Christmas relaxation under review – decision “does rely on the choices that each of us are prepared to make”
Wales’ health minister has said that “nothing is off the table” if changes need to be made to coronavirus restrictions and household mixing over Christmas.
It comes as Wales continues to see a rise in the number of coronavirus cases.
In the last week alone there were 14,000 new cases of the virus in Wales, with one in five tests carried out coming back positive.
The rolling seven day average across Wales is now at 450 per 100,000. This is up from as low 160 shortly after the two week firebreak ended last month. Issues are mainly in South Wales, however Wrexham today is reported as having 249 cases per 100k on the seven day figures with a positive proportion of tests at 15.2%
The growing number of cases, and increased hospitalisations, has led to ministers and Wales’ chief medical officer to call on members of the public to rethink their plans over Christmas and to limit the number of people that they mix with.
Just over three weeks ago it a ‘four nation approach’ was announced, temporarily lifting restrictions on some household gatherings and travel across the UK between December 23 and 27.
During that timeframe up to three households can form an exclusive ‘bubble’ to meet at home during this period. When a bubble is formed it is fixed, and must not be changed or extended further at any point.
Each Christmas bubble can meet at home, at a place of worship or an outdoor public place, but existing, more restrictive rules on hospitality and meeting in other venues will be maintained throughout this period.
Travel restrictions across the four administrations and between tiers will be lifted to provide a window for households to come together.
However there has been growing concern that these changes will lead to a third wave of coronavirus across the UK in the new year.
Asked at Monday’s Welsh Government briefing if changes could be made to the temporary easing of some restrictions over the Christmas period, Mr Gething said that “nothing is off the table”.
He said: “We have to consider each day, what choices we’re going to make.
“It’s certainly not our preference to interrupt because there is a lot of capital invested in that easing of the rules, which all four countries signed up to.
“But as I’ve said, from this platform and in TV studios and in front of screens remotely on many occasions before, you could never say never with the course of the pandemic, because as the virus continues to grow, then we’ll need to make choices to keep people safe.
“So nothing is off the table, but it does rely on the choices that each of us are prepared to make.”
Last week it was indicated that unless cases of coronavirus in Wales started to decrease under the new restrictions placed on hospitality and entertainment attractions, a lockdown could be introduced immediately after Christmas.
This afternoon the Welsh Government released the criteria for its four level alert system, with a new high level seeing increased restrictions.
In terms of whether a lockdown could be introduced in Wales before Christmas, Mr Gething said: “Every option is still available to us. I had a meeting with local stakeholders across Wales about a range of challenging in different regions.”
“The cabinet meets as usual on a Monday in our new virtual form and we’ll continue to have those discussions and we will continue to hear evidence from the chief medical officer and from scientific advisors.
“We will also take evidence from the chief executive NHS Wales about the reality of service pressures, and we’ll then have to make balanced choices because in many ways, it’s much easier to demand action of the government when of course, as I said, it wasn’t that long ago, when people were criticising the government for taking action,
“We then have to think about the real world impact in terms of both lives and livelihoods too.
“So these are not straightforward choices, but we will live up to our responsibility to consider the evidence and whether we act or not, the government will be responsible for those choices.”
“We’re asking people across Wales to be responsible for choices that they take and how they live their day to day lives. Because each of us needs to be part of this, each of us needs to help to get the whole of Wales through to a different and a better future that we can see with a vaccine likely become more widely available as we move into 2021.”
The Health Minister added, “If we go ahead with the Christmas easements as they are, they only really apply to travel and to households of course.
“So that’s what we’re talking about when the First Minister indicated that unless we see a significant reduction in cases and we’d need to make that final call on 22nd of December to determine whether we’re going to move into level four.”
“So actually it would not be the case that different forms of non essential retail necessarily continue after Christmas day itself, and it would be unusual, I think, if we ended up saying that the whole of Wales is going into level four, but we nevertheless had Boxing Day sales.
“Those are considerations that Ministers needs to take account of in choices that we make, the choice that we haven’t made yet.”
“For any post Christmas period, regardless of what level – level three or level four – there will be continued restrictions, and that’s because we know we’re not going to get to a position where the Coronavirus rate suddenly crash into the sort of low prevalence rates we saw through much the second half of the summer where we did successfully reduce Coronavirus in Wales, where within the UK, Wales had the lowest Coronavirus prevalence rates.”
Top pic: Christmas in better times.
As usual you can view the full Welsh Government briefing and Q&A session on the below video:
Yn fyw nawr gyda’r Gweinidog Iechyd | Live now with the Health Minister https://t.co/HXrQHR95RT
— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) December 14, 2020
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