Easing restrictions at Christmas will lead to Covid-19 spread – Mark Drakeford

Mr Drakeford said any additional freedoms agreed between the UK Government and devolved administrations must be used responsibly.

Mark Drakeford
Mark Drakeford

Plans to allow families across the UK to meet up over Christmas “will lead to more spreading of coronavirus”, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Mr Drakeford said that additional freedoms agreed between the UK Government and the devolved administrations for the festive period would have to be used “responsibly”.

The Welsh Labour leader’s warning came as he told the Welsh Parliament some of the gains achieved by the country’s 17-day firebreak lockdown are “already being reversed”.

At Tuesday’s Questions to the First Minister session, Mr Drakeford said the UK’s four chief medical officers would supply further advice about a potential relaxing of restrictions at a Cobra meeting later in the day.

The four UK nations would look to “fashion a common approach to Christmas”, he said, adding that he was “very hopeful” that progress would be made at the meeting.

Responding to a question from Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price about the impact of easing of measures for Christmas, Mr Drakeford said: “Whatever additional freedom we are able to offer over the Christmas period will have to be used responsibly by people.

“The fact that a relaxation is possible is not an instruction to go and spend the whole of that period doing risky things.

“The leader of Plaid Cymru asked what the impact of any relaxation over Christmas would be, and while I don’t have a quantifiable answer to that at the moment, the general answer is very clear.

“It will lead to more spreading of coronavirus because coronavirus thrives when people get together, and the more people get together, the more coronavirus there will be.”

Mr Drakeford said he had argued at previous Cobra meetings for a focus “not just on a small number of days at Christmas”, but what options were available to the whole of the UK before the period and during its aftermath to try and stop the virus’ spread.

Mr Drakeford later said Boris Johnson would not be at Tuesday afternoon’s meeting.

“Unfortunately, I’m told that the Prime Minister will once again not attend the Cobra meeting this afternoon,” he said.

“You might think that given the significance of the decisions that we are having to take there that the Prime Minister might think that was a conversation in which he would choose to be engaged.”

Mr Drakeford was asked about high incidence rates of coronavirus in the Newport East constituency, to which he warned that levels of transmissions were once again on the rise two weeks after the end of Wales’ lockdown.

“The Newport East constituency, as many areas of Wales, has seen a high incidence of coronavirus infection,” Mr Drakeford told the Senedd.

“A national firebreak was introduced to bring rates of incidence down across Wales. Some of the gains achieved are already being reversed in the post-firebreak period.”

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