In a pandemic, ‘for Wales, see England’ could have deadly consequences

@LloydCymru‘s coronavirus updates on Twitter

Jasmine Donahaye

The news that the Westminster government appears to have interfered in the Welsh government’s access to Covid-19 testing kits has filled people with rage and despair. This isn’t like the daily dismay over the weakness of our devolved institutions, nor an outraged sense of patriotic pride, nor a notion that someone’s taken our toys away. It is a helpless fear: a decision over which our country has no control is going to cost lives, potentially thousands of lives.

Cumulatively, the fear and anxiety over Covid-19 mounts as the figures rise, and the chaos grows. We each of us manage that anxiety in different ways. I do so by limiting my exposure to the anxious speculation of others, and by trying to access reliable, accurate news (and I don’t watch TV). But the news itself confuses: if you listen to Westminster briefings, and rely on the BBC or broadsheet coverage, you will hear about purported UK figures that are in fact England-only figures, UK policies that are English policies, NHS preparations that are NHS England preparations, UK projections that are England-only projections.

Health is devolved, yet UK government ministers and England’s medical officers continue to confuse and conflate England and the UK, and the media continues to enable and repeat it. This is not new, but its consequences are new, and they are frightening.

Because we have almost no media to call our own, most of us are unaware of information that relates exclusively to Wales. Even if we do manage to access statements by our own ministers, our own medical officers and Public Health Wales to learn about figures, policies, preparations and projections that pertain to us here, we find confusion – because although Health is nominally devolved, our government’s capacity to deliver it is unclear, as the testing fiasco reveals.

This confusion isn’t simply an outrage because Wales, as always, is being overlooked or sidelined: it has consequences for public behaviour – behaviour that will also cost lives.

 

Inaccuracy

One example is in rural Wales. According to the Chief Executive of the Hywel Dda Health Board, as reported by Llanelli AM Lee Waters, the pandemic is not projected to peak in mid and west Wales until early June. That is weeks after the projected peak in urban areas of England. If restrictions begin to be lifted or eased elsewhere, and at that point Westminster is still conflating England with the UK, what might the consequences be for those of us living in the Hywel Dda Health Board area?

There would likely be widespread non-compliance with continued restrictions – not because of idiocy, but because of confusion. And we know what the results of that would be: a resurgence of cases and deaths which, if it makes the UK news, will be seen as an outlier, as an example of stupid behaviour, not as a direct result of lazy inaccuracy on the part of Westminster and the media.

Despair is crippling, and we cannot afford to indulge in it. Its antidote is action. So what can we do? How can we as private citizens act to protect our communities? We might think the answer to the problem is clear – developing our own media; working towards political independence – but these are long-term and abstract goals that have little bearing on what is an urgent situation.

However, we can all influence how we behave collectively both immediately and over the weeks to come. We can do that by sharing accurate news with one another that pertains to Wales, and by challenging and helping to clear up confusion over UK-wide or England-only information wherever and whenever we encounter it.

That includes reminding every politician and journalist who gets it wrong to get it right – calmly, clearly, and with the explanation that this is not a question of national pride, but a question of mortal consequences.

For more information on COVID-19 in Wales, please follow this link

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John EllisHuw DaviesJonathan GammondTudor ReesGwylon Phillips Recent comment authors
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Hywel Moseley
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Hywel Moseley

I entirely agree. Have a look at my post as a reply to the email of Hugh Anthony in today’s Facebook for an example of an UK-orientated wrong statement.

Phil
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Phil

An interesting article but once again it highlights something we already know that Wales is treated with contempt from every angle the English government see s fit. Why on earth don’t our AM .s and so called MP.d stand up together irrelevant of what part they stand for the people of Wales instead of continually rolling over and accepting what ever is dished out as seconds to us mere mortals . Everyone is congratulating the good work the NHS carries out,and rightly so.they have been underestimated for far to long ..it was a Welshman who put the NHS in place… Read more »

Ann Owen
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Ann Owen

We can also insist that that we get regular known infection figures, deaths and recoveries for every Health Board Area – by county or hospital area would be even better. We could then see the spread of the virus, identify any contributing factors and measure any effects from the influx of weekenders and second home self-isolators to popular Welsh beauty spots. This will all be key for further Coronavirus policy planning, and to prepare for future pandemics. The current line that patient identites must be protected is nonsense – we can’t tell who these people are from the statistics! Also… Read more »

Neil Anderson
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Neil Anderson

The question is, how much will testing be reduced in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to permit NHS England to meet its targets? No doubt their needs-based assessments will be fair – in English terms.

