WALES’ economy minister has said the nation must care for one another ahead of a ‘dark winter’.

Labour MS Ken Skates says that the world finds itself in the midst of a mental health crisis – as well as the ongoing implications that stretch beyond the physical effects of coronavirus.

He urged the nation to ‘show solidarity’ and care for one another when asked about those entering the upcoming ‘fire-break’ with existing worries over their heads because of a turbulent year already.

He said: “Poverty rates in Wales are something we [Welsh Government] are acutely aware of and that is why we have the Discretionary Assistance Fund (DAF) operating for people who are hardest hit. I would encourage people who fall into that bracket to seek support through the DAF.

“I’d say to all citizens we are approaching Christmas and now more than ever we need to show solidarity and care for one another. This is going to be a tremendously difficult period, a dark winter, and we need to look out for one another – especially those who are most vulnerable.”

Mr Skates main point during the briefing was the support available for Welsh businesses, saying that they will be getting the certainty they have been crying out for ahead of the national ‘fire-break’.

The country’s economy minister told the nation that businesses have access to the most generous package of support available – with devolved powers topping up funds provided by UK Government.

Today, October 20, he announced that Welsh Government is doubling the third phase of its Economic Resilience Fund, making nearly £300m available to support businesses that continue to be affected by COVID-19.

He said: “We couldn’t just rely on UK Government support for workers in the form of the Job Retention Scheme and the Job Support Scheme because there are other operating costs that businesses have to shoulder.

“Particularly during a two week ‘fire-break’ they won’t have any income, there will be no turnover and therefore Welsh Government rightly and responsibly stepped forward with the £300 million Economic Resilience Fund and the third phase of it.

“So, £300 million is going to be invested in businesses for two weeks – that is a huge sum of money and it gives businesses and enormous amount of armour to be able to weather that two-week period. It also then buys businesses the best prospect of being able to get through to Christmas with a great degree of certainty about being open and operating.

“I think that is what businesses have been calling for throughout this pandemic – a greater sense of certainty and that is what this Welsh Government is going to be giving them.”