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Welsh morning headlines: News, coronavirus, sport, weather and roads updates as UK government ends covid testing

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We have put together a round-up of all the latest news, weather and travel information for Tuesday, February 22, that will help your get your day off to the right start.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced that free universal covid testing will come to an end in England as he outlined the UK Government’s strategy for ‘living with covid’.

There will also be major changes to isolation rules, with all remaining legal restrictions are being made guidance this week.

In other news, two Welsh politicians have been criticised after making a “dangerous” trip to Ukraine.

Wales news headlines

Bird flu found at two separate sites in Wales

Disease control areas have been put in place after bird flu was discovered at two separate sites in Wales.

The Chief Veterinary Officer for Wales, Professor Christianne Glossop has confirmed the presence of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza H5N1 infection on two separate commercial premises in Powys – one near Newtown and one near Welshpool.

Both premises have pheasants on site. As a means of containing the disease, a 3km Protection Zone, 10km Surveillance Zone, and 10km Restricted Zone have been declared around each of the two infected premises, to limit the risk of disease spread.

Within these zones, bird movements and gatherings are restricted and all poultry holdings must be declared.

The Welsh Government says the risk to public health from the virus is considered “very low”. It says that The Food Standards Agency advises that avian influenzas pose a very low food safety risk for consumers, and it does not affect the consumption of poultry products, including eggs.

Adam Price and Mick Antoniw respond to criticism of ‘dangerous’ trip to Ukraine

Two Welsh politicians have been criticised for a “dangerous” trip to Ukraine as fears Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch an invasion on the country heighten.

Labour Senedd member Mick Antoniw and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price have travelled to the country, in spite of UK Government advice saying it is not safe to travel there. Mr Price has responded to criticism saying that he had a choice, whether to “either comment from afar behind a phone or laptop, or come here to connect & understand on a human, meaningful level”.

Mr Antoniw, who is also a Welsh Government cabinet member, holding the Counsel General brief, has today shared a video from Kiev.

“We’re here in Kiev to show our solidarity with the people of Ukraine, the trade unions and civic organisations, those people who often get ignored, but above all to show people back home to show what the consequences of war are and who we’ve got to stand solidly with the Ukrainian people.

“I think it’s that which Putin fears the most, the fact that on his border will be a democratic country, a prosperous country.”

Mr Antoniw says he was there in 2014 during the Maidan revolution “when the first shootings occurred”. In the video, he stands in front of a photo wall of 14,000 people who he says were killed since Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied Crimea.

Conservative MS James Evans said Senedd politicians had “no role to play in this matter”. He tweeted: “British Government officials and our world class civil servants are in the midst of a very delicate situation in Ukraine. Devolved politicians have no role to play in this matter and should not have made the risky journey.”

Here is how the roads are affected at 7:30am:

  • A470 Southbound lane blocked on exit slip road due to police incident at A4054 (Taffs Well Interchange). Traffic is coping well.

  • A487 in both directions closed due to flooding from Dyfi Bridge (Machynlleth) to Corris Turn Off (Corris).

  • The A470 in both directions closed due to flooding from Llangurig (Llangurig) to Rhayader (Rhayader).

  • Strong winds on A55 Britannia Bridge between J9 A487 (Treborth) and J8 A5 (Llanfair P.G.). Matrix sign set to 30 mph.

  • B4362 in both directions closed due to flooding between A44 and Watery Lane.

  • Llanrwst Road in both directions closed due to fallen tree from Llanrwst Road to Sunningdale Avenue.

  • B4518 in both directions closed due to flooding between Vaenor Park (Llanidloes) and Sun Hill (St Harmon). Traffic is coping

  • Reports of accident on Glynhir Road at A483 Ammanford Road. Traffic is coping well.

Coronavirus headlines

England’s full timetable for ending all Covid rules, free testing and self-isolation payments

The UK Government has announced major changes to Covid testing and isolation rules in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs in the House of Commons it was the UKs vaccination programme success which had allowed restrictions to be eased and said Covid will not “suddenly disappear”. He said his government did not believe it was right to restrict people’s liberty for longer than necessary.

