Short national lockdown for Wales 'under consideration' by government

131020 cardiff city centre masks lockdown wales PA
The Welsh Government said it is actively considering a short national lockdown Credit: PA

The Welsh Government is "actively looking" at scientists' advice the UK Government allegedly rejected for an immediate two or three week national lockdown.

It said there is a "growing consensus" a different set of measures and actions are needed to respond to the rising rates of coronavirus during winter.

Newly released documents show the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) told the government that a "circuit breaker" lockdown in England would help slow the spread of coronavirus at a meeting on September 21.

The documents were released shortly after Boris Johnson announced a three-tier system of alert levels in England, which has put Liverpool into a near total lockdown.

The UK government has been accused of ignoring its own scientists' calls for an immediate short lockdown. Credit: PA

It comes after Vaughan Gething announced in Monday's press conference Wales was considering a similar tiered system to England, which indicates how fast the situation is changing.

In a statement, a Welsh Government spokesperson said, "A "fire break" set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the SAGE papers is under consideration in Wales, and will be implemented if we need to."At yesterday's COBR, the First Minister called for an additional four nation's meeting to discuss the circuit-breaker advice from SAGE."

  • Analysis by Political Editor Adrian Masters

I’ve described this stage of pandemic-making as “very big, very scary and very decisive” and today the emphasis is on the decisive with the decision-making of ministers under scrutiny like never before. 

It’s been well-reported that the UK Government’s choices are being analysed and criticised even more than usual and certainly more intensely than at any previous stage in this crisis. Boris Johnson is facing tough questions from his own backbench MPs as well as opponents. 

He and his ministers insist that the mismatch between what scientists advised them in the SAGE meeting of 21st September and the actions taken in England were consistent with listening to that advice and balancing it against other possible harms, primarily harm to the economy.

The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer said in the Commons that “We have tried to give the Prime Minister the benefit of the doubt, but it increasingly feels like the Prime Minister is several steps behind the curve and running to catch up with a virus that he lost control of long ago.”

You might think that criticism is fair or you might not, but could or should he have been saying it about other decision-makers in the UK, namely his fellow Labour politicians here in Wales?

Certainly political opponents seem to be giving Mark Drakeford the benefit of the doubt less and less. From the decision to impose local lockdowns on large parts of Wales to the decision to stay away from the Senedd chamber, the Welsh Government’s decisions are being questioned. 

Welsh ministers also saw that same advice, made similar decisions which ignored some of that advice and while they can and do argue that their measures have long been more cautious and stricter than those taken for England, it remains true that they too did not agree to a “circuit break” or “firebreak” lockdown even though they say it’s now under active consideration. 

Just as Boris Johnson can defend his decisions, so can Mark Drakeford  - that you have to take into account local lockdowns, previously stricter rules and a determination not to treat unfairly the parts of Wales with little coronavirus circulating. 

But it is a political decision and not a straight scientific decision and this from a Welsh Government that has trumpeted the way that it will stick to the science even if it’s politically unpopular. 

So it’s right that Mark Drakeford, Vaughan Gething and other Welsh ministers are questioned as robustly as they challenge decisions by Boris Johnson and Matt Hancock. 

It’s right because of the other part of my description of this moment: “very big and very scary.”

If our political leaders of whichever party get this wrong, we’ll all pay the price.