Agree with it or not, Wales now has to make a success of the ‘fire break’ lockdown

Coronavirus in Carmarthen

Ifan Morgan Jones

There is no doubt room to quibble with some elements of Wales’ national circuit breaker lockdown.

After making strides with an increasingly hyperlocal approach, including ward-level lockdowns in Bangor and Llanelli, was returning to such a broad brush approach really necessary?

According to Public Health Wales’ own figures, there have been a handful of cases in some rural areas in recent week. Is it fair to ask businesses in Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire to close because things are bad in Blaenau Gwent?

There are also issues with asking supermarkets not to sell non-essential items. Who decides what is a non-essential item? And if the aim is fairness, why is there no similar ban on Amazon and other delivery companies? Because they are the ones who will, no doubt, profit from this move.

A lockdown on this scale is essentially unenforceable, and therefore depends entirely on buy-in from the public. If the public see measures that seem too draconian, or don’t make sense, it could undermine the entire exercise.

There is also room to question whether there is really any purpose in Wales going into lockdown if the rest of the UK isn’t going to follow suit.

Even if new cases of Covid-19 were completely eradicated in Wales by midnight 9 November (they won’t of course), Wales’ long and porous border would mean that we would be back in a similar situation within a few months.

With no vaccine expected for another nine months or so, how much benefit is there in the long run in taking an extremely strict approach here while England maintains a laissez-faire attitude that is herd immunity in all but name?

 

Sacrifice

These are all fair arguments and have been made quite volubly, especially by the Conservative opposition in the Senedd.

But whether the Welsh Government have chosen the right approach or not – and I would not like to be in their shoes having to make that choice – like it or loathe it, we now have to make it work.

The worst of all worlds now would be to shut down the country for a fortnight and for people not to take it entirely seriously. To close down businesses causing huge financial damage only for people to keep on visiting each other’s homes as if nothing had changed.

Wales is now a test case for an approach that may well be replicated around the rest of the UK, and even Europe and across the Atlantic – if we can make a success of it. So there are more than Welsh lives depending on our following to the rules.

So let’s pack in the criticism and questions for now and give it our best shot.

There’s a thin line between constructively criticising the lockdown and encouraging people to disregard it, and I tend to feel that some of the op-eds particularly in the right-wing press have strayed over that line.

The Daily Mail’s front page today, which screams in capital letters that ‘Staying in rule does not stop the virus’ before adding in smaller text underneath ‘because people don’t obey draconian edict’ would tend to stray in that direction.

Let’s not think too much of the deterrents – and think rather of the reward. If we can collectively put in two weeks of sacrifice and hard graft, we can hopefully get life back to something approaching normality at least until the New Year.

We may not all agree with the lockdown, but it’s happening now, and all of us need to pull together if it’s going to work.

If we can save Christmas from coronavirus, that at least would be a start.

 

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