Christmas coronavirus rules will not be agreed for weeks, Vaughan Gething says

By Adam Hale, PA Wales Correspondent
·3-min read

Wales has “quite a long way to go” before finding out what coronavirus rules will be in place for Christmas, Welsh health minister Vaughan Gething has said.

Talks between the four UK nations on a potential joined-up approach to the festive period were ongoing, he said, with an announcement on whether families will be able to meet across borders unlikely to be made in the coming days or weeks.

On Monday, Mr Gething said a recent reduction of Covid-19 cases in Wales following the 17-day firebreak could “easily reverse”, which made making a decision about what Christmas will look like difficult.

He told the Welsh Government’s press briefing in Cardiff: “Whatever happens with Christmas and the festive season this year, it won’t be like normal.

“We’re still discussing issues about where we can get to with other governments across the UK on travel, and we’re still looking at the evidence about what we might be able to do around contact.

“But it does rely on the picture that we’ll see in the developing evidence over the coming weeks, so you shouldn’t expect there to be a definitive statement in the next few days or weeks.

“We have quite a long way to go, actually.”

Mr Gething said festive seasons had already been disrupted for other faiths including Hindus, Sikhs, and Jains celebrating Diwali this weekend.

Latest figures calculated by the PA news agency show rates of new Covid cases have dropped in 19 out of Wales’s 22 local authorities, and only rising in Neath Port Talbot, Pembrokeshire and Torfaen in the last seven days.

The biggest drops were in Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Blaenau Gwent, the country’s worst-hit areas last week.

Merthyr Tydfil has the highest rate in Wales, with 205 new cases recorded in the seven days to November 12 – the equivalent of 339.8 cases per 100,000 people.

This is down from 590.1 cases per 100,000 in the seven days to November 5.

Mr Gething said there were “some early very positive signs” that new cases were beginning to fall across the country.

“This downward trend is continuing. The seven-day incidence rate for Wales is now around 160 cases per 100,000 people – a reduction of 70 from this time last week,” he said.

Wales’s decision to impose the firebreak lockdown, which started on October 23 and ended on November 9, was criticised by UK Government ministers before Boris Johnson announced England’s own month-long lockdown, which is due to end on December 2.

On Monday Public Health Wales said there had been a further 892 cases of coronavirus in Wales, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 67,106.

It also reported another two deaths, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 2,209.