Welsh morning headlines: News, Ukraine, coronavirus sport and weather as inflation hits new 30-year high


We have put together a round-up of all the latest news, weather, and travel information for Wednesday, March 23, that will get you caught up and ready for the day as new figures out today show the cost of living continued to soar last month. Prices rose by 6.2% in the 12 months to February – the fastest for 30 years – as fuel, energy and food costs surged.

Grant Fitzner, chief economist at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said: “Inflation rose steeply in February as prices increased for a wide range of goods and services, for products as diverse as food to toys and games.

“Clothing and footwear saw a return to traditional February price rises after last year’s falls when many shops were closed. Furniture and flooring also contributed to the rise in inflation as prices started to recover following new year sales. The price of goods leaving UK factories has also been rising substantially and is now at its highest rate for 14 years.”

READ MORE : First Minister says Covid in Wales is ‘very concerning’ as numbers ‘rise rapidly’

It piles more pressure on Rishi Sunak to unveil new plans to help struggling households as he is set to vow to “stand by” British families amid the deepening cost of living crisis. The Chancellor will deliver his spring statement at 12.40pm on Wednesday.

Labour have dubbed him the “high-tax Chancellor” and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) have been urging him to provide more help. It has been suggested Mr Sunak may look to ease the burden on the taxpayer by cutting fuel duty and raising the income threshold at which people begin to pay national insurance.

The Financial Times reported on Tuesday evening that forecasts in the statement will show the deficit is better than expected this year, to the tune of £20 billion. However, the newspaper said Mr Sunak is planning to set aside a large part of this windfall cash – rather than investing the full sum in driving down the cost of living. Read here about what to expect in the statement today.

Mr Sunak is expected to outline further plans to support households facing financial hardship, with the FT, The Times, The Telegraph and The Guardian all reporting that these are predicted to include a cut to fuel duty.

Wales news headlines

Concern about rising coronavirus cases in Wales

The situation with Covid in Wales is rising at an “accelerating rate” which is resulting in “concerning circumstances”, Wales’ First Minister has said. Mark Drakeford echoed the words of his health minister, Eluned Morgan, in saying that the results of this week’s review of Covid rules are not a foregone conclusion.

The latest infection rate based on PCR tests for the seven days up to March 17 is 403 cases for every 100,000 people – a rise from the 335 cases recorded on Monday. It’s the first time the infection rate has gone above 400 since the seven days between January 31 and February 6.

We have the figures for all areas of Wales in our daily breakdown. Infection rates in every area of Wales have risen with the highest infection rate (based on PCR tests) for the seven days up to March 17 being Blaenau Gwent with 639.8 cases per 100,000 population followed by Vale of Glamorgan with 494.8 and Wrexham with 453.8.

The First Minister had said the hope was to end all remaining restrictions from Monday, March 28. The Welsh Government cabinet will meet this week to look at the latest data and see if they will still do that. Modelling is also being drawn up to show the impact of the BA.2 variant in Wales. If you want to know more about that you can see what we know so far here.

Speaking in the Senedd the First Minister said: “After a prolonged period of the number of people falling ill with coronavirus in Wales falling week by week in the last 10 days we’ve seen numbers rising again and not simply rising but rising rapidly and at an accelerating rate. Now Wales continues to have the lowest incidence of coronavirus of any of the four UK nations but the numbers that we are seeing are driving more people into hospital and we’ve seen the very preliminary signs of more people needing intensive care as well. So these are very concerning circumstances that we are having to face over this week as we come to the end of the three-week review.”

Health minister Eluned Morgan gave an update about the situation in Wales in a press conference on Tuesday lunchtime. You can recap it in full here. In it, she was asked how conversations about this week’s review were going. It was two years today that the first lockdown was announced.

Unpaid carers to receive £500 payment

More than 57,000 unpaid carers in Wales will receive a £500 payment in recognition of the “pivotal role” they have played during the pandemic. The payment is part of a £29m investment from the Welsh Government and recognises the financial and emotional hardship many unpaid carers have experienced.

