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Four week ‘stay local’ rule needed to have ‘significant impact’ on Omicron cases, scientists warned Welsh Government

02 Jan 2022 3 minutes Read
Picture by Gwent Police @gpoperations / Twitter

Only a four-week lockdown would make a “worthwhile” dent in Omicron cases, according to scientific advice the Welsh Government were given before Christmas.

The Technical Advisory Group’s policy modelling update for 17 December, now published, says that anything short of a four-weeks of restrictions might have a “negligible benefit”.

However, four weeks at Alert Level 4 “could have a significant impact”. Alert level 4 rules include a stay local rule and no extended households of the kind last seen during early 2021.

The Welsh Government eventually decided on much less stringent measures before Christmas, including closing nightclubs, a rule of six and table service at hospitality venues.

The First Minister Mark Drakeford said that they would need more support from the UK Treasury if they were to introduce a stricter lockdown, as they would need to compensate businesses that would close.

The Technical Advisory Group advice on 17 December said that “protective measures, regardless of what they are, need to be implemented for a minimum of 4 weeks to be worthwhile in terms of total COVID-19 hospital admissions”.

The advice adds that “if alert level measures are going to be applied for two weeks only, there may be negligible benefit and a high cost of moving to alert level 4, but if introducing the protections for four weeks, alert level 4 could have a significant impact.”

The update does however warn that whatever measures are implemented by the Welsh Government, a large tide of Omicron cases were by that point inevitable.

“All scenarios estimate that peak cases will far exceed previous peaks regardless of population protections implemented,” it says.

“There are a maximum 11,000 to 24,000 estimated daily cases estimated (41,000 to 65,000 infections). This is highly likely to put pressure on the system in terms of high prevalence and sickness absence.”

‘Not fair’

Speaking on 17 December, the same day the new advice was issued, Mark Drakeford said that Wales’ ability to tackle Omicron was “severely constrained” by the Treasury’s refusal to help out the autonomous nations unless England also imposed restrictions.

He said that it was “not fair” that ministers making decisions for England knew money would be available while the same thing wasn’t true in Wales.

“Our ability to provide and sustain longer-term economic support during this new wave of what is an ongoing public health emergency is severely constrained by the current position of the UK Treasury and its refusal to open vital support schemes such as furlough,” he said.

“These schemes should be available for all nations when they are needed and not just at the point at when restrictions are introduced in England.”

He added: “At the moment the system is not fair to us in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

“If ministers at the UK Government want to do something the Treasury will back it. If we want to make the same decisions here the money isn’t available.”

Later, on 22 December, he announced that a rule of six customers at a table, face masks and table service will be reintroduced in Wales from Boxing Day.

In addition, large events would not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors, with some exceptions.

 

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Richard
Richard
22 days ago

While it’s good news from England that their school system is at last falling in behind the other nations of these islands -on face masks 😷- this sort of scenario by the TAG is long past it’s sell by date unfortunately. The mad border rush on New Year’s Eve encouraged by elements in the Media will be doing its damage this week and with schools returning the need for vaccinations for younger children must be a priority now. Behavioural change is a must and although we can not vaccinate out way out of this the W Gvt must keep its… Read more »

Jack
Jack
22 days ago

In the past I would have supported this but when 60% of the population in triple jabbed, its a lot to ask people to not mix outside of households tbh.

We need to increase NHS capacity so that we aren’t so reliant on restrictions for public health measures

Last edited 22 days ago by Jack
Quornby
Quornby
22 days ago
Reply to  Jack

I see where you are coming from Jack but I’m assuming government has the latest info to hand and the best thing the Welsh citizen can do is obey the guidance.

Jack
Jack
22 days ago
Reply to  Quornby

I get what you’re saying from a public health perspective, but its a lot to ask a triple vaccinated person living alone to basically isolate for a month. We need an alternative strategy.

Rules like this have to be self enforced. The police won’t be able to stop you popping round your neighbours for a chat. Public support for lockdowns isn’t the kind of overwhelming consensus that it used to be, so I would imagine compliance would not be as high as it was for the pre-vaccine lockdowns.

Last edited 22 days ago by Jack
hdavies15
hdavies15
22 days ago
Reply to  Jack

That kind of low key mixing that you envisage is unlikely to be damaging especially if the people are vaxxed x 3. Vulnerable people should be guarded and treated with respect by others. It’s the crowded scenarios that pose the real threat where the dimwits among us insist that going out on a bender and breathing all over each other in a relatively confined and poorly ventilated space is perfectly sound even if un-vaxxed.

Jack
Jack
22 days ago
Reply to  hdavies15

Omicron spreads differently than previous variants. It’s a lot more contagious. To be effective in stopping the spread, pretty much all household mixing of any kind would have to stop.

This is impractical at this stage (as a lot of Christmas mixing has already happened) which is why we need alternative methods of management.

CJPh
CJPh
22 days ago
Reply to  Quornby

Hmm. “Latest” doesn’t mean correct or “best practice” or moral. Did you mean “follow” rather than “obey”? Sorry to be nitpicky about the language but I think it matters, especially since this is about the whole population, the law and public health. That’s probably the main lesson to take for world governments from all this – messaging has been terrible. More clarity, transparency and empiricism (as opposed to demands for obedience and faith in “the science”). I have a great deal of optimism for this new year, things look pretty good despite some gloominations still coming from the corporate press… Read more »

What Ismyname
What Ismyname
22 days ago
Reply to  Quornby

If that is the case, the full information should be made available to all who wish to examine it.

Jed
Jed
22 days ago

Wrong. Alert Level 4 (as currently written down in the Regulations) requires the population to “stay at home”, not merely to “stay local”.

our government was quite right to avoid putting such draconian restrictions in place.

Steve Duggan
Steve Duggan
22 days ago

Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Eire need to get together and formed a joined response to Covid, helping each other in all aspects. A Celtic cooperation pact pooling resources and financial aid. Wales needs to build a stronger connection with Eire and by extension the EU. At the moment the 3 countries of the Union are too dependent on England, we have to somehow move aways from that during the time before independence.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
22 days ago
Reply to  Steve Duggan

Good point. Perhaps we should be writing to out AMs and saying just that. As for Level 4 or other ‘restrictions’ it comes down to the degree of social responsibility that our population is willing to exhibit. One can see where Jack is coming from and probably most of us would condone his popping round to see a neighbour under Level 4. However, the whole point of vaccination and the ‘restrictions’ is to keep everybody safe. When the Tories introduced Fredom Day we went back into voluntary lock down because, as vulnerable folk, we knew that the Covid risk would… Read more »

Richard
Richard
22 days ago
Reply to  Peter Cuthbert

What’s an AM ?

Rob
Rob
22 days ago

Austria had the right idea. Go into lockdown but only for the unvaccinated. Those who have been jabbed should not have to face restrictions on their lives simply because others refuse to get themselves vaccinated.

Rob
Rob
22 days ago

Can you imagine asking people to stay local over Christmas for a second year in a row? Somehow I don’t think people would comply with that.

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