Mark Drakeford expresses ‘hesitation’ over relaxed Christmas restrictions

He said it was ‘better’ to have a common arrangement with the rest of the UK.

Mark Drakeford expresses 'hesitation' over relaxed Christmas restrictions
Mark Drakeford expresses 'hesitation' over relaxed Christmas restrictions

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has spoken of his “hesitation” over agreeing to relaxed coronavirus restrictions at Christmas.

At a Cobra meeting on Tuesday the UK’s four nations agreed that between December 23 and 27 up to three households will be allowed to form a “Christmas bubble”, while travel restrictions will be lifted across the whole of the UK.

Following the meeting, Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency that he had concerns about the effect cross-country travel and household mixing would have on transmissions in Wales but that it was “better” to have a common arrangement with the rest of the UK.

He told PA: “We have to recognise that Christmas is a very important time for people and that you have to have a set of rules that people will be prepared to operate within.

“And the behavioural advice we have from our scientists is that unless we are able to devise a set of common arrangements then people might just make their own rules and that could be even more difficult.

“So while I have hesitation, because of the state of the virus in Wales and across the United Kingdom, it is better that we have a common set of arrangements that give people a framework that they can manage within and act responsibly within as well.”

Mr Drakeford said the public should “think carefully” and “plan ahead” in order to avoid unnecessary contact with others during the relaxed period.

He said: “People should still act responsibly, still think carefully, only travel if you need to, only meet other people where you need to as well, and minimise the risk that this period is bound to add to the circulating virus across the United Kingdom.”

But the rules would allow freedom “to do the things that matter very much to people in seeing people who are their closest relatives and friends, ” he said.

Mr Drakeford also said the Cobra meeting had given him an opportunity to hear what arrangements would be in place in other parts of the UK in the weeks ahead, which would feed into his decision about the potential for tighter restrictions to be adopted in Wales ahead of Christmas.

“There’s a bit more detail that we will learn during the rest of this week and that is helpful,” he said.

“I once again emphasised that a focus just on the five days of Christmas relaxations is only part of the work we need to do together. We need to be sharing information about how we will create headroom across the United Kingdom to go into that period.

“And we need to be talking together about how we will deal together with the inevitable aftermath of more people mixing during that Christmas period.”

Following the announcement, Welsh secretary Simon Hart said: “Christmas is going to be very different for everyone this year, but I am delighted that we have secured agreement right across the UK for families to be able to get together at this special time.

“While this time with loved ones is precious, we know the virus continues to circulate. I urge people to continue to be careful and responsible over the Christmas period to keep themselves and their families safe.”

The leader of the Welsh Conservative group in the Senedd, Paul Davies, said: “I welcome the decision reached by the four UK nations. It shows what can be achieved when governments work together.”

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said: “A compassionate but responsible approach to a limited relaxation of restrictions over the holiday period is sensible. However, it’s crucial we don’t lose the hard-gotten gains of the last few months for the sake of a few days. Flexibility shouldn’t mean a free for all.”

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