‘No guarantee’ there won’t be another lockdown, Health Minister says
Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said that unlike the UK Government he will not commit to the present lockdown being the last.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he wants the present lockdown to be England’s last and that any lifting would be “cautious but irreversible”.
However, Vaughan Gething said the focus was on reopening schools and he would not be drawn on any further lockdown lifting or commit not to reverse course.
“The changes in the way the virus has transmitted and changes of our knowledge of the virus have meant we have had to make different choices at various points in time,” he said.
“We want to make choices based on the best available data and information, to see case rates driven as low as possible, and then to have a cautious exit out of the current lockdown we are in.
“If we make cautious steps outwards, it will still very much feel like a form of lockdown for most people because we are not going to be returning straightaway to what we thought of as our normal lives just over a year ago.
“We don’t want to see a return of having to introduce more restrictions but I wouldn’t say we can give a cast iron guarantee that would never happen. If, for example, if we had a number of restrictions removed but we then saw an upswing then we would have a responsibility to act.”
The Health Minister said that he and the Welsh cabinet was focusing on “small things” that could be changed over the coming weeks, but would not be drawn on what they were.
“We want to manage people’s expectations and make it clear there won’t be a widescale opening and lifting of all the measures,” he said.
“We haven’t finished conclusions cabinet will reach and won’t get drawn into unhelpful speculation.”
He reiterated that getting children back to school was the Welsh Government’s priority at the moment.
“We have already said we will use whatever headroom we have to get our youngest children back into school after half-term,” he said.
“We have been working with local education authorities, with teaching and non-teaching staff unions to develop a phased and flexible plan to enable foundation phase to restart from next Monday”.
He also said ministers were also “looking at whether there are any other small changes we are able to make to give families a bit more flexibility after such a long lockdown”.