Wales’ Health Minister: “If you go into a house with 20 different people, you know damn well that you’re breaking the rules”
Health minister Vaughan Gething has said he expects to see more stringent “enforcement” of coronavirus rules in Wales during the “level 4” lockdown.
Wales entered a third national lockdown at midnight Saturday with festive plans cancelled for all but Christmas Day.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales this morning, he said the Welsh government is relying on people doing the right thing to help stop the spread of the virus.
But said there is a growing amount of “skepticism towards lockdowns.”
The move to bring forward level 4 lockdown restrictions from December 28th comes amidst fears over a new strain of COVID-19.
The new level 4 rules mean people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes.
People cannot mix with anyone they don’t live with, with only single person households allowed to form an exclusive support bubble with one other household.
Plans to relax Christmas rules from the 23rd to the 27th of December allowing two households plus a single person to mix have been reduced to just Christmas Day.
Under the Wales wide level 4 rules, all leisure, close contact services and non-essential retail is closed.
This includes clothes shops, furniture shops and car dealerships among many others.
Cafes, restaurants, pubs and bars are able to open but for takeaway service only.
Vaughan Gething told BBC Radio Wales’ Sunday Supplement: “The new strain of the virus is seeded right across Wales and that’s why we’re taking a national decision.”
He said sample testing has identified the new strain is in every part of Wales “including right across North Wales.”
The health minister said the Welsh government did not want to “hold off acting to protect the whole country and wait for more harm is done in the north.”
“That’s why we’re acting and asking people to take it particularly seriously”
“The moment of time that we’re in, we wouldn’t have interfered again in the Christmas arrangements and put the whole country into level four in the space of a few hours if that were not the case.“
Mr Gething said the move to lockdown the whole of Wales from midnight “was a very hard decision, and there’s no getting away from that.”
He said the government “recognises fully” how that tightening measures over the Christmas period will impact on different people.
“This will have been incredibly disappointing, people will be frustrated and angry” and there will be those “who will not be looking forward to the next few days at all.”
“There isn’t a perfect choice and there isn’t an easy choice, the choice that we have made, I absolutely believe it’s the right one.”
He said there will be a mental health impact as a result of the lockdown decision, “there will be harm to those people who can’t go and complete their Christmas shopping and that has a big impact on how people feel.”
There is evidence this new strain of Covid-19 is “much more infectious …. if we don’t act, then we can be confident we’ll have an even bigger spike in cases.” He said:
Mr Gething said: “We’re already running above the regional worst case scenario in terms of pressure on our NHS.”
“This balance of lives and livelihoods and all the different types of harm, it has swung desively in terms of taking really intrusive and significant action.”
The health minister said there is a risk of the health service in Wales becoming “overwhelmed” after Christmas.
“We know that despite the rules some people will still mix in multiple different households” as a result he said, “we will see a post Christmas spike in cases.” He said.
“There is both at the same time, a growing and unhappiness and growing not as disappointment but anger I think towards people who are flagrant rule breakers.”
“It’s also the case that there is a growing amount of skepticism towards lockdowns.”
“There are more and more people who have different followings who are prepared to say and do different things.”
During the previous two lockdowns in Wales the police approach was to use the “four E’s” – encourage, educate, engage and finally enforce if people continue to flout the rule.
Mr Gething said: “We have had conversations with local authorities and with the police about enforcement.”
“You will see more enforcement take place.”
“In many ways this is difficult for them because it’s easy to enforce against a business and how that businesses is operating, and customers need to play their part.”
“But in people’s homes, It’s very difficult to enforce because if you have three households in your house today, unless you’re making lots of noise, unless someone is spying on you through the day, you can’t really tell that happening.”
“So we’re relying on people doing the right thing.”
“When it comes to house parties and more egregious breaches I do expect enforcement to take place, I do expect people to get fines.”
“If you go into a house with 20 different people, you know damn well that you’re breaking the rules and I think that really should be dealt with in an enforcement first approach.”
“We’re not in a position now where there’s a need to engage and educate why a house party is a bad idea and that’s very clearly the view the government.”
Welsh Government Guidance
Business closures: alert level 4
Making a Christmas bubble with friends and family
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