“We have a population that is protected,” he told the Commons. “While the pandemic is not over, we have passed the peak of the Omicron variant,” he said saying there is “sufficient levels of immunity to complete the transition from protecting people with government interventions to relying on vaccines and treatments as our first line of defence”.

He said testing will be “much less valuable”.

The changes apply to England only. WalesOnline has asked the Welsh Government for an interview to explain its position in light of the changes, but some of these decisions made by the UK Government will impact Wales. The Prime Minister said he will work with the devolved governments, but the UK Government has said no extra money will be given to the Welsh Government to continue providing free testing.

The UK Government say it is not yet saying the pandemic is endemic and there could still be other significant mutations.

The plan has been announced today and published as part of a strategy called “Living with Covid”.

From Monday, February 21 the guidance for staff and students in most education and childcare settings to take twice-weekly testing, even if they have no symptoms is ending immediately.

From Thursday, February 24 all remaining legal restrictions are being made guidance. From one minute past midnight on Thursday, the legal requirements to self-isolate will be removed.

From Friday, April 1, Free universal testing for anyone with or without symptoms will end for general public in England.

Latest infection rate for Wales

Latest figures from Public Health Wales show that the infection rate for Wales has dropped again.

The latest infection rate based on PCR tests for the seven days up to February 14 now stands at 275.3 cases for every 100,000 people – a reduction from the 290.9 cases recorded on Friday. Thursday was the first time the infection rate had gone below 300 since August 2021.

New data released on Monday, February 21, and covering a 24-hour period to 9am on Friday, February 18, shows 1,114 new positive cases, bringing the total to 808,210. The data for Friday, Saturday and Sunday will all be published tomorrow (Tuesday, February 22) as PHW has stopped publishing figures at weekends.

The overall number of people who have died within 28 days of testing positive in Wales has now risen to 6,944.

The infection rate based on PCR tests is only a guide to the spread of Covid in Wales as it does not include lateral flow test results, which are reported weekly in Wales. People with no symptoms who test positive on an LFT no longer need a confirmatory PCR test.

The latest data on lateral flow tests, published last Thursday for the week to February 12, show there have been a further 16,905 positive test results reported. That’s down from 18,690 the previous week. Positivity also decreased from 11.87% to 10.24%. The highest incidence rate was in the Hywel Dda University Health Board area with 680.2 positive tests for every 100,000 people.

National news headlines

2.8 magnitude earthquake hits West Midlands

A 2.8 magnitude earthquake struck the West Midlands late on Monday night, the British Geological Survey (BGS) said.

According to the BGS, the quake hit the town of Walsall, near Birmingham, at a depth of seven kilometres (4.35 miles) at 10.59pm.

The service said the effects of the quake were felt in a 20km radius from its epicentre, with tremors being detected by residents in Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Dudley.

Affected residents told the BGS the quake shook their homes, while one person said it “was like a wardrobe had fallen over or an explosion blast against the window”.

The BGS said the quake was approximately 13km (eight miles) east of the magnitude 4.7 Dudley earthquake, which was felt over most of England when it struck on September 22, 2002.

Birmingham Live reported that there were reports of sheds falling down and the walls of houses and flats shaking. People were also jolted in their beds, as well as experiencing deep vibrating through floors, rumbling noises, loud bangs and small tremors.

UK ambassador to UN urges Russia to ‘step back’ ahead of Cobra meeting

The UK’s ambassador to the UN has urged Russia to “step back” from invading Ukraine as the Prime Minister prepared to chair a Cobra meeting on Tuesday morning to discuss the latest developments.

Dame Barbara Woodward told an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council that Russia has “brought us to the brink”, warning that the country’s actions “will have severe and far-reaching consequences”.

