WATCH: Covid restrictions need to “intensify”, says Mark Drakeford

Elliot Chappell

Mark Drakeford has declared that the public health restrictions in place to suppress the transmission of coronavirus need to “continue” and “intensify” amid record-high levels of hospital admissions as a result of people contracting the virus.

Commenting on the situation facing the devolved nation in a BBC News interview this morning, the Welsh Labour leader and First Minister told viewers: “The numbers of people falling ill with coronavirus in Wales are still too high.

“Numbers in some parts of Wales are rising where the new variant has taken hold, and the number of people in our hospitals continues to be beyond the levels that we saw earlier in 2020.

“So, for all those reasons, we need to continue the regime we’ve had here in Wales since before Christmas and where we can to intensify it even further.”

Asked what that means, Drakeford said: “Bringing schools into line with the rest of the lockdown regime. So, schools in Wales will now remain on remote learning until 29th January – the end of the next three-week cycle – at the earliest.

“We are looking at the workplace, with our trade union and other colleagues, to see if there are further safeguards that we can put in place to make sure that workplaces are safe given the fact that the new variant is so much easier to catch…

“And we’re looking at supermarkets and other places where people leave their homes and go to, to make sure that they are organised in a way that keeps their staff and the customers safe.”

The First Minister told viewers this morning that the devolved nation is “not yet in a position” where the government is considering adding curfews to the “repertoire” of interventions to combat the spread of the virus among the population.

He reported that a decision on further coronavirus measures would be made “early next week” after discussion with employers, staff and trade unions.

He also said today that he “strongly supports” new requirements for travellers to England and Scotland to test negative for Covid before entering but reminded those watching this morning that the airport in Wales is currently shut.

“Our airport is closed to passenger traffic,” Drakeford told BBC Breakfast. “And the people who come into the Welsh ports are all coming from the common travel area and these rules don’t apply to people in those circumstances.

“So, at the moment, this doesn’t apply in Wales because nobody is coming into Wales in the way that people are still coming into England and Scotland, but I strongly support what is being done.

“When people start travelling into Wales from other parts of the world, we will expect exactly the same rules to apply.”

The First Minister also said earlier this morning that the Welsh government is unable to give targets for distributing coronavirus vaccines due to the uncertainty over how much will be given to the country by the UK government.

He said: “I don’t think it’s sensible to have a target if you don’t know how much vaccine you’re going to get. We’re not yet in a position beyond the next two weeks after this week to know the supply of vaccine that we will be getting here in Wales.

“When we know how much vaccine we have, then our targets will be to maximise the use of that supply in every part of Wales.”

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