Mark Drakeford to confirm whether Welsh Covid restrictions will ease

14 July 2021, 07:28

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford will address the Welsh Parliament on Wednesday afternoon
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford will address the Welsh Parliament on Wednesday afternoon. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

First Minister Mark Drakeford is due to set out on Wednesday whether coronavirus restrictions can be eased in Wales.

Despite the nation's infection rate being the lowest in the UK and its vaccination rates one of the highest, the Welsh Government delayed plans to relax Covid measures last month due to the Delta variant.

Mr Drakeford told the Senedd on Tuesday that the Welsh people favoured a “cautious” approach.

On Wednesday afternoon, he will announce whether the delayed move to Alert Level One can now take place in a statement to his Parliament, as well as outline an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, which will set out a future Alert Level Zero.

Speaking to the Senedd on Tuesday, he said vaccines were "altering the relationship" between people falling ill with Covid-19 and requiring hospital treatment.

"That is why we are still able to contemplate further easements of the current restrictions," Mr Drakeford told members.

Read more: London to keep face masks compulsory on public transport after Sadiq Khan intervention

Read more: Fury as MPs approve compulsory Covid vaccinations for care home staff

But the first minister then said the link between people requiring hospital treatment and Covid-19 infection was "only part of the story", citing issues such as new variants, long Covid and high numbers of people having to self-isolate.

"None of us should ignore the risks that are caused when you have large numbers of people falling ill every day in the community,” he said.

Mr Drakeford added: "We need to go on being concerned at the scale at which the Delta variant is taking hold in Wales and the hundreds and hundreds of people who are falling ill as a result.”

On Tuesday there were 69 people in Welsh hospitals with Covid – more than three times the figure less than a month ago – and Mr Drakeford said the number of people falling seriously unwell because of the Delta variant was "growing nearly every day".

"That's why when the Cabinet considers the possibilities we have in Wales, we are going to proceed in the way that we have throughout the pandemic - namely very carefully, considering the evidence that we have, and taking a phased approach," he added.

Read more: Minister says some businesses will use vaccine passports for 'comfort' of customers

Read more: Covid-19 hospital admissions in England reach highest level in four months

The first minister told the Senedd that people in Wales had been prepared to play their part in a collective manner throughout the pandemic.

He described how the Welsh Government had received letters asking ministers not to leave the "sensible precautions" that the country had been following, while others were "deeply anxious" about the rules being lifted.

"The mood of Welsh people is not a mood of thirsting for some spurious freedom day," Mr Drakeford said.

"It remains a cautious approach in which people want each one of us to go on playing our part."