Critical workers to get free childcare for three months, First Minister announces

The First Minister has announced three months of free childcare for all critical workers with children under the age of five.

Mark Drakeford made the announcement at the Welsh Government's daily coronavirus briefing.

Under new plans, councils will be able to use funding from the Welsh Government’s Childcare Offer to support registered childcare providers to care for pre-school-aged children of critical workers.

Children who are considered vulnerable will also be included in the scheme.

Mark Drakeford called for an urgent Cobra meeting to decide what happens next. Credit: PA Images

The First Minister also called for an urgent Cobra meeting to review the lockdown measures and to "make a decision about what happens next".

Mr Drakeford said: "As we reach this two-week point it is very important, I believe, that Cobra now meets again to review the regulations as we are required to do, and to make a decision about what happens next.

"It's important that the four governments of the UK come together to consider the evidence and to decide the best way forward together."

The First Minister also told the press conference he believes the lockdown should continue beyond three weeks.

He said: "I think the lockdown will need to continue beyond Easter Tuesday. That's when the three weeks formally comes to an end.

"Everything I've seen so far suggests to me it would be foolish to throw away the enormous effort everyone has made by simply removing the constraints we've been living under at that point.

"We will look at the scientific and medical evidence. But everything suggests to me a further period of restraint will be necessary."

Figures released by Public Health Wales show there have been a total of 166 coronavirus-related deaths in Wales since the outbreak happened.

There are now 3,197 cases in total, although Public Health Wales said the true number of cases is ''likely to be higher.'' More than 14,000 tests have taken place since the outbreak.

Last week, Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government is sourcing spaces for temporary morgues as the current capacity "will not be sufficient" to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

On the issue of personal protective equipment for NHS staff, Mr Drakeford on Monday said hundreds of companies have answered Welsh Government calls to supply personal protective equipment.

He said the Welsh Government has provided more than five million pieces to healthcare workers.

It follows new guidance on when PPE should be used by frontline staff, outlining that it should now be worn when treating suspected, as well as confirmed, coronavirus cases.

Many health and social care staff have expressed concerns about the availability of protective equipment.

Coronavirus: Everything you need to know