The Minister for International Relations and Welsh Language, Eluned Morgan, has outlined the work the Welsh Government’s network of international offices is doing in supporting Welsh people, including those overseas, through the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The Welsh Government’s overseas offices have been involved in repatriation, with staff in the Middle East and India instrumental in supporting Welsh citizens in their regions. Among those was Dr Venkat Sundaram, an intensive care consultant at Ysbyty Glan Clwyd, who was assisted in arranging travel home from India.
The minister will make a statement to the Senedd today, where she will outline some of the current challenges in obtaining personal protective equipment (PPE) from overseas, with over 80 countries imposing export restrictions on some key products. In some countries, severe lockdown restrictions are making it difficult to move products from factories to airports.
The Welsh Government’s overseas network of offices are utilising their relationships with regional governments to source and drive PPE suppliers to the Welsh Government’s procurement team, based in Wales.
A significant amount of the International Relations budget, initially earmarked to pay for activities such as trade missions, has been released to support Wales’ fight against the coronavirus through the Welsh Government’s £500 million COVID-19 Economic Resilience Fund.
The minister has announced additional resources to support Welsh learners and speakers during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cysgliad, the Welsh language spelling and grammar checker, will be available free-of-charge to individuals and small businesses by the end of this month, as part of a partnership between the Welsh Government and Bangor University. This development will be of particular help to non-Welsh speaking parents whose children are in Welsh-medium schools.
A new online course for Welsh learners, run by the National Centre for Welsh Learning, has also seen more than 2,900 expressions of interest, with more than 1,000 starting a Welsh course. The course was established to fill the gap in teaching, as face-to-face classes have been suspended due to the coronavirus.
The minister said:
“The COVID-19 crisis has had a profound domestic and international impact on all aspects of my portfolio. The Welsh Government’s staff overseas have been working hard to support Welsh citizens, including those who may be stranded overseas, and engaging with businesses to help secure PPE supplies.
“Our offices are playing a key role in ensuring we learn from other countries’ experience of lifting the lock down. Watching how other countries are opening up their schools, shops and public services, as well as learning about testing and tracing can provide a useful map for how Wales could come out of lock down.
“I am also aware that there continue to be Welsh people abroad who continue to need our support and I encourage them to contact me so I can highlight their cases with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
“With my Welsh language hat on, we’re taking action to ensure support for Welsh during this time. Cysgliad is a really useful grammar-checking and dictionary tool to help people use Welsh. So I’m delighted to make Cysgliad available free of charge for individuals and small businesses.”