Every additional day under this disastrously inept UK Government adds to the already overwhelming case for independence.

Caroline Adamson
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Caroline Adamson

Thus is very interesting

Jonesy
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Jonesy

I have written to the Guardian and the BbC new esiror Gavin Allen re this, it is causing confusion and is total misinformation and we can see where misinformation from Westmi ster has got us? I have not had any response please do the same, the wrong message can KILL

Gwylon Phillips
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Gwylon Phillips

It’s increasingly clear that GIC cannot make decisions or take action without the say so of the UK Government who have dithered and blundered and refused to take WHO advice. All research has to be approved by the UK Government who are an incompetent bunch of amateurs.

Tudor Rees
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Tudor Rees

When we have politicians in Westminster proclaiming “We are all in it Together”, we should have expected respect for every-bodies efforts, and an awareness of the need to avoid causing confusion by making statements that are not relevant to us in Wales or Scotland. We are told to expect a letter from Boris. Is this intended for us in Wales as well? If so, will it be compiled after discussion with the ministers in Wales? If there is no discussion, yet more confusion, leading to damaging uncertainty within the services tackling this pandemic!

John Ellis
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John Ellis

Curious, that business about the letter from Bunter. Its imminent arrival was announced on March 28th. A week later, we’ve not received it and I haven’t yet heard of anyone who has – though in the context of the ‘lock-down’ we’re all of us in less contact than usual with others, so maybe some folk have had it? If it’s popped through your letter box, perhaps you’ll say?

Unless, of course, Bunter just meant that he’d be writing to every household in England, but neglected to make the difference clear?! They’ve all got form for that right now!

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

“For Wales, see England, see London” seems to apply to most things. Peripheral regions occupy only the peripheral zones in government minds. Time to leave this unbalanced Union. Then proceed to create some balance within Wales as that’s a pretty lop-sided situation needing correction.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

As ever the paucity of a strong and discrete Welsh media scene is a factor. If you confine yourself to watching BBC Wales, ITV Wales and S4C, indeed you will see Dr Frank Atherton thundering out the key messages like some latter-day Kitchener, sometimes backed up by Messrs Gething or Drakeford. But in this multi-channel era and when so many of us, ‘locked -down’ in our own homes, are perforce whiling rather more time watching telly, if you stray around BBC4, ITV3 and the like all you’ll see is Professors Whitty and Doyle of Public Health England and Matt Hancock… Read more »

Jonathan Gammond
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Jonathan Gammond

The Welsh Government could up its game too. Their website still treats Covid 19 as an added extra. It is all words too. Hardly gives it a sense of immediacy or importance. Hopefully they have the comms and IT staff to improve it.
I know No 10 has a press conference at 5 p.m. each day. Who knows if a daily conference is good or bad but i dont have a clue when our Welsh Government does its PR/allow some accountability? (I admit my tv signal does point the wrong way so i am relying on BBC Radio Wales.)

John Ellis
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John Ellis

I heard that the WG does something of the sort every weekday lunchtime, and a couple of times
I ‘ve seen it very briefly covered on the likes of ‘Wales Today’. But it gets way less publicity than the Downing Street one.

Huw Davies
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Huw Davies

When watching these daily “shows” it is necessary to apply a very severe filter to the words of the attending politicians while the scientists and medical spokespersons are generally more reliable.

John Ellis
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John Ellis

I agree. Though even ‘the scientists and medical spokespersons’, as they’re in senior positions in the public health sphere. presumably know who the masters are.