Wales’s First Minister has published his Government’s framework for lifting the country out of lockdown.
Mark Drakeford said stay-at-home measures will be relaxed through a three-phase “traffic light” system, but he warned in the short-term some restrictions on movement will in fact be tightened.
Seven key questions will need to be answered before restrictions can be eased, the proposal says, while evidence of a decrease in hospital admissions and enough personal protective equipment (PPE) being available for front-line workers would also have to be considered.
The proposal came as Wales recorded its highest number of coronavirus deaths in a single day, with a further 110 fatalities confirmed on Friday bringing the total number to 751.
But the increase – compared to 17 additional deaths reported on Thursday – included 84 retrospectively confirmed deaths which occurred between March 27 and April 22 in the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board area of north Wales.
Mr Drakeford denied his Government’s plan means Wales is moving away from an all-UK approach to ending the lockdown.
He told the Welsh Government’s daily press briefing on Friday: “I remain committed to a four-nation approach. And I think Scotland publishing their framework yesterday, Wales publishing our framework today, is a contribution to crafting that UK approach.
“By sharing with one another our thinking, being open with one another about the issues that we think will matter in different parts of the UK, I think that will help us craft a way forward in which we all understand what one another are doing, and we come to a common set of ideas and a common timetable for going about them.
“Publishing our framework, for me, is part of strengthening a UK-wide approach, certainly not undermining it.”
In the framework document, Mr Drakeford states that while his preference is to retain a common approach, his government “will take the right decisions in the interests of the people of Wales”.
While the lifting of restrictions would be on the basis of “the best scientific data and analysis”, Mr Drakeford told the press conference: “The buck stops with the people who are democratically elected in Wales to take those decisions”.
Please see the published framework here 👇https://t.co/yq0OQjRl8G
— Welsh Government (@WelshGovernment) April 24, 2020
The seven key questions set out in the Welsh Government’s proposal are:
– Would easing a restriction have a negative effect on containing the virus?
– Does a particular measure pose a low risk of further infection?
– How can it be monitored and enforced?
– Can it be reversed quickly if it creates unintended consequences?
– Does it have a positive economic benefit?
– Does it have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing?
– Does it have a positive impact on equality?
Factors which also need to be considered include evidence of a sustained decrease in Covid-19 hospital admissions for at least 14 days, and evidence the health system could cope with the expected increase in demand for at least 14 days if the virus spreads widely again.
Also to be considered are assurances there is enough PPE available for all front-line workers, and “robust” international evidence of the impact of lifting the restrictions has on the spread of the virus.
Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales on Friday the lockdown could be left in a “traffic light” system, with the red phase seeing only a controlled lifting of restrictions, and an amber phase seeing even more restrictions lifted.
If the virus was not continuing to spread widely, the country could then move to a green phase, with only a few restrictions still in place.
(2/2) *The new figure for total deaths reported today includes 84 retrospective deaths which occurred between 20.03.2020 and 22.04.2020 in one health board. The sudden increase in numbers is due to a delay in the reporting process.
— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) April 24, 2020
Mr Drakeford said he hopes Wales can enter the red phase of the plan at the end of the current three-week lockdown.
The Welsh Government also announced it is developing a “Wales-wide programme of surveillance, case identification, and contract tracing” to monitor and track the virus as restrictions are eased.
Some lockdown regulations would be made stricter, including rules which make it clear people cannot remain away from the place they live, seen as a way to clamp down on the use of second homes and people exercising outside the areas they live in.
Changes will also allow people with particular health conditions or disabilities, including learning disabilities and autism, to exercise more than once a day.
Public Health Wales said on Friday a further 243 people had tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number to 8,601.