Posted: Sat 24th Apr 2021

UK “no longer” in a pandemic says Drakeford but third Covid wave “likely later this year”.

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Saturday, Apr 24th, 2021

Wales’ First Minister has said the United Kingdom is “no longer” in a pandemic, but warned a third wave of coronavirus is “likely later this year”.

During Fridays Welsh government press briefing, Mr Drakeford was asked if he agreed with comments made by the Covid Infection Survey’s chief investigator, that the UK had moved to an “endemic” situation due to the success of the vaccination programme.

He said: “Well by its definition we are no longer at this moment in a pandemic.”

“I continue, as I feel I must just sound a warning sign that this is not a one way street.”

“The fact that things are getting better does not mean that it inevitably goes on getting better.”

“We’ve seen in just in recent weeks, how fast things went from being in a good position to a very difficult position in France in Italy and Germany.

“Of course we are working very hard to make sure that the current progress is not reversed in Wales.”

“But there’s no guarantee that unless we go on doing things carefully cautiously, step by step.”

“And with the help of the whole of the Welsh population, but that is bound to be the position.”

Mr Drakeford said, “If Coronavirus is an endemic condition like flu, we may still need to see for example, a vaccination programme in the autumn of this year to make sure that those who had it at the beginning of the programme get a booster and we take account of new variants, occurring elsewhere in the world.”

He added: “So, an endemic disease is still a disease, and it will still require action by government, by the health service, and each one of us in our own lives, to make sure that that endemic condition doesn’t become one that loses lives.”

The first minister also warned that whilst a third wave of coronavirus is “likely later this year”, the tough lockdown measures that we’ve seen before will probably not need to be reintroduced, despite concerns over new variants and what elsewhere in the world is facing.

Currently in Wales the number of cases are at their lowest levels in months – with an average of 14.7 cases per 100,000.

This has halved since the last three week review when the figure stood at 35 per 100,000.

Coronavirus related pressures on the NHS have also continued to drop, with 287 patients being treated in hospitals compared to 615 three weeks ago.

Wales also has a higher proportion of people vaccinated than other nations of the UK for both first and second doses.

Last night it was announced that sectors such as outdoor hospitality will start to reopen from Monday, with Wales set to have moved fully to alert level three by May.

The latest Technical Advisory Cell scientific advice summary warns that there will be a spike in cases later in the year as restrictions start to ease and the number of social contacts people have start to increase.

Recent modelling by SPI-M and Swansea University suggest a third wave is highly likely, although the timing, scale and shape of this wave is not certain. Overall modelled scenarios suggest it is likely cases, hospitalisations and deaths will increase in the second half of 2021 as restrictions are eased, although at a reduced level to previous waves.

The main issues that could cause a significant resurgence of covid harms are widespread transmission of a vaccine escape and/or immune escape variant; a breakdown in social distancing behaviour; or to a lesser extent, a change in vaccine supply or significant drop in vaccine uptake. – TAC

During Friday’s coronavirus briefing, First Minister Mark Drakeford was asked what the current modelling shows for a potential third spike in infections and what this would mean for members of the public.

Mr Drakeford said that whilst modelling suggests a third wave is likely to happen, it is not expected to be “of the same magnitude as the waves we saw over the winter and back in the spring of last year.”

He said: “Provided we go on doing things in the way that we have in Wales – not opening too many things in one go, not doing things too quickly, pausing to make sure that we review the impact of the things that we do.

“If you build all of that into the model, the model at the moment says there will be a third wave.”

“But with the advantage of vaccination, which we didn’t have back in the winter or back last year, the impact of such a wave should not be such that we would require the blunt instrument of lockdown to deal with it, its impact on the health service would be manageable.”

“The bigs ifs in that are ones I’ve just said, that we continue to do things in a measured way and that as a population we continue to do the things in our own lives that help to keep one or the other safe.”

“If we can do that, then the chances of a third wave being manageable in a very different way to the last two will certainly increase.”

The first minister was also questioned on mask wearing and whether there would be any prospect of removing the requirement later on in the year.

Mask wearing has been mandatory in all enclosed public spaces – such as shops and public transport – since September.

Mr Drakeford said that it was “very difficult to anticipate right through to the end of this year” and that the UK Government currently has a group looking into issues of social distancing and other measures currently in place.

He said: “It maybe that there will be some easement of that over the months ahead.

“But I’m afraid that we’re going to be living with coronavirus for a very long time and I think people are going to want to go on taking those simple steps, which helped to keep themselves and others safe.

“I don’t think it’s sensible for me to try and peer into the looking glass right to the end of this year.

“If things continue to improve as it has in Wales, we may be able to mitigate some other measures that we are all taking.

“I think that the population in Wales which has stuck so carefully to the rules and done so much to protect one another, they will want to go on playing their part, rather than thinking that we can act as though coronavirus has gone away because it won’t have done.”

Pressed on whether the requirement for masks could be removed by the summer, the First Minister added: “We will continue to get advice from our chief medical officer about the point at which mask wearing in crowded public places, or public places where people have to spend a considerable period of time, the right moment at which that could be raised.”

“At the moment the advice is that it should remain part of the repertoire of things that we all do to protect one another.”

“It isn’t for me to, to second guess what the chief medical officer will say. What I can say is that I know that he keeps this issue under very careful review.”

“As things get better, if there is a possibility that it is no longer a required part of the repertoire, then he will give me that advice.

“I can’t just pluck a date I think out of the air without having that advice in front of me.”

You can view the full briefing from earlier today:


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