Health Minister “keen to dismantle any restrictions as soon as we possibly can”
The Health Minister has defended the ongoing use of covid restrictions in Wales, by pointing to “the highest level of cases that we’ve seen throughout this pandemic” currently.
Revised alert level two measures, which include wearing a face mask in all indoor public places, working from home where possible, the closure of nightclubs and all large events, have been in place since the end of 2021.
The restrictions are being reviewed by the cabinet on a weekly basis, with Health Minister Eluned Morgan stating that the Welsh government is “keen to dismantle any restrictions as soon as we possibly can.”
She also defended the use of the alert level two measures when asked about their success, with a comparable case rate per 100,000 population just higher in Wales than both Scotland and England as of the 5th.
Ms Morgan defended the stat, “Case rates are different from area to area so it’s very difficult to put a kind of blanket picture across the whole of a nation.
“What we do know is that the initial data is demonstrating that hospitalisation rates are fewer than we’re seeing in England, that the fact that we were able to hold things off for slightly longer means that we managed to get more people boosted in a quicker time, which also may have helped us to reduce the numbers of people going into a hospital.
“So clearly we are going to have to assess all of this, and just to see what impact it has made but our early sight is that actually, in particular, if it does look like we’re reaching a peak already that will be a very comforting situation.
“But, we’re not confident enough yet to say that we’re in that situation.”
Today’s Public Health Wales update saw the number of reported cases drop down to 2,176 across Wales.
However there is uncertainty over whether this is an indication the virus has peaked and is starting to drop, or if it is down to changes to the testing policies surrounding lateral flows and PCR tests.
In Wrexham 77 cases that were carried out by PCR were reported in today’s figures, although mainly from the 8th, with the positivity dropping to 31% whereas previously it has been around the 50% mark.
Commenting on the apparent drop in the figures, Ms Morgan said: “It would be great if if we can see that stabilisation continue and that fall that has come with the data.
“But I think we do have to be cautious at the moment because there are a few variables that have come in at this point in time.
“First of all, the way we measure the number of people with COVID has changed, we are telling people who’ve had a lateral flow test, who are not symptomatic not to bother with a PCR test. So that could have dampened down the numbers of people coming forward.
“We’ve obviously seen the return to school so we’ve yet to see whether that’s going to make a difference to the figures.
“But also the wastewater monitoring that we carry out suggests that actually the rates are, if anything, climbing, so we just want to keep an eye on the situation for the time being.
“I think it’s too early to say whether we’ve reached the peak yet, but there’s certainly some positive data, but I think it’s too early for us to become overly excited about having reached the peak.”
This afternoon Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that coronavirus restrictions will start being eased this month, starting with the removal of restrictions of outdoor gatherings – although with vaccination status checks required, face covering and other rules continuing.
Asked by ITV Wales at today’s press briefing whether the Welsh government will follow suit amid growing criticism from sports fans and organisers of outdoor events, the Ms Morgan said ministers were monitoring the data.
She said: “I can assure you that we are keen to dismantle any restrictions as soon as we possibly can.
“We think it’s our legal obligation to do that but we are in a situation where the pandemic is very much still with us. We are keeping a very close eye on the statistics that are coming in at the moment.
“We’re hoping that we’re seeing a stabilisation those numbers. Clearly I think it will be difficult for us to dismantle things if the numbers are continuing to rise.
“But as I say it’s unlikely that we’ll see an easing of those restrictions until we see at least the levelling off and coming down from the peak from these extremely high levels that we’re seeing at the moment,
“Let’s be clear about where we’re at in this process, we are seeing the highest level of cases that we’ve seen throughout this pandemic, still in our communities today and now would not be a sensible time for us to ease those restrictions.”
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