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Covid not the top priority for Wales in early 2020, inquiry hears

05 Mar 2024 3 minute read
Screen grab taken from YouTube of Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford, who is giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry last year. Image UK Covid-19 Inquiry/YouTube

Covid was “not the top priority” for the Welsh government in early 2020, an inquiry has been told.

Mark Drakeford, the First Minister of Wales, said in written evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry that the virus was not treated as the most pressing concern in the country in January and February 2020.

The FM’s written evidence was raised by Tom Poole KC, the lead counsel for the inquiry, at a hearing on Tuesday during questions to Dr Andrew Goodall, who led the Welsh NHS through the pandemic.

Mr Poole said: “Would it be fair to say that these planning assumptions were simply not taken seriously enough at this point in time, and it wasn’t until you get into the early weeks of March, that things really started to happen in Wales?”

Permanent secretary

Dr Goodall – who is now the permanent secretary to the Welsh government, Wales’ top civil servant – insisted that they were “mobilising various actions” early on in the pandemic but accepted there was a “change in our response in Wales” in the last week of February 2020 and early March.

He said: “In early March we were also looking at the progress of the virus more internationally and there were some real concerns being expressed by the NHS that we were taking account of.”

The first case of the virus in Wales was on February 28.

Mr Poole questioned if reports from February 13 2020, that had “clear information” that the virus could be passed on without symptoms had set “alarm bells ringing” for the level of controls that would be needed in care homes and hospitals.

Triggered

Dr Goodall responded they were “not necessarily triggered at that time” and it was not until April that there was “some emerging evidence” that Covid could be passed on asymptomatically.

The senior civil servant added that moving vulnerable people into care homes reflected the “knowledge and evidence of the time” and that there was an expectation for “care homes to be able to accommodate isolation procedures”.

However, he accepted that in hindsight discharging patients “could have been targeted differently”.

“One of my own worries for the hospital systems were they were likely to be areas where patients would be exposed to Covid-19,” he said.

“So, there was something about trying to ensure that we could find the safest environment for patients who are in our system rather than just leave people within the hospital environment.”

The former NHS boss also said the public should have been warned of the dangers of Covid earlier, but was unable to do so, with the first press conference where it was mentioned coming as a “shock”.

Asked if something should have been done earlier, Dr Goodall said the Welsh government had faced “constraints” on what it could report, with information that came from Cobra meetings – UK government cabinet briefings – having a “level of confidentiality around them”.

He added: “I think looking backwards, it would have helped to have been able to be more transparent with the population, certainly through March and maybe at the end of February.”


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hdavies15
hdavies15
1 month ago

some ducking and diving going on there with Ministers and Servants all seeking to evade any incoming shots of responsibility and accountability. Best be open and admit they cocked it up due to lack of knowledge, poor preparation due to absence of predictive tools. Having said that there were news items about the Covid racing through Italy like the galloping horse so it should have triggered a greater sense of urgency in planning of isolation and inhibitor techniques. Maybe our holier than thou Bay regime had caught a dose of the “Boris Worm” which showed symptoms of flippancy and supreme… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Ducking and diving I’ll say, they think we are ******* stupid…MRSA etc we knew then, long before then, how dangerous hospitals were/are and how penny pinching and callous their ministers and managers can be. This is utter fiction, what ignorant clumsy cowards they are…

Jeff
Jeff
1 month ago

If you asked the right people, asymptomatic was always a concern and Italy had been screaming from the roof tops that it was coming. Even sage asked the question early on.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

My other half’s friend’s brother lives and works in Italy, we were getting very scary reports daily…we are being given the mushroom diet…

Last edited 1 month ago by Mab Meirion
Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
1 month ago

The way it was handled at the start by Drakeford was nearly as bad as the clown in London Boris

Llyn
Llyn
1 month ago

Whilst in London Boris Johnson’s government was laser focussed on COVID?

Mandi A
Mandi A
1 month ago

People on the ground, whether working in tourism and hospitality, or just part of a community which attracts a lot of visitors, were urgently asking for assistance to keep people away. It was very obvious how vulnerable our open transport systems and roads were leaving us. Air travel should have been shut down much sooner, ditto large gatherings like concerts, Cheltenham races and international football matches. Second homers were coming over from England to hold “business meetings” with their friends. A friend who looks after an elderly mother with one lung was raging with them and was roundly insulted, sworn… Read more »

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