First Minister urges caution and care as firebreak ends in Wales

THE First Minister of Wales used his briefing to urge further caution and care post firebreak and to remember those who have died from Covid-19. Speaking today, Monday (Nov 9) The First Minister of Wales said that he had placed a wreath on Remembrance Sunday for the people of Wales and that he had been thinking of those who had suffered a death from Coronavirus this year. He said that the number of deaths from Covid-19 recorded by Public Health Wales was now 2,000.

The First Minister said that ‘Coronavirus is still with us’ and that a new mutated strain in Denmark had manifested in mink. He thanked everyone for their hard work over the 17-day firebreak and said that the firebreak had provided a window for the Welsh Government to review their approach. He said ‘We simply will not know the impact of the firebreak for a number of weeks,’ but that there were early positive signs.

He encouraged people to do what they can and work from home where possible. In addition the First Minister cautioned that the number of Covid-19 cases were higher than in April.

Speaking about the new national measures the First Minister said that Wales would be cautious and careful as it emerged and that the measures would be reviewed in a fortnight. He stressed that rules and regulations alone would not alter the course of the virus; ‘rather it lies in the hands of each and every one of us,’ he said. “We all need to make changes to our lives and adapt by reducing the number of people we are in contact with,” he added.

The First Minister urged people to stop analysing the rules and regulations and to ask ‘what can I do to keep myself and others safe’.

The First Minister hinted that he would be interested in adopting citywide testing and that he was monitoring the situation in Liverpool, where he said Welsh officials were involved. He said that he had been in talks with Michael Gove and that the topic of conversation was ‘a common approach to Christmas’.

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Speaking about potential local lockdowns, he said that he would not rule out targeting local action should cases flare up in a particular area and said that he was working with local authorities and local health boards.

The First Minister was critical of other political parties who he said had voted against the firebreak but were now calling for an extension of the firebreak. ‘It is a bit rich to hear them say further restrictions are needed,’ he said.

‘Local authorities have strengthened powers and the hospitality industry has a responsibility,’ said the First Minister. He expressed caution when asked about claims from a drug company claiming that they had a 90% effective vaccine. ‘I am not tempted to say that there is a magic bullet on the horizon,’ he said.
Asked about procurement and management of a vaccine the First Minister said that the UK Government would lead but that Wales would have its share based on the Barnett Formula with Welsh Government taking charge of storage and distribution in Wales.

The First Minister said that he was looking forward to the early opening of the Grange Hospital and that there will be 5,000 extra hospital beds with 2,600 in field hospitals across Wales.

The new national measures include:
• People will only be able to meet people who are part of their ‘bubble’ in their own home; only 2 households will be able to form a ‘bubble’. If one person from either household develops symptoms, everyone should immediately self-isolate.
• People will be able to meet in groups of up to 4 people (not including any children aged under 11) in regulated indoor places, such as hospitality – bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants. No alcohol can be served in any of these venues between 10pm and 6am, and where premises have a licence to sell alcohol they will have to close at 10.20pm.
• As part of keeping our risks to a minimum, people should avoid non-essential travel as much as possible. There will be no legal restrictions on travel within Wales for residents, but people can only travel into and out of Wales with a reasonable excuse.
• Up to 15 people can take part in an organised indoors activity (such as an exercise class – where a responsible body is managing the event) and up to 30 in an organised activity outdoors, providing all social distancing, hand hygiene and other covid safety measures are followed.
In addition:
• All childcare facilities, schools, further education colleges, work-based learning and adult learning providers can return to the same model of operation as before the firebreak. Universities can continue to provide a combination of in-person teaching and blended learning.
• Places of worship can resume services.
• All retail businesses can reopen, including close-contact services such as hair dressers/barbers and beauty salons.
• Sport and leisure facilities, including gyms and swimming pools, can reopen, but the operators must take all reasonable measures to manage risk and maintain physical distancing;
• Entertainment venues can reopen. These include cinemas, bowling alleys, skating rinks, museums, galleries, bingo halls, casinos and amusement arcades, but theatres and concert halls, nightclubs and sexual entertainment venues are still required to be closed.
• Local authority services can resume based on local circumstances.
• Home viewings and home moves are allowed.
• Visits to care homes will be permitted, subject to local circumstances.

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