Posted: Fri 4th Jun 2021

Social distancing could remain in place in Wales for rest of year, says First Minister

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, Jun 4th, 2021

A level of social distancing in Wales could remain in place “during the rest of the summer and maybe into the rest of this year” the first minister has said, but hinted at it becoming advisory at some point rather than mandatory.

Social distancing has been place in everyone’s lives since the start of the pandemic in March 2020 after it was introduced in a bid to cut the chains of transmission of the virus between people.

However there remain concerns about the long-term viability of some hospitality and leisure businesses if the restrictions remain in place.

Although measures in Wales are continuing to ease, unlike in England there has been no date set for the potential removing of all restrictions later this month.

A final decision from the UK Government on whether this can take place will be made on June 14, however there has been calls from some scientists to delay the opening up there due to the ‘Delta’ variant and growing number of cases in some areas of England.

At today’s Welsh Government briefing, fresh from an electoral mandate on his historic approaches to dealing with the pandemic, First Minister Mark Drakeford said he is “not certain there is a huge thirst for people to give up some of the safeguards that we are all able to contribute.”

He noted however that it could change from being mandated social distancing, to guidance depending on whether the situation in Wales continues to improve.

Asked whether he was able to “give a steer” on whether the Welsh Government would follow UK Government in potentially removing all restrictions on June 21, Mr Drakeford said: “I think that social distancing remains one of the strongest defences that we have against the risks that the virus continues to pose.

“I’ve been very struck by the way in which, as I go around Wales and I’ve been in many different parts of Wales, in many different contexts – people continue to be very careful about the way they behave when other people are around,

“I see people moving off paths to let people go by, I see people making sure that they keep a proper, respectful distance from people.

“I’m not certain myself that there is a huge thirst for people to give up some of the safeguards that we are all able to contribute in the way that we behave in our own lives.

“I think they will remain part of the repertoire, here in Wales during the rest of the summer and maybe into the rest of this year.

“Whether we will be able to move from them being mandatory to just things that we advise people about and ask people to do in their own lives, I think that will depend upon whether we continue to see improvements in the position here in Wales.

“But, as part of a personal repertoire of things that every one of us can do to keep ourselves and others safe, I think it will remain part of people’s response to this public health crisis for as long as coronavirus persists.”

Yesterday the first minister joined the prime minister and the leaders of other devolved nations for a four nation ‘covid recovery’ summit.

Asked whether the prime minister had spoken of England’s plans to exit restrictions on June 21, Mr Drakeford said: “The prime minister was fully engaged in yesterday’s discussions. I thought he was well briefed and that he made regular contributions to the discussion.

“We didn’t talk about the decisions that are for the UK Government to make largely in respect of England, so I’m afraid I have no real insights into whether or not the government for England intends to press ahead with lifting all restrictions on the 21st of June.

“Quite certainly myself where I in that position and looking at the numbers from the Delta variant, I think I might be wanting to wait a bit longer to make sure I had the best possible information about its impact.”

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