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Tier fear: Firms ‘desperate’ for more clarity from Welsh Government over post-Christmas rules

14 Dec 2020 4 minutes Read
Ashley Rogers, the Commercial Director of the North Wales Business Council. Image by Anthony Woodhouse Photography

A business leader in the north of Wales says there’s a “desperate need” for more clarity about the four tier system announced by the Welsh Government.

According to Ashley Rogers, the Commercial Director of the North Wales Business Council, the new alert levels were a step in the right direction but many questions remained unanswered.

The Welsh Government has said it will have a new four-tier system in place for Covid-19 following the five-day Christmas period. The full plan is expected to be published this week

Holiday accommodation, bars, cafes, restaurants and non-essential retail are all expected to be closed after Christmas unless cases come down quickly

The magnitude of the economic disaster facing firms had been illustrated by newly published figures that showed the north of Wales’ tourism and hospitality industry had lost £2.17 billion in revenue since the pandemic struck.

Mr Rogers was concerned that the criteria which determined whether Welsh Government would consider a regional approach for some areas and how those areas move between levels were “far too vague”.

Businesses were crying out to see the clear and data based justification for which level the north of Wales or parts of the north of Wales will be placed in.

Looking at just the number of cases per 100,000 the announcement was, he said, potentially good news for the counties of Gwynedd, Anglesey, Conwy and Denbighshire as they might fall under Level 2 where pubs and restaurants would be allowed to serve alcohol again.

Meanwhile, Wrexham and Flintshire might see no change from the current restrictions but not fall under the most severe Level 4.

 

‘Fair’

Mr Rogers said: “We welcome the detail around which business activities are allowed under which alert levels or tiers, and where there is evidence of a sustained and clear difference between some parts of Wales compared to others, that Welsh Government will consider a regional approach for those areas.

“As a region, North Wales and particular parts of North Wales have for a sustained period had substantially lower infection rates per 100,000 than the all Wales figure.

“Under the new Alert Levels, currently four North Wales counties might sit in Level 2, rather than where we are now which is approximately a Level 3.

“However, the basis under which a region or parts of a region, for example three linked counties with similar infection rates, would be classified separately from the rest of Wales lacks the clarity or definition that our local businesses need to plan.

“How long is a ‘sustained variation’ between parts of Wales? For confirmed case rates for over 60s remaining low, how is low defined?

“It refers to hospital capacity ‘being managed effectively’ but what is the definition of managed effectively?

“We need fair, proportionate and evidence based decisions that show they are the best ones to make, versus alternative actions for North Wales.

“As it stands, this new system will not deliver for North Wales unless further detail can give the concrete clarity our local businesses in the North, are desperately crying out for.

“Before the Alert Levels system comes into force, North Wales needs to see the clear and data based justification for which level it will be placed in.

“We appeal to Welsh Government to publish the details on this, otherwise it could be construed as unjust and unjustified.”

‘Challenging’

The new tiers will be:

  1. Low-risk – this represents the closest to normality we are likely to have before the summer and the widespread take-up of vaccinations.
  2. Medium-risk – additional, targeted controls are put in place to maintain infection rates at lower levels. These may be complemented by more targeted local restrictions to manage specific incidents and outbreaks.
  3. High-risk – these are the strictest package of restrictions, short of a firebreak or lockdown.
  4. Very high risk – restrictions at this level are equivalent to a lockdown and reflect the seriousness of the situation.

All of Wales is currently at alert level three. But the First Minister said that if the strengthened national measures, together with the efforts everyone is making, do not succeed in reducing the rates of coronavirus, Wales would need to move to alert level four after the five-day Christmas period.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said. “This has been a truly challenging year,” he said. “The impact of coronavirus on us all – on all aspects of our lives – cannot be underestimated. Like almost every country in the world, we have put restrictions in place to control the spread of this deadly virus.

“This updated plan shows how the national measures will be introduced in a more uniform way as we move through the pandemic, providing greater certainty for people and businesses.”

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