Wales will have to take steps to control and mitigate coronavirus until a vaccine or treatment is found, the First Minister said today as he unveiled a new ‘traffic light’ system for lifting the lockdown.
The roadmap setting out how Wales will move forward in its handling of the pandemic was unveiled today by Mark Drakeford.
The traffic light approach is based on four categories:
i) Lockdown – Schools are only open to vulnerable pupils’ children and children of key workers, people are advised to stay at home, only leaving home for essential travel and to work from home if possible.
ii) Red – Schools enabled to manage increase in demand from more key workers and vulnerable pupils returning; local travel, including for click-and-collect retail allowed; people allowed to provide or receive care and support to/from one family member or friend from outside the household
iii) Amber – Priority groups of pupils to return to school in a phased approach; travel for leisure allowed together with meeting with small groups of family or friends for exercise; people able to access non-essential retail and services; more people travelling to work;
iv) Green – All children and students able to access education; Unrestricted travel subject to ongoing precautions; All sports, leisure and cultural activities, as well as socialising with friends permitted, with physical distancing
Under current lockdown rules, people in Wales have to stay at home and maintain contact only within households, with limited exceptions. The Welsh Government said that these restrictions can only be kept in place for as long as they are necessary.
“Over the last eight weeks, we have seen an incredible effort, from all parts of our society, to respond to the unprecedented challenge to our way of life posed by the Covid 19 virus,” the First Minister said.
“As a result, we, like countries across the world are able to think about how we can move out of the lockdown. But, it is essential as we do so, that we recognise this is not a short-term crisis. Until there is a vaccine or effective treatments, we will have to live with the disease in our society and to try to control its spread and mitigate its effects.
“The challenges we face are shared with all parts of the United Kingdom. For that reason, we have always strongly supported a four-nation approach to the lifting of the lockdown.
“But this has to respect the responsibilities of each Government to determine the speed at which it is safe to move and the balance to be struck between different forms of ‘easement’ – how to prioritise between allowing people to meet up with close family, to go shopping or to the hairdresser, to get back to work or visit the seaside.
“With limited ‘headroom’ to ease the current restrictions, choices need to be made and we want to make those choices in consultation with our partners and the people of Wales.
“That is why we are publishing this document, not as the final word, but as part of the continuing conversation.
“But for the next two weeks, at least, I urge everyone in Wales to stick to the advice, Stay Home, Protect our NHS and Save Lives.”
Decisions on every step will be informed by the Wales’ Chief Medical Officer, Frank Atherton, the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Group.
To avoid a second, potentially still larger, second peak, the Welsh Government also said that it is putting in place the infrastructure needed to manage future outbreaks of the disease. This was set out in the ‘Test, Track, Protect’ Strategy, announced by Welsh Government earlier this week.
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said the Welsh Government’s exit strategy should mirror the New Zealand model with a focus on testing, tracing and isolating.
Speaking ahead of the publication of the Welsh Government’s Coronavirus Exit Strategy today, he said all efforts must focus on driving down the R number to reduce the number of avoidable deaths to zero.
“Then, when the number of new cases has been successfully suppressed nationally, the Welsh Government should also consider a more local approach, with the ability to re-impose lockdown measures quickly in response to the emergence of new clusters,” Adam Price said.
“However, the key to easing restrictions safely remains the implementation of a comprehensive and localised testing and tracing program. We can’t even begin to significantly ease restrictions in Wales without having a testing, tracing and isolating infrastructure in place that we can trust.
“The onus falls on the Welsh Government to urgently change gear on testing and tracing to allow us to move safely on to the next phase on the path to recovery.”