Coronavirus: Wales lockdown 'could stay even if lifted elsewhere'

Mark Drakeford at today's press conference

The coronavirus lockdown could stay in Wales even if it was lifted elsewhere in the UK, the first minster has said.

Mark Drakeford said different geographic approaches would be "fraught with difficulties" but he would "do things differently" if it was right for Wales.

He said ministers were looking forward "cautiously and carefully" to a post-lockdown world.

This would only happen after a series of tests were satisfied, he added.

Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, Mr Drakeford said there would be "difficulties of enforcement" and "difficulties of getting people to understand what it is", if approaches varied across the UK.

"If you've got one simple message that applies everywhere in the United Kingdom, even where circumstances are not identical, that really helps people to understand what is being asked of them.

"So, I will be reluctant to move to a geographical set of distinctions because I think they'd bring complexity with them.

"But if the evidence was, and if the advice from the medical experts, was that we needed to do things differently and that was right for Wales, then of course that is what we would."

With restrictions continuing for three weeks, Mr Drakeford said ministers were working to strengthen NHS provision and look at ways restrictions could end.

The lockdown would "ease and, eventually, end", he said, implying a gradual lifting of restrictions, although there would need to be a series of tests first.

These would include whether the change would continue to protect public health, whether the risk of further infection was low and how the change could be policed.

New admissions to hospital peaked at 196 on 7 April, he said, with the daily figure dropping to 105 on Thursday.

The numbers needing critical care for Covid-19 hit 161 on 9 April, he added, but that figure had "stabilised below that figure every day since".

'Public health surveillance'

The next three weeks would also see "public health surveillance" improved, so new localised outbreaks of Covid-19 could be dealt with quickly, he said.

Mr Drakeford added: "Over the last three [weeks] we have continued to ask a great deal of the people of Wales, but by acting together we making that difference.

"And as we look to the next three weeks we are looking to the moment when the lockdown will begin to ease and eventually to end."

Image source, Carers UK
Image caption,
Heléna Herklots said "time is of the essence" for clarity on what is happening in care homes

Mr Drakeford also responded to comments from Older People's Commissioner for Wales Heléna Herklots.

She called for a greater "sense of urgency" with testing of both residents and staff, and with the provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for staff.

Mr Drakeford said there were "two deliveries every week" of PPE to local authorities and care homes in their area, with "more tests" in the sector.

"We recognise the astonishing job they [staff] are doing and the bravery that often involves," he said.

Mr Drakeford also said the Welsh Government was "looking carefully" at whether it might be possible to give social care workers "financial recognition" of their work during the coronavirus pandemic.

He said money "maybe" one of the ways in which carers' contribution could be recognised.

Image source, Getty Images

Responding to another question, the first minister said there was no "clinical advice" for people in Wales to wear facemasks, but the guidance was kept "under very careful review".

Mr Drakeford met leaders of the other UK nations during a COBRA meeting on Thursday, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab taking the helm.

When asked, the first minister said it was not for him to comment on the "internal workings of the UK government".

However, he said the prime minister's absence while recovering from coronavirus may be "causing some additional obstacles to them reaching decisions".