough to have support me, who've helped me," the Newport-born actor said.

    Michael Sheen
  6. Easing lockdown announcement on Friday

    Mark Drakeford

    First Minister Mark Drakeford is aiming to announce a plan for easing lockdown beyond Easter and into mid-April on Friday.

    Speaking to S4C's Newyddion on Tuesday night, he said: "We are still working as a cabinet - discussing what we will announce on Friday.

    "We want to lift restrictions where we can do so, but to do so in a careful way, one step at a time, keeping an eye as always on our main priority - getting children back for face-to-face teaching."

    Mr Drakeford also said he wants to give a timetable for "the next three weeks and more than that too" in Friday's Welsh Government briefing.

    He said this would cover "what we intend doing over Easter and into the middle of April".

    "More than that I think is impossible to say definitely," he added.

    "I want to give more assurance [for Easter and beyond] to people and businesses on Friday. We're still working on the details."

  7. 'Follow rules even after vaccination'

    While the vaccination stops us becoming ill, we still do not know if it can stop us passing the virus on to others, Wales' chief medical officer Frank Atherton says.

    He asked people to follow rules even after vaccination.

    View more on twitter
  8. Long Covid patients 'not listened to'

    Some patients who suffered ongoing ill-health after contracting Covid-19 probably were not listened to by their family doctors, a senior GP has said.

    Dr Mair Hopkin, joint chairwoman of the Royal College of GPs in Wales, was giving evidence to a Senedd inquiry into long Covid.

    She said people who presented with problems earlier in the pandemic may have been turned away by GPs who “didn’t understand” the condition.

    The committee also heard evidence from patients who want specialist clinics to treat the wide range of symptoms thought to be connected to long Covid.

    Long Covid
  9. Opposition party support for Wales 'stay local' variations

    The Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have welcomed an indication from Health Minister Vaughan Gething that any future "stay local" message could be different for different parts of Wales.

    For the Conservatives, Russell George said “stay local” was difficult to follow in rural areas, adding: “I can’t follow the same kind of measurements here in ruraI Powys as Vaughan Gething can in Penarth."

    On reopening some shops, he said: “We’ve been in lockdown since before Christmas and we need some hope and optimism."

    Plaid Cymru's deputy leader Rhun ap Iorwerth agreed, saying: “Five miles in Cardiff means something very different in Anglesey."

    On whether non-essential retail should be re-opened, Mr ap Iorwerth said: “We should be pushing the limits and the opening of non-essential retail has got to be a good thing."

    First Minister Mark Drakeford will confirm any relaxation of lockdown rules on Friday.

    Stay local lockdown rules
  10. Tourist accommodation may not reopen under 'stay local'

    Image caption: Resorts like Tenby in Pembrokeshire may stay out of bounds to visitors for a while longer

    Wales' health minister has suggested that self-contained tourism accommodation may not be able to open under any new "stay local" guidance.

    Vaughan Gething was asked about the prospects of allowing people to travel when lockdown rules are relaxed.

    He responded: "We do know that if we're going to have an effective restart for parts of our tourism sector here, the self-contained accommodation, then that probably means that a 'stay local' period probably doesn't mean that those businesses can open."Mr Gething also said there may be different rules for different parts of Wales under "stay local", depending on geography.

    He said: "It's asking people to stick with it for a period of weeks, and to be sensible about it, to recognise that if, like me, you're fortunate to live in Penarth, and actually a few miles from Penarth, you can do lots of things, whereas if I lived in the middle of Powys or in the middle of Anglesey within a few miles I might not be able to do that.

    "So we do recognise that if we go to 'stay local', it will be slightly different depending on where you live."

    Mr Gething said said the precise terms of any new rules would be confirmed by First Minister Mark Drakeford on Friday.

  11. WATCH: UK has not blocked vaccine exports, says PM

    Video content

    Video caption: PMQs: Boris Johnson on exports of Covid vaccine exports

    Boris Johnson has said he wants to "correct the suggestion” from EU Council president Charles Michel that the UK had blocked the export of coronavirus vaccines.

    Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Johnson said the UK could be "proud of the support" it had given to the international Covid response, including £548m towards the Covax project to deliver vaccines to poorer countries.

  12. 'Limited room' for further lockdown easing

    There is “some room to do some extra things” on lifting Covid restrictions in Wales “but they will be limited", according to Health Minister Vaughan Gething.

    He said he knew people wanted to have “extra indoor contact” but he said “that’s the highest risk for us”.

    The Welsh Government will announce its review of the current lockdown regulations on Friday.

  13. Welsh Government 'continuing to learn' on long Covid

    The Welsh Government will “continue to learn” about the issue of long-Covid, the health minister said.

    Vaughan Gething explained many questions related to the condition remain unanswered.