The Cobra meeting, which is scheduled to take place at 6.30am, will be used to “coordinate the UK response”, including agreeing a “significant package of sanctions to be introduced immediately”, according to a Downing Street spokesperson.

Boris Johnson told Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy that he believes a Russian invasion is “a real possibility in the coming hours and days”, No 10 said.

It comes after Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said the UK will announce new sanctions against Russia on Tuesday “in response to their breach of international law and attack on Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Speaking at the late-night meeting, Dame Barbara said an invasion “unleashes the forces of war, death and destruction on the people of Ukraine.

“The humanitarian impact will be terrible on civilians fleeing the fighting. We know that women and children will suffer most.”

She said the Security Council must be united in calling on Russia to “de-escalate immediately”, as well as “condemning aggression against a sovereign nation and defending the territorial integrity of Ukraine”.

Sport headlines

Taulupe Faletau officially called up to the Wales squad

Taulupe Faletau has been officially called into the Wales squad ahead of the Six Nations encounter with England at Twickenham on Saturday.

The Lions Test player replaces Christ Tshiunza after the Exeter Chiefs’ player injured a hamstring earlier in the championship.

Faletau will be part of the set-up for the remainder of the tournament.

It’s a significant boost for Wayne Pivac.

Read more:
The latest Six Nations breaking news and headlines

Faletau returned for Bath after a seven-month injury lay-off with a try for Bath against Wasps in the Gallagher Premiership and followed it up with a strong display against Leicester Tigers.

He said over the weekend: “It was a rolled ankle, and I probably ran back too early and just had issues with my calves for a rolling two weeks that ended up being seven months.

“It was a rolling two weeks for a long time, then I would get to the end of that two weeks, I would run again and it would ping again. It was basically that for the whole time.

“I am just enjoying getting out there, whether it’s Bath or Wales. Whatever it is, I just want to enjoy the games because seven months out wasn’t fun.” Bath had been steeling themselves for a call from Wales over Faletau. After the former Dragon’s display against Leicester, head coach Neil Hatley sang the 31-year-old’s praises, saying: “He is a world class player. “You would never say he has been out for seven months.

“He is like a chameleon, you put him in a level up and he just blends in. He has that innate ability that whatever the quality of the players he is playing with he is the best player on the pitch and he has done that for ages.”

The question for Pivac is whether to include Faletau in his matchday squad for Twickenham.

Swansea City v Bournemouth Championship match off after stadium damaged by Storm Eunice

Swansea City’s Championship clash with Bournemouth has been postponed due to safety concerns.

The Swans were set to host the Cherries on Tuesday night, but damage caused to the Swansea.com Stadium by recent adverse weather conditions put the fixture under threat.

And on Monday afternoon, it was decided that the contest would be played at a later date to ensure the safety of players, coaches, staff and fans.

A club statement read: “Swansea City can confirm that Tuesday’s Championship fixture against AFC Bournemouth has been postponed for safety reasons, following damage to the Swansea.com Stadium caused by Storm Eunice and the ongoing adverse weather conditions.

“The decision was taken this morning following an inspection by the Licensing Authority and club management, and was reached after it was concluded that given the current weather conditions it would be impossible to undertake a full assessment of the damage and undertake the necessary repairs in advance of tomorrow’s fixture.

“Club staff have been in communication with AFC Bournemouth and the EFL over the weekend since the damage became visible during the course of the bad weather.

“The decision was concluded that the game should be postponed due to risks arising from the damage and in time to avoid visiting players, staff and supporters travelling to south Wales.

“All season tickets, season hospitality and match day/hospitality match by match ticket purchases will be valid for the rearranged fixture. Should any supporter who has purchased a match day ticket require a refund then they can request this by contacting the ticket office on 01792 616400 and selecting option 1 or by emailing ticketing@swanseacity.com.

“Any match by match hospitality refund requests should contact 01792 616628.

“Any supporters who have purchased a SwansTV streaming pass for this game will now be automatically refunded.

“A rearranged date for this fixture will be announced in due course.”

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