Welsh First Minister refuses to rule out fourth lockdown as Nigerian Covid variant is detected

19 February 2021, 11:30

By Fiona Jones

First Minister Mark Drakeford has refused to rule out a fourth national lockdown, confirming the Nigerian Covid variant has been found in Wales.

His comments came after announcing that lockdown in Wales will be extended by at least another three weeks in an effort to get its youngest pupils safely back into school from Monday.

He confirmed the Nigerian variant has been detected in Wales, leading him to predict life will not be "back to normal" this year: "Our Chief Medical Officer said to me this week that he believes a third wave of coronavirus is baked into what will happen during this year.

"We're not talking about if there will be a third wave, we're talking about how we can act to make sure that third wave doesn't affect us in the way we've seen over this autumn and winter."

"There's going to be a long goodbye to coronavirus and it's going to be with us for the rest of this calendar year."

"There's going to be a long goodbye to coronavirus and it's going to be with us for the rest of this calendar year."

Despite this conviction he hoped that society would be able to return to normal in some form due to the vaccine rollout.

He told James that he could not guarantee Wales would not need a fourth lockdown: "Every week we are learning new developments in other parts of the world.

"In Wales at the moment the Kent variant is almost everywhere, we have examples of the South African variant in Wales, this week we learnt of a Nigerian variant, of which we've got a small number in Wales.

"There are changes to the Kent variant in Bristol at one end of Wales and in Liverpool at our northern border."

He reiterated nobody can sensibly rule out further restrictions.

The next review of regulations in three weeks' time will also consider reopening non-essential retail and close contact services like hair salons.

Levels of Covid-19 in Wales are now at their lowest since the end of September last year, with the country's seven-day case rate now at 84 per 100,000 people, while one in three adults have received a vaccine.

On Thursday, Public Health Wales said a total of 822,633 first doses of the vaccine had been given, an increase of 15,282 from the previous day, while second doses increased by 6,345 to a total of 19,342.

The agency also said there were a further 290 cases of Covid-19 in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 200,456.

It also reported another 14 deaths, taking the total in the country since the start of the pandemic to 5,189.