Mark Drakeford hints he could signal relaxation of restrictions in Wales next week if past Omicron peak
The First Minister has hinted that Wales could announce the relaxation of restrictions next week if the country is past the Omicron peak.
Speaking in the Senedd, Mark Drakeford said that “next week will be the end of a three-week review period” and if they see that they are past the park “we will look to see what we can do to relax some of the protections”.
He said that the modelling suggested they were currently not quite yet at the peak, despite Public Health Wales figures showing that the Covid case rate has dropped for the fourth day in a row. He will look again at the restrictions before the next weekly Covid update on Friday.
Answering a question from Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davie, he said that the modelling “shows that the peak of the omicron wave of coronavirus is yet to be reached in Wales, that we may be 10 days away from the peak, and numbers could continue to climb very rapidly”.
“As I’ve said a number of times: in a small piece of good news, the same modelling shows numbers then beginning to decline relatively rapidly as well,” he said.
“Once we are in a position of knowing that Wales has passed the peak, that the impact that it is having on our public services, on workers in the private sector, in the ability of our health service to deal with the growing numbers of people in a hospital bed because of coronavirus, then we will want, as quickly but as safely as possible, to begin to relax some of the protections that have been necessary while the omicron wave was still coming at us.
“But we’re not at that point today. We will review the data, as we do every day and every week, and next week will be the end of a three-week review period. If we are very fortunate—and it’s a very big if—and we find that we have passed that peak and we are on a reliable reduction in impact of coronavirus on us, then we will look to see what we can do to relax some of the protections that we’ve had to put in place.
“But we will not do it, Llywydd, we will not do it until we are confident that the scientific and medical advice to us is that it is safe to move in that direction.”
‘In the teeth’
The leader of the Welsh Conservatives said that the current restrictions had led to “farcical scenes” such as at Caerphilly rugby club where only 50 people were allowed to watch the game outside, whereas several hundred congregated indoors to watch it on TV.
“Your latest restrictions have sadly also made activities such as park runs practically impossible to organise,” he said.
“To many people, even those who have historically supported your decisions and restrictions, this doesn’t seem to make sense and certainly doesn’t follow the science that we’ve seen to date. ”
Mark Drakeford replied by saying that all the actions that the Welsh Government had taken were those recommended by clinical and scientific advisers.
“This is a Government that follows the science, does not spend its time trying to pressurise scientists into giving us advice that will be politically convenient for us,” he said.
“Nor do I agree with him that it is practically impossible to do some of the things he said; I see many, many people running in the park in organised groups within the current level of protections.
“50 people can get together with 50 other people helping to organise themselves into such activity, and many, many people are taking advantage of that.
“We will keep the protections under review. As soon as we get advice that it is safe to do so, then of course we will want to begin to reverse the journey we’ve had to be on while Wales is in the teeth of the omicron storm.”