Mark Drakeford urges UK Gov to impose tighter restrictions in England
Mark Drakeford has urged the UK Government to impose tighter restrictions in England.
The First Minister has announced that although Wales will stay at alert level zero, some protective measures will be tightened, and he wants English ministers to do the same.
He suggested that it would “help” Wales if there was a “single communication that says across England and Wales that we are all taking this virus as seriously as we need to take it”.
The UK Government has so far resisted calls to make masks mandatory in some indoor spaces such as public transport despite a surge in Covid cases.
Drakeford made the comments during an interview with Sky News with Vanessa Baffoe at a time when case rates in Wales are currently higher than other parts of the UK, with 686 cases per 100,000 people.
He has warned that tougher restrictions are set to return to Wales if Covid-19 cases don’t fall in the next three weeks.
He also defended the Welsh Government’s decision to follow England’s lead on loosening restrictions on international travel.
The First Minister argued that in “any practical sense it’s impossible for us to do anything different” to England in Wales.
But he said that it was his “wish” that the UK Government took a “more precautionary approach” on the matter.
During the interview on Sky News, Vanessa Baffoe said: “The UK Government at the moment isn’t going near plan B, so what I want to know is how much communication do you have with them and why are you taking a different approach?”
Mark Drakeford said: “Well we do have opportunities to discuss this with the UK Government. I have for a number of weeks been urging them to move to plan B. It would certainly help us here in Wales to have a single communication that says across England and Wales that we are all taking this virus as seriously as we need to take it as we go into the autumn and the winter.
“In the end, ministers responsible for England make the decisions they make and here in Wales we make the decisions we think are necessary for us. It does mean that we will take a more precautionary approach because we do not want to see people who need not fall ill, fall ill and we have to attend to the growing pressures on our hospital system as well.”
Vanessa Baffoe said: “Mr Drakeford there is a bit of confusion and I think you would forgive a lot of people for being confused because Wales is following England’s lead on removing all countries from the red list but at the same time you want to tighten controls and bring in tighter measures, so the two just don’t sync together do they?”
“Look I understand why they look to be different and the truth of the matter is that we wish the UK Government took a more precautionary approach to international travel.
“But when they change the rules in England in any practical sense it’s impossible for us to do anything different Wales because almost everybody from Wales who travels aboard or returns to this country from abroad comes in through English port and airports and then travels on to Wales.
“So in a practical sense we can’t make anything different happen there, although we wish the UK Government took a different approach. Where we can do things differently, when we have decisions that we can make effective in Wales then we take them differently.”
‘More to do’
Mark Drakeford also said: “Well we will be saying today that we have to do more here in Wales to bring those numbers down. We want more people to work from home. We want to make sure that people do the simple things of mask wearing in crowded public places.
“We’ll be changing some of the arrangements in our schools to try to stem the flow of young people falling ill with the virus and we will be asking people who are household contacts of someone who has tested positive to stay at home until they themselves have taken a PCR test.
“If it’s negative they’ll be able to go back to school to work. If it’s positive then they won’t have been out and about spreading the virus to other people.
“Well the bulk of people who are falling ill are still the younger age groups but unfortunately we are seeing growth in numbers spreading up the age ranges. So in the last week or two we’ve seen a higher number of people over 60 falling ill with coronavirus. Still more young people but the impact of the number’s we’re currently seeing are now being felt higher up the age range as well.”
Vanessa Baffoe said: “Mr Drakeford you’ve had some of the tightest restrictions of across the UK when it comes to Covid but those figures are still not looking good. Is there something you’re doing wrong? Something clearly isn’t working.
Mark Drakeford replied: “Well I think there are some explanations of why we are in the position we’re in today. Wales had a very successful vaccination programme and it may be that we are seeing the waning impact of that initial vaccination earlier here in Wales because of our initial success.
“It’s also the case that earlier in the summer for weeks and weeks Wales had the lowest level of coronavirus anywhere in the UK and it may be that there’s just a greater reservoir of people here in Wales waiting to be infected by the Delta variant, that that’s driving the numbers that we see today.
“What is certainly true is that numbers at this level are causing harm in the community, are driving more people into hospital and we have to make a concerted effort over the next three weeks to bring those numbers down.
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