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UK Gov’s decision not to have sign language interpreter at Covid briefings as in Wales criticised by MPs’ report

12 Oct 2021 3 minutes Read
Mark Drakeford giving a Welsh Government briefing with a BSL interpreter present

The UK Government’s failure to ensure that a sign language interpreter was visible at Covid briefings as happened in Wales hindered their communication strategy, a report by MPs has said.

While First Minister Mark Drakeford and other ministers stood alongside a sign language interpreter at Wales pandemic briefings, the Prime Minister and others did not – with an interpreter sometimes added in a seperate screen by broadcasters.

The cross-party House of Commons Health Committee report calls the failure stop Covid from spreading early in the pandemic one of the worst ever public health failures in UK history.

However, the report predominantly focuses on the response to the pandemic in England, and does not look at steps taken individually by Wales and the other semi-autonomous nations and regions.

It does however focus on sign language interpreters as one thing that Wales and Scotland did that improved upon the UK Government’s communication strategy.

“Although the communications strategy in the initial phase of the pandemic was broadly successful, it is worth noting that there was some confusion over who the stay at home order applied to, and there was criticism of the Government’s decision not to provide a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter on-set at the televised briefings,” the report says.

“Similar briefings in Scotland and Wales did include an interpreter, socially distanced from Ministers.

“In the UK, there are more than 80,000 Deaf people whose first language is BSL. The decision not to include an interpreter at these briefings, where important public health announcements were often made, may have reduced their ability to understand the messages provided and in turn potentially decreased trust and compliance among this group.”

‘Over-optimistic’

The only other major reference to Wales in the report is to make the point that while the UK Government acted against scientific advice in avoiding an autumn ‘firebreak’ lockdown, Wales’ experience suggested it may not have worked.

“It is impossible to know whether a circuit breaker in the early autumn of 2020 would have had a material effect in preventing a second lockdown given that the Kent (or Alpha) variant may already have been prevalent. Indeed such an approach was pursued in Wales, which still ended up having further restrictions in December 2020,” the report says.

“In this decision not to have a circuit breaker, the UK Government did not follow the official scientific advice. Ministers were clearly over-optimistic in their assumption that the worst was behind us during the summer months of 2020.”

Tory MPs Jeremy Hunt and Greg Clark, who chair the committees, however said the nature of the pandemic meant it was “impossible to get everything right”.

Speaking on Radio 4 Today’s programme, Jeremy Hunt characterised the UK Government’s pandemic response as a game of two halves where they had made significant blunders in the first half, but decisions had saved many lives in the second.

He admitted that there was a “degree of group-think” in the UK that any major pandemic that would hit the country would be flu-based.

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Cathy Jones
Cathy Jones
11 days ago

Cymru, where inclusivity isn’t seen as a threat….or as an extra or as a chore or as some bonus that people should have to beg for. Just look at the difference between us and England. Whilst England is hounding trans people Cymru is trying to become a welcoming place for LGBTQ people, whilst the English are dragging their feet in a pandemic Cymru was moving fast and doing its best to make sure that all people could know what was happening, whilst England allows a free for all so that the weirdos that think Bill Gates cares enough about them… Read more »

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Mr Vaughan Gething had a lot to do with the trust I put in the Senedd’s communication with the public…cool, calm and completely trustworthy…

BigPooba
BigPooba
11 days ago
Reply to  Cathy Jones

Didn’t YesCymru have a little issue on this front not all that long ago….

Also I guess the irony of that anglophobia is lost upon you given your opening statement…

As for moving fast? Have you forgotten Wales have the highest rates for ages? The lowest vaccination rates for weeks? Drakeford intentionally withholding vaccines? Yeah he’s a true leader…

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 days ago
Reply to  BigPooba

Because of course, Bojo the Clown is such a fantastic leader isn’t he? We’ve got soaring energy prices, a shortage of HGV drivers leading to all sorts of supply chain problems resulting in shortages in our shops but never fear! Bojo the Clown is at the helm to sort it all out! Oh hold on he’s f*cked off on holiday (again). Funny that, I thought MPs had the whole of summer off for their holidays. Come to think of it the government would probably run better without him. Perhaps we could all club together to send him on a permanent… Read more »

Mawkernewek
11 days ago

The main problem is how to simultaneously translate the ramblings of Boris Johnson into any language at all, the UK government obviously decided it was best to let broadcasters provide a sign language interpreter.

Erisian
Erisian
11 days ago
Reply to  Mawkernewek

Perhaps they could find a clown who speaks sign language, I’m sure they must be some, although finding one who studied the classics and has a smattering of School-boy latin would make the task more difficult.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
11 days ago

Jeremy Hunt should have been in the Dock not on the Bench !

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 days ago

I suspect that our Autumn firebreak failed due to the refusal of the English government to implement one at the same time. I seem to recall that our firebreak did supress the Covid infection rate but this was all for nothing as it was allowed to spiral out of control in England due to their refusal implement one around the same time.

If we were independent we could have closed our border and kept the infected English people out.

BigPooba
BigPooba
11 days ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

So there’s no infected in Wales…?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
11 days ago
Reply to  BigPooba

That is not what I said an you know it. What I said was that the Autumn firebreak brought in by our Welsh government did succeed in supressing the Covid infection rate but ultimately failed because the incompetent English government refused to bring in a firebreak at the same time. This led to the infection rate in England spiralling out of control and this ultimately hit Wales as we couldn’t close our border with England in order to quarantine ourselves against the incompetence of the English government. If Wales was independent we could have closed the border and left the… Read more »

BigPooba
BigPooba
11 days ago
Reply to  Barry Pandy

I’ll shorten that for you – everything is the fault if the English/general xenophobic ramblings.

Also the border was closed and do you forget how Wales had the highest rates for most of the time and once again does? Suppose it’s all the fault of ‘infected English’?

Barry Pandy
Barry Pandy
10 days ago
Reply to  BigPooba

‘Xenophobic ramblings’? That’s a bit rich coming from a fanboy of the most xenophobic and racist government in my lifetime – and yes the tories are racist and xenophobic. And if you really are deluding yourself that your English tory government in Westminster handled the pandemic well, try this: Go to a popular search engine. Type in ‘euromomo’ in the search box and hit enter. Click on the first link (I can’t post the actual URL as this website won’t let me). Go to graphs and maps. Scroll down to Z-scores by country. Remove all countries except England, Wales, Scotland… Read more »

Y Cymro
Y Cymro
11 days ago

The Tories are all about inclusivity. Yeah, like Hitler was to human rights. At least we in Wales care for all in society able-bodied & disabled alike.

And If the heartless soulless Conservatives forgo their Champagne quota for once, about £73k spent between the years 2019/ 2020, could in fact have employed multiple sign language interpreters for their Covid briefings.

Last edited 11 days ago by Y Cymro

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