Omicron: “Things are calm but we see the storm brewing” says Drakeford
The Welsh government has issued “strong guidance” and urged people to stay safe over Christmas in the face of a “gathering storm” of Omicron.
Wales will remain at alert level zero for the time being but some alert level 2 type restrictions, including closing nightclubs and imposing a 2-metre social distancing rule in offices, will be brought in from 27 December to try to combat the incoming wave of the Omicron variant.
Regulations will also be changed from 27 December to include a “requirement to work from home wherever possible,” businesses will also have to put in extra measures to protect customers and staff, such as one-way systems and physical barriers.
In the run-up to Christmas, the Welsh government is urging people to reduce contact with others, “especially if we are seeing older people or more vulnerable people over Christmas, will help to protect them from the virus.”
First minister Mark Drakeford said that at the moment “things are calm but we see the storm brewing, Omicron is already here in Wales and everything we are learning tells us that once that storm begins to gather, we will see that wave come into Wales very quickly and rise very sharply. We have to prepare for that now.”
“In Wales, after the Christmas break the rules will be different, there’ll be new protections so we can continue to stay safe in the face of this new variant.” Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales this morning.
To stay safe in the run up to Christmas, the Welsh Government is strongly advising everyone to follow five measures to stay safe:
- Get vaccinated – and if you’ve had your booster appointment, please make attending your priority.
- If you’re going out, going Christmas shopping or visiting people – flow before you go. Take a lateral flow test. If it’s positive – don’t go out.
- Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
- Space out your socialising – if you’ve got events arranged, please leave at least a day between them.
- And don’t forget about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.
After Christmas, on 27 December new legal restrictions will come into force, to help protect against the spread of the omicron variant.
Dr David Bailey, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Welsh Council, said “purely from a public health point of view” the measures announced by the Welsh government, “don’t go quite far enough” but from “a political and psychological perspective, I suspect that the first minister probably did as much as he can.”
Mark Drakeford said: “I think you’ve got to be proportionate to the circumstances you are facing in order to demonstrate that you are being fair with everybody.”
“This coming week we believe that Delta variant will continue to be dominant in Wales, our own Omicron numbers are the lowest anywhere in the United Kingdom.
He said: “In London and Scotland, where the numbers are far higher than they are in Wales, there are no plans to take action this side Christmas either.”
“So given our slightly more favourable position, we think that provided people do act on the advice we are given them to take those simple (5) steps that keep each other safe, then that will give us a path into Christmas.”
“But because we see the Gathering Storm, we will take action now and we’re the first government in the United Kingdom to say that after Christmas the rules will have to be different.” He said.
Mr Drakeford said: “It’s the figures that we are seeing that has provided the context for what we are doing, you can’t ignore the fact that it is Christmas and what a special time of the year it is for so many people.”
“The balancing act is a really challenging one, our belief was that in the circumstances we see in Wales, powerful advice to people about the things we can all do to keep ourselves safe would be sufficient over the next week, but immediately after Christmas, further action would be needed.”
He added: “We are not looking for restrictions for the sake of restrictions, but if we find out as the days go on, the plans we’ve already announced need to be further strengthened, then the Welsh Government won’t stand back from that.”
The Welsh Government has also announced up to £60m will be available to support businesses affected by the new restrictions.
Responding to the Welsh Government’s latest COVID review, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said:
“Personal responsibility has always been crucial during the pandemic and that will remain the case moving forward.”
“Many people will have been concerned about the potential impact of government restrictions on their Christmas plans, but today’s announcement provides some much-needed clarity and comfort for families across Wales.”
“The First Minister’s decision to tighten in some areas after the festive period, and close venues such as nightclubs, is an admission that restrictions such as vaccine passports have failed and were never going to work in Wales.”
“At such a heightened time, public health messaging is incredibly important and whilst this announcement appears sensible on the surface, there does seem to be a gap emerging between some of the rhetoric and the decision-making from Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay.”
“This is having a wide-ranging impact on Welsh firms in various sectors and the Labour Government must now use the hundreds of millions of pounds left over in COVID support funding to help businesses and protect jobs.” Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com