Lockdown: ‘Wales wants to move forward but we have to be cautious’ say Health Minister
Welsh Government Ministers will meet on Thursday to discuss lockdown restrictions and decide if any of the measures in place can be eased in the coming days and weeks.
Under the lockdown rules, Welsh Ministers are required to review the need for restrictions every 21 days.
Following a review on May 7, ‘modest’ changes were made to exercise rules while garden centres and council tips were given the green light to reopen.
On Sunday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that high street shops, department stores and shopping centres across England will be able to reopen next month.
Outdoor markets and car showrooms will be able to reopen from 1 June.
Other non-essential retail including shops selling clothes, shoes, toys, furniture, books, and electronics will be allowed to open from 15 June, again this only applies to England.ƒ
Health Minister Vaughan Gething was asked this morning how far will Wales go in easing lockdown measures and what can the public expect from the Welsh Government on Thursday.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, he said: “We are going to continue to maintain a cautious approach. We are going to need to look at the risks to the transmission rate (R value) going up.
Anyone who is looking or thinking of reopening will need to consider how they maintain social distancing, just as we are now doing in supermarkets and garden centres.
Any other forms of retail will need to consider how they will follow the 2 metre (social distancing) rule for their staff and for the public as well.”
The health minister wouldn’t be drawn on any specifics around the possibility of some lockdown measures easing in Wales, he said: “The cabinet is meeting later this week, along with the chief medical officer and chief scientific advisor to look at the all evidence in Wales.
The government in Wales wants to move forward but we have to be cautious, i think that’s a view largely support by people here.”
England has gone further in terms of easing restrictions, asked why Wales is taking what appears to be a more cautious approach, Mr Gething said:
“If we take a view that says, we’ll have a big bang approach, we’ll release lots more (lockdown) measures together there’s a scientific model that suggests the risks for the R value will go up.
The more contact we have with more people the more risk there is of the virus spreading.
There is less risk outdoors, but part of the problem is when you have households mixing together for a prolonged period of time that’s where you can see the risk of the virus transmission going up.
We know the harm that has caused in the first peak, so the warning is already there for us about what happens if we take too headlong, too gung ho approach.
That’s why we’re being deliberately cautious, I’m very confident that is the view of the overwhelming majority of the public.”
With England easing restrictions which allow people to travel to take exercise, meet one other person from another household and with the proposed opening schools and more shops, Mr Gething was asked if the Welsh Government will be considering the similar measures on Thursday, he said:
“There are a range of those things that are going to be on the agenda for us to discuss.
We will have to consider what the scientific evidence is, were going to have to prioritise as i don’t think we will be able to do all of those things in one go.
We need to look at the evidence for each individual step forward, then add them all together to understand whether we’re risking going above the level of R1 where actually you start too the level of coronavirus take off.”
Mr Gething said he can’t give specific details on what measures may be lifted, “as it wouldn’t be fair to set a level of expectation.”
“I need to see the latest evidence and advice as do other ministers in the government before we make a choice together about what to do.
We will then explain that before the end of this week.”
Asked is he was concerned about images coming from England showing packed beaches over the Bank Holiday and lockdown “fatigue” in Wales, the health minister said
“Yes, we are naturally concerned, people have been doing this for a very long time.
The weather so good, naturally people want to go outside and it is also the case, as we understand there is less risk of transmission outside in sunlight.
But the pictures we have seen show lots of people plainly mixing in more than one group and not having a distance between themselves.
We need to find the way through that is still cautious, is supported by evidence, but does gradually allow us to unlock more freedoms and following the rules is the best way to do.”
Mr Gething was that the further easing of restrictions in England could that have a negative impact in Wales, he said:
“Of course it’s possible, we’ve see the anecdotal evidence about people traveling long distances despite all the warning signs (alongside roads) and all the media activity not just here in Wales but outside Wales, that the rules are different.
On the point that people living just over the border in England appear to have greater freedoms than those living in Wales, Mr Gething said: “I understand all of those things about human behaviour and about people wanting to make progress further forward.
But on the evidence we have had from Public Health Wales surveys, the overwhelming majority of people think we’re doing the right thing by taking a cautious approach and they do understand the very real risks of allowing coronavirus to take off again.
People will need to trust us, they’ll need to understand we will provide more of the evidence that underpins our decisions.
We will explain before the end of this week what choice we’re making for Wales to keep us all safe.”
Any changes to lockdown rules will be announced during Friday’s Welsh Government’s press briefing.
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