    “We still don't know quite how many people are affected, the length of time they’ll be affected for, the range of health and care needs that they will have, and the variation in those health and care needs,” he said.

    “So the framework that we've developed is what we're doing now, but we'll need to continue to learn and adapt that.

    “I hope that will give confidence to people who I know are having very real healthcare challenges with long-Covid in all its different forms.

    “We haven't closed our ears or our minds to what is the best way to continue to support them now and in the future.”

  14. Homeless people to be made vaccine priority

    People who are or have recently experienced homelessness in Wales are to be offered a Covid vaccination as part of priority group six, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has confirmed.

    “Many people in this group will be living with underlying health conditions, which put them at risk of coronavirus," he said.

    "It’s important they are offered vaccination”.

    According to Office for National Statistics data, people with experience of homelessness have a lower than average non-Covid related life expectancy, with mortality at around 31 to 38 years sooner than the general population.

    Katie Dalton, director of homelessness support body Cymorth Cymru, said such people were also "less likely to be registered with health services and could have missed out on the vaccine".

    She welcomed the "inclusive approach", saying it "means that public services and support providers are empowered to ensure that people sleeping rough and in emergency or supported accommodation are not forgotten and get the protection they need from Covid-19.”

    Person on the street
  15. Specialist help for Covid health problems in Wales

    The Welsh Government is considering how it can provide specialist help to people with continuing health problems after contracting coronavirus.

    Health Minister Vaughan Gething said there were currently no plans for specialist clinics for long Covid "but we are looking at how to learn from what other countries do, as well as what we are doing ourselves".

    "Wales is taking part in a range of research collaborations across the UK to understand more about the condition," he said.

    Mr Gething said the "challenge is different for different people, so there isn't one single set of treatment systems to deal with".

  16. Testing to take place in 'high rate' areas of Wales

    Local testing will be taking place in areas of Wales which have had high rates of community testing, according to the health minister.

    It will look for people without symptoms in parts of Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf – areas which have historically had high rates of community transmission, Vaughan Gething said..

    The minister urged people to take up their vaccination and he said he was looking forward to having it “in the coming days”.

    Merthyr Tydfil
  17. Covid testing to be expanded in Wales

    Testing people for Covid in Wales is being expanded to include everyone identified as a close contact of someone who has tested positive for the virus, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

    “This will mean that when people are contacted by TTP (test, trace, protect), they will be advised to self-isolate but also to take a test as they start self-isolation and again on day eight," he said.

    “This will help us to identify more people with coronavirus and their close contacts who would otherwise be unknown to TTP, helping to break chains of transmission and to stop the virus spreading."

    Mr Gething added that "taking a test is not an alternative to self-isolating", saying: "If you have a negative test, this doesn’t mean you can go back to work or school.

    "If you’ve been identified as a close contact, it’s really important you complete the 10 days of isolation and do the two tests."

  18. £60m for expanding contact tracing in Wales

    An extra £60m is being pumped into expanding the Covid contact tracing system in Wales.

    Health Minister Vaughan Gething said contact tracing was “a public service run by people who know the local area”.

    “We now have a team of 2,000 contract tracers and advisers working across Wales," he said.

    “Since June, they have reached 99.6% of people who have tested positive for coronavirus and were eligible for follow-up.

    "They have also successfully reached 95% of their close contacts and advised them about self-isolating."

    The scheme has been extended until the end of September.

    Vaughan Gething
  19. Situation 'continuing to improve' in Wales

    The public health situation in Wales is continuing to improve and the Welsh Government will set out the results of the current restrictions review on Friday, according to Health Minister Vaughan Gething.

    He said the “process of relaxing the restrictions” had started with getting children back to school.

    The Welsh Government was also “strengthening some of the essential measures” to help keep people safe in the weeks and months ahead, Mr Gething added.

    He said: “We are investing in our successful contact tracing system and strengthening testing – in workplaces, in hospitals and for everyone who has been in close contact with someone who has coronavirus.

    “All these measures will be vital to help control the spread of the virus as we begin to open up once again and mix more”.

  20. Kent variant now 'dominant form' in Wales

    Health Minister Vaughan Gething says the Welsh Government is still concerned about the Kent variant of coronavirus and will be “careful” about any relaxation of restrictions.

    “The Kent variant is now the dominant form of the virus circulating in Wales," he said at Wednesday's briefing.

    “This variant is more infectious and faster moving than the form of the virus we were used to dealing with.

    “Our scientific experts have calculated it is up to 70% more infectious than other forms of the virus.

    “This means we have to be careful about how we relax restrictions – we can’t rush this and we can’t open everything at once."

    First Minister Mark Drakeford is expected to announce some changes to lockdown rules on Friday.