Wales won’t be able to keep funding Covid measures if UK Government has ‘turned off the tap’ says Mark Drakeford
Wales won’t be able to keep funding Covid measures if the UK Government have “turned off the tap” of funding, Mark Drakeford has said.
He said that using their own budget the Welsh Government had been able to pay for some measures such as free testing kits and self-isolation payments longer than they were available in England.
But if no more money was forthcoming from the UK Government they would not be able to keep on doing so, he said, adding that the Welsh Government “still don’t have that clarity” about how much funding they will receive despite the next financial year starting in only a week’s time.
“Using the money we have ourselves, we have been able to stretch self-isolation payments in Wales into the first quarter of the next financial year,” he said.
“If circumstances of Coronavirus are such that people are having to self isolate on the scale that we see at the moment, of course, we would wish to keep those self-isolation payments available for longer.
“While we wait for final details of funding we will have for Coronavirus purposes, we’re not able to plan beyond that first quarter.
“And it may be we won’t be able to do it despite recognising by the pressure that that will create.
“But if a tap has been turned off across the whole of the United Kingdom and our funding tap has been turned off here in Wales and there is a limit in the end to how far we are able to go on doing the things that we regard as important and necessary while we’ve no help to do it.”
The First Minister was speaking after announcing that face masks will no longer be legally required in shops and on public transport and the requirement to self-isolate with Covid will also move into guidance.
However, two key legal protections will remain in place as coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, driven by the BA.2 sub-type of the omicron variant.
Face coverings will remain a legal requirement in health and social care settings and coronavirus risk assessments must continue to be carried out by businesses, with reasonable measures put in place in light of those assessments.
Face masks and self-isolation will continue to be recommended in public health advice. A £500 self-isolation payment to support people will continue to be available until June.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have seen an unwelcome rise in coronavirus cases across Wales, mirroring the position in most of the UK.
“We have carefully considered the very latest scientific and medical evidence and we need to keep some legal protections in place for a little while longer, to help keep Wales safe.
“Throughout the pandemic, we have taken a gradual and cautious approach as we have relaxed protections.
“We are firmly on the path towards leaving the emergency response to the pandemic behind us and learning to live with coronavirus safely.”
The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 14 April, when the remaining legal measures will be reviewed.
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