No imminent lockdown in Wales, says First Minister

The First Minister has said there are 'no imminent plans' to introduce lockdowns in Welsh towns and cities as part of attempts to slow the spread of coronavirus.

On Thursday morning the prime minister shut down reports of a lockdown in London after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, took the decision to close forty tube stations. He said it was due to the ''lack of demand.''

But, speaking at the fifth Welsh Government press briefing so far this week, Mark Drakeford said the plans remain as previously announced. However he echoed the Prime Minister by saying that 'nothing can be ruled out' in tackling the pandemic.

The First Minister also outlined details of new emergency powers that the Welsh Government will gain as a result of the UK Government's Coronavirus Emergency Bill which is being published today.

Those powers would enable Welsh ministers to:

  • Detain a person, force them to remain in quarantine or take certain precautions
  • Prohibit mass gatherings
  • Close schools or directing them to remain open
  • Redeploy teachers
  • Change the ratio of pupils to teachers required in classes
  • Ease the rules on criminal (DBS) checks - not to remove them altogether but to allow a DBS check from one organisation to be used at another.
  • Provide indemnity cover for health workers
Testing is currently only available to frontline health workers. Credit: PA

The First Minister said most of the emergency measures were aimed at providing flexibility as services try to get back to normal after the outbreak's peak.

He also said there'd be no intention to use 'the most draconian' measures immediately but rather that they'd be in place as a last resort.

The bill is expected to pass through parliament by Monday and receive Royal Assent by the end of the month. The First Minister said AMs would be given chance to scrutinise it.

A number of MPs have already expressed disquiet at the provisions and the fact that the powers are due to remain available to ministers for two years.

Mr Gething has been self-isolating after his son showed potential symptoms. Credit: Welsh Government/Twitter

Mark Drakeford confirmed that the Health Minister Vaughan Gething had tested negative for coronavirus and was returning to work.

Mr Gething has been self-isolating after his son showed potential symptoms.

The First Minister defended the decision to test the minister despite testing only being available currently to frontline health workers. He said that Vaughan Gething was a person taking major decisions on the efforts to slow the spread of the virus and also played an important part in UK Government Cobra meetings.

One thing Mark Drakeford ruled out clearly and absolutely was the formation of a wartime-style government of national unity. There has already been cross-party working and he's been in regular touch with opposition leaders.

But when I asked him if that cooperation should go further he said that while he was glad to work with opposition leaders it would be a mistake to spend his time reorganising government, sacking some people and appointing others when urgent decisions need to be made.

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