Would have been ‘difficult’ for Wales to go into lockdown before England, says Health Minister
It would have been difficult for Wales to go into lockdown before England, the Welsh Government’s Health Minister has suggested.
Eluned Morgan was responding to a damning report by MPs into the UK Government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.
According to the report, the UK Government’s strategy was to try to manage the situation and in effect achieve herd immunity by infection.
This it said, led to a delay in introducing the first lockdown, and cost thousands of lives. The UK’s failure to do more to stop Covid spreading early in the pandemic was one of the worst ever public health failures, it said.
Morgan said it would have been “extremely difficult” for Wales to go into lockdown before England for a number of “practical reasons”.
These included the “border” with England as well as Wales not having the power to create its own furlough scheme to protect jobs.
The leader of Plaid Cymru, Adam Price MS, has called the report “sobering, damning, devastating”.
He also said that the report, which examines the initial UK response to the covid pandemic, only contains 9 mentions of Wales in its 147 pages, showed that it was more important than ever for a “Wales-only public inquiry”.
Eluned Morgan said: “Well you’ll be aware that this particular report is about a 147 pages long. It predominantly refers to the situation in England. Of course it would have been extremely difficult for us to lockdown before England for lots of practical reasons because for example we’ve got the border but also because furlough was not available. So it would have been difficult for us to have gone any time sooner.
“The fact is that we have responded I think very positively since then. Our vaccination programme has been highly successful. We know that has helped to avert around 7,000 deaths and 10,000 hospitalisations.
“So since then I think what you will have understood is that we have taken a far more cautious approach compared to that of the rest of the United Kingdom, but also I understand the report talks about the dangers of centralisation and what we’ve done is try to empower local communities and local authorities to make sure that they really have take advantage of the opportunities that they have to know their local communities and that’s why our TTP system has been not just more successful but also a lot cheaper.”
Responding to the House of Commons report on lessons learned to date, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said: “Sobering, damning, devastating. This report exposes the fatalistic approach at the heart of this Westminster Government which led to tens of thousands of lost lives in one of the UK’s worst ever public health failures.
“Too slow to respond, too late to lockdown, and too arrogant to learn from countries with greater expertise, this report must forever put to bed Westminster politicians’ conceited belief that they are somehow unique in the world.
“Meanwhile, with only 9 mentions in the 147-page report, Wales is resigned to the footnotes.
“It is now more important than ever that we get a Wales-only public inquiry into the handling of the pandemic. We cannot settle for a mere chapter in a UK-wide inquiry.
“We need to look at what happened in detail, and in public, to learns lessons for the future – there should be no avoidance of detailed scrutiny.
“The people of Wales – and the bereaved families – will expect and deserve nothing less.”