Mark Drakeford says that the UK Government have ‘not done what the science told them to do’ on Covid restrictions
Mark Drakeford has said that UK Government ministers have “not done what the science would have told them they should do” on Covid-19 restrictions.
The First Minister said that he had brought in new restrictions in Wales from Boxing Day because that was the scientific advice he had received from experts.
He had been asked by Sky News‘ Trevor Phillips whether it was “a bit unfair to criticise the government of England” on the relative lack of restrictions there.
Mark Drakeford answered: “My point is this – I’m asked time after time, why isn’t Wales doing the same thing as in England? And my answer was to point out that in this debate, it is not Wales that is the outlier.
“Wales is following the same path of putting protections in place that is being followed by Scotland, Northern Ireland, and not just devolved governments in the United Kingdom but governments across Europe and across the world.
“The question as to why the UK Government has decided not to follow that course of action are for them to answer – not for me. I think they have not done what the science would have told them they should do.
“But those are decisions they are answerable for. I’m answerable for decisions here in Wales.”
Scientific advice from earlier in the month published on 30 December showed that scientists had recommended a four-week lockdown in Wales after Christmas.
Mark Drakeford’s comments are the second time this week he has said that England is the “outlier” in tackling Covid-19.
He was also asked at Friday’s press conference why Wales was continuing with restrictions while Prime Minister Boris Johnson in England had decided not to introduce them.
The First Minister has confirmed that current restrictions will stay in place in Wales for at least another week, despite the Omicron variant not being “as severe as feared”.
Asked why he wasn’t falling into line with England, he said: “I would put the question in the opposite way. The outlier here is not Wales.
“Wales is taking action as are countries might across Europe, and the globe. The one country that stands out is England. The question is not why is Wales not following England, but why is England such a global outlier in governments protecting their populations.
“Here in Wales, we have a government that is capable to act and determined to do so when necessary, in England we have a government that is politically polarised. The Prime Minister can’t take the action his advisors have told him to take.
“Even if he could get his Cabinet to agree with them, he couldn’t get them past his MPs.”
He said that it was “easy to see” that other parts of the world were going “far beyond” the measures Wales was taking.
“The Prime Minister has decided to ‘ride it out’ as he has said, as he doesn’t have any other political options,” he added. “The advice shows consistently that an enormous wave of Omicron is coming your way, and here are the actions that could be taken.
“In the end, it is politicians that must decide on the advice that they are given. But there is no doubt that the advice the UK Government has had is one that asked them to take action rather than sit back and just allow things to happen.”
Mark Drakeford also suggested that he could not take restrictions any further because he needed financial support from the UK Treasury.
“Despite repeated efforts to get the UK Government to act in that responsible way – by ourselves and Scotland and Northern Ireland – we have not had the answer we thought we were entitled to expect,” he said.