Unpaid carers who are receiving Carer’s Allowance on March 31 this year will be eligible for the payment. An unpaid carer is someone who cares for a partner, relative, or friend who has an illness or disability. Carer’s Allowance is paid to people caring for at least 35 hours a week who care for someone receiving certain benefits and who earn no more than £128 a week.

The Welsh Government said the payment will benefit thousands of the most vulnerable unpaid carers in Wales who frequently care for the longest and are on the lowest incomes. Deputy minister for social services Julie Morgan said: “Unpaid carers have played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic and we recognise the financial and emotional hardships they have experienced. I hope this £500 payment will go some way to supporting them during these difficult times.” Read more here.

Today’s forecast

Feeling very warm in prolonged sunshine with highs of 20 °C. Here is the full forecast for Wales

Early haze dissipating to leave a widely sunny and dry day. Some fair-weather cloud bubbling up in the afternoon. Lighter winds than recent days and feeling very warm for the time of year, particularly in the north and west. Maximum temperature 20 °C.

Remaining dry overnight with lengthy clear periods for all, though turning rather hazy in places. A slightly chilly night at low levels with a ground frost for some rural locations. Minimum temperature 2 °C.

Here is how the roads and rail are affected at 7am

National news headlines

William and Kate land in Jamaica amid protests against the monarchy

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have tried out a bobsleigh made for two under the watchful eye of Jamaica’s latest Cool Runnings team during the first day of their trip to the country.

The couple is touring the Caribbean to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee but arrived in Jamaica to a much-publicised demonstration calling on the monarchy to pay reparations for his role in slavery on the island.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet winners of Jamaica’s famous Manning Cup during a visit to Trench Town, the birthplace of reggae in Kingston, Jamaica

The couple watched a game between England and Manchester City legend Raheem Stirling and local young footballers.

Kingston-born Stirling received rapturous applause whenever he touched the ball and there were screams for the duke – and a few ironic ones when he fluffed a shot.

Dozens of locals stood behind a wire fence to watch the sporting spectacle unfold and others sat on roofs to get a better view.

The footballer was been given a special dispensation by England manager Gareth Southgate to travel to Jamaica ahead of the national team playing at the weekend, and he was joined on the pitch by a player from William’s beloved Aston Villa team Jamaican Leon Bailey.

Later William and Kate travelled to reggae legend Bob Marley’s home and now a museum, and played drums with some reggae musicians in the courtyard where Jamaica’s biggest superstar learned to perform.

There was mass hysteria in the neighbourhood as the royal couple were mobbed by crowds who chanted: “We love you, we love you” as they walked to Trench Town Culture Yard and Museum in Jamaica’s capital.

The royal couple were welcomed to Trench Town by Babsy Grange, minister of culture, gender, entertainment and sport, and Mark Golding, the leader of the opposition and MP for the area.

During a dinner on Wednesday evening hosted by the Governor General of Jamaica the duke is expected to acknowledge the issue of slavery.

The duke and duchess will attend an official meeting with the Prime Minister of Jamaica Andrew Holness during the day, and later travel to Shortwood Teacher Training College for an event that will shine a spotlight on Jamaica’s work on the early years development of children.

William and Kate will also tour Spanish Town Hospital, which is celebrating its 70th birthday this year, and hear first-hand how frontline staff have responded to Covid-19 and how the pandemic has impacted the healthcare system in Jamaica.

Kremlin denies its invasion of Ukraine has stalled

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has denied that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stalled.

Asked on CNN what Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved in Ukraine, he said: “Well, first of all not yet. He hasn’t achieved yet.”

But he insisted the military operation was going “strictly in accordance with the plans and purposes that were established beforehand”.

