Wales' 17-day firebreak lockdown 'did succeed' in reducing Covid rates, First Minister says

20 November 2020, 10:49

Mark Drakeford said that the evidence was "now good enough to say that the firebreak period did succeed"
Mark Drakeford said that the evidence was "now good enough to say that the firebreak period did succeed". Picture: PA

By Megan White

Wales' 17-day firebreak lockdown "did succeed" in bringing coronavirus rates down across the nation, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

The Welsh Labour leader said that the evidence was "now good enough" to say the lockdown, from October 23 to November 9, had worked.

The decision to impose the circuit break was criticised by UK Government ministers before Boris Johnson announced England's own month-long lockdown, which is due to end on December 2.

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It comes as Northern Ireland announced its own firebreak-style lockdown, due to start next week.

On Friday, Mr Drakeford said: "We've had 10 consecutive days of numbers coming down in Wales, positivity rates coming down in Wales, we're beginning to see that feed into a slowdown in the number of people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus.

"So we think that firebreak period has succeeded. The question is whether it has succeeded enough, and whether people in Wales are now behaving in ways that allow us to capitalise on the ground we've gained, rather than seeing it frittered away."

Asked about the reproduction number, or R value, for Covid-19 in Wales, Mr Drakeford said: "Sage estimate that a week ago, the rate was somewhere between 0.9 and 1.2, so possibly already below 1 and since then we've had seven further consecutive days of numbers falling here in Wales.

"Our aim was to get it down to about 0.8, we'll know in another week whether we succeeded in that but on the whole it's looking promising."

He also said that the number of new cases in Merthyr Tydfil, one of the worst affected areas before the firebreak, had fallen from 760 per 100,000 to below 260.

Wales' first mass testing pilot for the virus will launch in the South Wales town on Saturday with more sites due to open through Merthyr Tydfil County Borough throughout November.

Mr Drakeford said discussions with UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove and the other first ministers of the devolved administrations was planned for next week on a UK-wide approach to Christmas restrictions.

He said: "We agreed some broad parameters on Wednesday and remitted officials of all four administrations to work now on the detail, so I remain hopeful that it will be possible to reach a four-nation approach to Christmas.

"I certainly think that is the right thing to do - if it is achievable - and certainly Wales will be at the table next week looking to find an agreement."

Mr Drakeford said an agreement on permitting travel across the UK during the Christmas season was "top of the list of things to agree", even if a wider agreement was not possible.

"I really do hope we can have a common approach to travel," he added.

"It is very important for people in Wales, so many families here will have families in England and elsewhere and will be hoping to have visits from family members who live outside Wales. On travel, I am more hopeful than I was even on other aspects of our discussion."