LISTEN: Drakeford considering ‘circuit break’ lockdown for Wales

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Mark Drakeford has declared that the Welsh government is considering a ‘circuit break’ lockdown for the devolved nation in an effort to suppress the rising number of coronavirus cases.

In a Times Radio interview this evening, the First Minister told listeners that the Labour administration in Wales is “very actively thinking” about whether such restrictions should be imposed.

Drakeford’s comments follow the call from Keir Starmer this evening for England to be placed in a circuit-breaker lockdown for two to three weeks, after reports emerged that ministers ignored expert advice to implement such a measure.

The Welsh Labour leader said today: “Keir is obviously right to say that SAGE [the scientific advisory group for emergencies] has been proposing a circuit breaker as a way of turning back the tide of the virus for some weeks.

“We’re very actively thinking here in Wales as to whether or not we should deploy such a short, sharp intervention that would help us to give us a better chance later in the winter to deal with the rise of the virus here in Wales.

“There are some very practical things that we’ve all got to think about. What would the circuit breaker measures be? How long would it need to last? What would the impact be on schools?

“What will be the prospectus for people coming out of a short period of that sort? And we are working hard at that detail here in the Welsh government this afternoon.”

Downing Street earlier today rejected a request from the First Minister to restrict people travelling to Wales from Covid hotspots in England. The spokesperson said: “There are no physical borders between Wales and England.”

Drakeford initially wrote to Boris Johnson last month asking that he put the restrictions in place following increasing concerns that people holidaying in Wales could bring the virus to rural areas.

The Welsh Labour leader told the BBC on Monday evening that he was offering Johnson “one final opportunity” to stop travel from high-prevalence areas before he uses the powers available to him.

But the UK government has not put travel restrictions into law and is instead relying on people to follow guidance, with the Prime Minister’s spokesperson this afternoon saying only: “People from high risk areas shouldn’t be leaving those areas.”

Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething had already explained earlier today that the proposal was not about “shutting Wales from England” and stressed that it would apply to prevent travel from “any part of the UK with high prevalence areas”.

The First Minister explained this evening: “There’ll be nobody posted on the border, there’ll be no physical barriers of any sort. There will be a powerful message to people: they’re not to come into Wales to low incidence areas.”

But he added: “I need a rule in the regulations. And then we can properly enforce it. And I am a bit baffled as to why the Prime Minister is prepared to rely on guidance that can’t be enforced, when he could simply put it in regulations as we have in Wales, and then the enforcement of it becomes straightforward.”

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