Mr Peskov reiterated that Mr Putin’s main goals were to “get rid of the military potential of Ukraine” and “ensure that Ukraine changes from an anti-Russian centre to a neutral country”.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russian forces not only blocked a humanitarian convoy trying to reach besieged Mariupol with desperately needed supplies on Tuesday, but took captive some of the rescue workers and bus drivers. He said the Russians had agreed to the route ahead of time.

“We are trying to organise stable humanitarian corridors for Mariupol residents, but almost all of our attempts, unfortunately, are foiled by the Russian occupiers, by shelling, or deliberate terror,” Mr Zelensky said.

Elsewhere, Russian military forces destroyed a new laboratory at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant that, among other things, works to improve management of radioactive waste, the Ukrainian state agency responsible for the Chernobyl exclusion zone said on Tuesday.

Sport headlines

World number one tennis player announces shock resignation

Ash Barty has announced her retirement from professional tennis at the age of 25. The Australian, who has won three grand slams and is the reigning Wimbledon and Australian Open champion, said she was retiring from the sport to “chase other dreams”.

The Queenslander revealed she was retiring in an Instagram video recorded with friend and former doubles partner Casey Dellacqua. Barty said: “I kind of wasn’t quite sure how I was going do this but I think so many times in my life both my professional and my personal, you’ve been there for me.

“And I just couldn’t think ‘there’s no right way, there’s no wrong way’. It’s just my way and this is perfect for me to share it with you to talk to you about it with my team, my loved ones, that I’ll be retiring from tennis. And so first time I’ve actually said it out loud and yeah, it’s hard to say, but I’m so happy and I’m so ready and I just know at the moment in my heart for me as a person, this is right.

Ashleigh Barty celebrates with her Wimbledon title
Ashleigh Barty celebrates with her Wimbledon title

“I’ve had a lot of incredible moments in my career that have been pivotal moments,” she added. “Wimbledon last year changed a lot for me as a person and for me as an athlete when you work so hard your whole life for one goal, and I’ve been able to share that with so many incredible people.

“But to be able to win Wimbledon, which was my dream, my one true dream that I wanted in tennis, that really changed my perspective.” Barty promised in the caption to the video there would be “more to come tomorrow” at a press conference.

Barty began playing tennis at the age of four and had a promising junior career, which culminated in winning the girls’ singles title at Wimbledon in 2011. Success on the WTA Tour came on the doubles circuit during the early stages of her professional career, reaching the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open finals – losing all three – alongside Dellacqua in 2013.

Former Wales captain rips into ‘money-wasting’ regions

Former Wales captain Paul Thorburn has called upon Welsh rugby to rip up the professional structure in this country and start again in a stunning attack on the regions.

Following Wales’ surprise defeat to Italy on Saturday, the former full-back has come out to place most of the blame for Welsh rugby’s struggles at the door of the four professional clubs, saying some of their decision-making over the years “beggars belief”. He also pointed to the Irish model of four teams being owned by the union as the way forward for rugby in this country.

He said: “I think there’s a lot of truth to what Gareth is saying in relation to the structure.

“But I don’t think we can just blame it on the fact that the regions would like to have much more control over the game than they do at the moment, as this is about Welsh rugby as a whole. We’ve got to look at the whole infrastructure.

“There are serious problems at grassroots level. Clubs that were the rock bed of the game are either no longer in existence or not fielding teams that would suggest there’s a conveyor belt of talent coming through. There’s serious structural issues. Some of the blame need to be put at the regions.

“They will be very critical of the Welsh Rugby Union, but for all intents and purposes, they’ve largely been in control of their own destiny and they have a lot to answer for. I’ve been involved with the regions and the Welsh Rugby Union.

“Some of the decisions of the directors of the regions beggar belief. Some of the appointments they’ve made with coaches or directors of rugby. We’ve seen a massive influx of foreign coaches. Some of those decisions beggar belief and, the money they’ve wasted, they need to be held accountable.” Read more here.

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