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Update on final Christmas rules for Wales expected on Thursday

15 Dec 2020 3 minutes Read
Mark Drakeford the First Minister of Wales. Picture by the Welsh Government

It is expected that a decision on lifting Christmas restrictions in Wales could be communicated on Thursday.

The First Minister of Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove met at 5pm for a meeting to discuss the cross-UK restrictions.

The current plans include relaxing restrictions over five days and form ‘bubbles’ of three households. Both could be cut down in order to stop the spread of Covid under the revised restrictions.

While there were discussions on travel over the Christmas period, no formal decisions were made during a conversation tonight, and discussions will continue tomorrow.

A Welsh Government source said they would “reconvene tomorrow to confirm the position”.

A UK government source said: “There was broad recognition that a commitment has been made to people and they will expect us to honour it – but there is a need to be stronger and clearer in guidance and messaging.”

Following the meeting, a spokeswoman for Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster said: “Following this evening’s call with counterparts in England, Scotland and Wales, ministers will discuss the current situation with medical and scientific advisers.

“It is expected that an update will be brought to the executive on Thursday.”

 

‘Precautions’

The leaders were expected to have discussed a range of alternatives to the current relaxation, including:

  • Keeping the rules as they are but toughening up the messaging
  • Reducing the number of days the rules are relaxed for
  • Reducing the number of households that are allowed to mix
  • Still allowing travel but restricting it to the same region
  • Moving the window to another time.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford had earlier said he would “not lightly put aside” the “hard-won” four nations agreement over household mixing at Christmas.

Nicola Sturgeon had said they were “considering whether any additional precautions are necessary in light of what we know so far”.

Earlier the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Health Service Journal (HSJ) called for the governments of the UK to scrap plans to allow households to mix this Christmas.

Wales has jointly agreed a five-day relaxation in the Covid-19 rules over Christmas in order to allow people to travel and see extended family.

But Wales is also at present the part of the UK with the highest number of cases per population – a seven-day average of 425 cases per 100,000.

Eight of the UK’s top 10 worst infected areas are in Wales with Merthyr Tydfil, Neath Port Talbot and Bridgend the top three. On the weekend the number of positive Covid-19 tests passed 100,000 in Wales.

Wales’ Health Minister Vaughan Gething said the situation across Wales was “very serious” but added it was not Wales’ “preference” to break the Christmas rule relaxation.

“There is a lot of capital invested in that easing of the rules which all four countries signed up to,” he said.

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