Welsh Conservatives call for scientific advice behind ‘hugely damaging’ Covid restrictions to be published
The Welsh Conservatives have renewed calls for scientific advice behind the latest Covid restrictions in Wales to be published.
New rules were introduced by the Welsh Government from Sunday morning (December 26) in response to a rise in cases of the Omicron variant.
It included limits on social gatherings and the return of two-metre social distancing, with only groups of six or less now able to meet in pubs, cinemas and restaurants.
Wales tightened restrictions alongside Scotland and Northern Ireland but the decision has been criticised by Conservatives in the Senedd after the UK Government chose not to impose any new rules in England.
Opposition leader Andrew RT Davies said the sports and hospitality industries had been particularly impacted at what is usually one of their busiest times of year.
He has today written to First Minister Mark Drakeford to ask for the scientific advice behind the decision to be made public.
In his letter, Mr RT Davies said: “I write in relation to the Labour Welsh Government’s ongoing failure to publish the scientific advice that has seen Wales have the toughest COVID restrictions in the UK.
“Coronavirus is a fast-moving situation and I understand the difficulties facing ministers of all stripes across the UK with a challenging and uncertain public health picture.
“However, at the heart of democracy and decision-making is transparency. Therefore, I believe it’s fundamental that all evidence and advice behind the Welsh Government’s recent decisions is published.
“As you’ll be aware, minutes and papers from the UK’s Sage Group, whose advice informs the governments in all four parts of the UK, have already been published from their meeting of December 23.
“Yet the specific advice of the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) informing your recent decisions has not been published.”
According to Mr RT Davies, the most recent TAC papers which have been published are from its meeting on December 10.
Meanwhile, the most recent lockdown review advice from the nation’s chief scientific adviser was for the COVID review on November 11, some six weeks earlier.
He said: “The introduction of restrictions on businesses – some of which are losing out on custom during their busiest time of year – is hugely damaging, particularly for those in the sports and hospitality sectors.
“It should be supported by evidence which is then directly published and provided to the public.
“I understand the government’s concern over the transmissibility of the Omicron variant and the pressure that could place on highly valued workforces from public services such as the NHS to supply chains.
“It’s therefore vital that there is full transparency when it comes to the data and advice being used to underpin such decisions and impact on current services.”
Announcing the new restrictions earlier this month, the Welsh Government issued strong guidance and urged people to stay safe over Christmas in the face of a “gathering storm” around the Omicron variant.
The changes have resulted in the closure of nightclubs and reintroduction of a two-metre social distancing rule in offices to try to combat the incoming wave of the new variant.
The rules include a requirement to work from home wherever possible, while businesses have also had to put in extra measures to protect customers and staff, such as one-way systems and physical barriers.
Businesses in Wales impacted can apply for emergency financial support from the government.
Economy Minister Vaughan Gething recently announced details of a £120m fund available for retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses and their supply chains.