‘Porous border’ with north-west England means some Welsh lockdown easing paused due to Indian variant
Some lockdown easing that was planned for Monday in Wales was paused due to the so-called ‘Indian’ Covid variant which is on the rise, according to the First Minister.
He said that they had thought of moving on with the reopening of small events but that will be paused due to the “porous border” between Wales and the north-west of England where the Indian variant is concentrated.
But asked whether he had considered reimposing restrictions on travel, he said that he was “not expecting to do that”.
Speaking on Sky News, Mark Drakeford said that there were now 17 confirmed cases in Wales of B.1.617.2 – one of five mutated versions of coronavirus which have been designated as being “of concern” by UK public health bodies.
“Well, it’s already affected our plans in the sense that we had considered some further easements as from Monday and have decided to hold back on those from the moment,” he said.
“We were rethinking of reopening smaller events, but we will pause that for the moment. We were thinking of liberalising the rules in the way people can meet together, not just in their extended household but beyond that. We will pause that for the moment.
“There are 17 cases of the Indian variant in Wales yesterday but over 700 in England, and there’s a concentration of those in the north-west of England and the border with the north-west of England and the north-east of Wales is very porous.”
He added that lockdown easing would remain paused until the Welsh Government saw the advice from Sage which met yesterday and their own scientific advisors which we expect imminently.
“So we’ve decided just to pause, wait and see just how significant the spread of the Indian variant is. And then we’ll continue to take decisions in the careful, step by step way we have throughout the pandemic,” he said.
“Not wanting to put at risk the very good position we are in Wales today with the lowest levels of coronavirus anywhere in the United Kingdom, and the highest levels of vaccination.
“If the advice on the Indian variant is that it’s safe to move ahead we won’t need to wait for the end of our next three-week cycle to do those things. But the Indian variant is giving us pause for concern. We don’t know enough about whether it is more transmissible than the Kent variant.
“We don’t know enough about whether the vaccination programme is as effective in dealing with it as it is with other variants we have in Wales. And until we’re a bit clearer on that, I think it is sensible to take a precautionary approach, wait for the evidence, and then make the decisions when we have a better sense of what we might be up against.”