Wales and Scotland’s hands tied unless England act on Omicron as UK Gov control funding says Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon has said that Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have their hands tied when dealing with Omicron unless more severe restrictions are announced in England, as only the UK Government could release the funds to make it affordable.
Any restrictions such as a pre- or post-Christmas lockdown would likely require funds to compensate workers and businesses who could not work during that period, as in the case of the multi-billion pound furlough scheme which ran between March 2020 and June 2021.
The job support scheme meant that the autonomous nations were also given a share of the Treasury’s money to spend on protecting businesses and livelihoods.
Yesterday the IMF said that the K Government should be “ready to redeploy” some form of furlough aid if it faces a virulent Omicron wave. However, the Treasury has so far been reluctant to step in, depending instead on the booster rollout to protect the population.
Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that the lack of financial aid was a “fundamental point” that meant that deeper restrictions were not possible.
“Each of the four UK governments are responsible for protecting public health in their own country,” she said. “But only when the UK Government takes decisions for England is funding triggered, leaving the rest of us trying to protect health with one hand tied.”
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce the result of the latest review of Covid restrictions on Friday.
The final decision will be made of new restrictions tomorrow, and there is no suggestion as of yet as to what the new restrictions could be despite online speculation.
It was announced today that there were 62 confirmed cases of Omicron in Wales, up from 32 on Tuesday.
Dr Meng Khaw, national director for health protection and screening services for Public Health Wales, said: “Part of the increase today is linked to a change in case definition agreed across the UK, as cases previously identified as highly probable are now classed as confirmed by genotyping. However, as we have indicated previously, a rapid increase over the coming days and weeks is expected.”