By Lesley Griffiths

MS for Wrexham

The highly transmissible Omicron variant is putting significant pressure on the NHS at the busiest time of the year – not just from rising hospital admissions but through staff absences. We must remember our NHS workforce, which has worked tirelessly through the pandemic, is not immune to coronavirus.

I regularly meet with representatives and the Chair of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. At my last meeting I was informed, as of 7th January, there were close to 700 members of staff off with Covid or having to self-isolate across North Wales.

This is the fastest growing wave of coronavirus cases we have seen in this pandemic and it will inevitably have consequences on all NHS services. With the anticipated peak in Omicron cases expected later this month, the situation isn’t going to improve in the short term.

I want to thank the amazing NHS staff that have continually gone above and beyond the call of duty during this unprecedented period.

We can support our NHS by choosing the appropriate healthcare service for our needs and by making sure we are fully vaccinated. If you are yet to receive your booster jab, please make it your priority.

As of last Wednesday, the local Health Board had administered a booster jab to 78% of eligible adults in North Wales, which is slightly ahead of the Welsh average. Despite this success, there are still around 100,000 people eligible for a booster who have yet to come forward.

Texts are being sent to everyone eligible for a first, second or booster dose to encourage them to attend any of the drop in clinics as soon as possible. Glyndwr University’s Catrin Finch Centre is open every Monday to Sunday from 9am – 5:30pm – it could take as little as five minutes.

I’m pleased the Welsh Labour Government has announced an £18m funding package that will support children and young people with Additional Learning Needs (ALN).

This has been a tumultuous time for our schools. Day-to-day timetables are uncertain and budgets are being stretched. Every student has been impacted by Covid-19 but vulnerable or disadvantaged learners, particularly students with ALN, have been disproportionately affected.

Learners in Wrexham will benefit from this extra investment and I hope it will aid recovery, as well as help reduce longer-term impacts on their education and wellbeing. This announcement demonstrates that supporting students with ALN remains a key priority for the Welsh Government and the action it has taken will help ensure everyone has the opportunity to thrive.