Wales ‘behind’ England on Covid restrictions and need to ‘catch up’ says UK Government
Wales is “behind” England on Covid restrictions and need to “catch up”, the UK Government have said.
Sources within the UK Government briefed the Daily Mail that they were putting pressure on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to drop their remaining Covid restrictions at the same time as England.
On Wednesday Prime Miniter Boris Johnson announced that all Covid regulations, including the requirement to isolate after testing positive, are due to be abolished in England in two weeks.
Yesterday Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford however said that rules on mask-wearing would be slowly phased out, starting at the end of this month in some settings and continuing throughout March.
A UK Government source told the Daily Mail: “There are discussions with the devolved administrations and ideally we would align things as much as possible.
“It would be frustrating if we had parts of the country continuing with restrictions for an extended period – it would be confusing and divisive for people.
“But we have to accept that they have always been overly cautious. They are behind us and it may take them some time to catch up.”
Former Welsh Secretary David Jones also said that the Welsh Government should do as the UK Government wanted.
“It is very positive news that the Prime Minister is ending the restrictions and moving to a long term strategy for living with Covid,” he said.
“But it is important that we have a UK-wide approach on this – I would not want to see Wales left behind, with all the inconvenience and damage that would bring.”
‘Not removing all measures’
The First Minister announced yesterday that Covid passes will no longer be needed from the end of next week and face masks will start to be phased out before St David’s Day.
From 18 February the legal requirement to show a Covid Pass to enter certain venues and events will be lifted, and from 28 February face coverings will no longer need to be worn in indoor public places apart from retail, public transport and health and care settings.
If the public health conditions continue to improve, the legal requirement to wear face coverings in all remaining settings could also be lifted by the end of March, Mark Drakeford said.
“With increasing numbers of people vaccinated and boosted and thanks to the hard work and efforts of everyone across Wales, we are confident that coronavirus rates are falling and we can look forward to brighter times ahead,” he said.
“We can start to gradually and carefully remove some of the remaining protections we have in place at alert level zero. But we are not removing all the measures at once because the pandemic is not over yet.
“To keep Wales safe we need to remain cautious and do everything we can to reassure those who feel most at risk. We will keep some important protections in place, including face coverings in health and social care settings, on public transport and in all shops. We will also keep self-isolation rules in place.
“Next month, we will publish a plan setting out how we will move beyond alert level zero and the emergency footing on which we have been operating for nearly two years.
“This will help us all to make some plans for the future.”
Mark Drakeford will not himself attend today’s press conference after it was announced today that he had caught Covid.
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