It's decision day for a circuit-breaker lockdown in Wales

A covid warning sign on the M4 in South Wales Credit: PA, Ben Birchall

The First Minister will announce later whether or not Wales will face a short nationwide lockdown known as a 'circuit breaker' or 'fire break' to try to halt the second wave of coronavirus.

Mark Drakeford and his ministers have held what have been described as 'intense' meetings all weekend and will meet again to make a final decision. He is expected to announce that decision at the Welsh Government's press conference at 12.15pm.

However, he has been criticised for causing anxiety by allowing a "drip-feed of information" to spread over the last few days - and of "breath-taking arrogance" for briefing possible scenarios to stakeholders before Senedd members.

The Conservatives are calling for an emergency session of the Welsh Parliament to be held today while Plaid Cymru want an urgent debate and vote on any new restrictions.

Credit: PA

The Welsh Government responded to the criticism by insisting that no decisions had been made but that it had discussed options with "stakeholders and partners."

One scenario involving a 16-day lockdown came to light over the weekend in a letter from a transport lobbying group to its members which was obtained by the Bubble.Wales political blog.

The letter from the Confederation of Passenger Transport's Wales Director John Pockett claimed a circuit-breaker lockdown could begin from 6pm on Friday 23 October and last until Monday 9th November.

John Pockett admits in his letter that details are still to be confirmed by the Welsh Government but conversations he has had with officials suggest that Wales will return to a Spring-style lockdown with all but essential shops closed.

A spokesperson for CPT explained that Mr Pockett intended to help their members, which include bus and coach operators, to prepare.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said at the weekend, “We are actively considering advice from SAGE and our TAC Group. A ‘fire break’ set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the SAGE papers, is under consideration in Wales.

“As the First Minister set out in his press conference on Friday, we have discussed this advice with stakeholders and partners. But no decisions have been made.”

Credit: PA

I understand that discussions continued in a series of "intense" meetings between ministers and medical and scientific advisers over the weekend culminating in a rare Sunday evening meeting of the cabinet. The cabinet is meeting again this morning to make a final decision.

Plaid Cymru said it "regrettably" backed the idea of nationwide measures but criticised what it said was a "delay in making the decision and communicating it to the people and businesses of Wales."

The party's Chief Whip Siân Gwenllian said the "drip feed of information" over the weekend had caused "anxiety."  

“Once the government has set out its plans," she said, "the Senedd must have an opportunity to debate and vote on those plans which is why we will be asking the Llywydd and the Business Committee to make time for an emergency debate. An amendable motion needs to be tabled on the government’s plans for a fire breaker at the first opportunity in the Senedd next week.”

The Senedd must have an opportunity to debate and vote on those plans which is why we will be asking the Llywydd and the Business Committee to make time for an emergency debate.

Siân Gwenllian MS, Plaid Cymru

The Conservatives have written to the Presiding officer demanding that the Senedd be recalled for an urgent session on Monday.

Their health spokesperson, Andrew RT Davies, accused the First Minister of showing "disrespect" to the Welsh parliament.

“He chose to bypass the Welsh Parliament and Members not of his party, and first brief outside organisations about it. It shows incredible disrespect to the institution of the Welsh Parliament, the voters, and it demonstrates the downright and breath-taking arrogance we have come to expect from the First Minister and the Labour Party."