Health minister committed to Christmas rules despite rising infection rates

The Health minister says he is committed to the rules in place over Christmas despite Wales seeing the highest Covid-19 infection rates in the UK.

Vaughan Gething said it was about ''all of us making choices in how we live our lives,'' despite a five day relaxation of restrictions over Christmas.

Between December 23 and 27 travel restrictions will be lifted across the UK and up to three households will be able to form a Christmas bubble, but he defended the all-nations approach.

''If we tried to have stricter rules around Christmas, we know that many people would ignore them and make up their own rules. Having a set of common rules across the UK should help people manage what they're doing.''

''If we took a different approach there would have been a public reaction.''

Wales currently has the worst coronavirus infection rates in the UK. Credit: PA Images

Wales was the only part of the UK where infection rates did not appear to be falling in the last week of November.

Neath Port Talbot currently has the highest infection case rate in Wales, and on Monday, a doctor said infections in Swansea Bay were heading to 'catastrophic levels'.

Mr Gething urged people to limit interactions over the festive period for a ''better future''.

''The government cannot micromanage every single choice of every single family in the country. Our message is for people to see as few people as you can do. The few contacts, the less the transmission.''

''With a vaccine being delivered now, I hope people can say we can limit the number of people we see just for this Christmas because we know a future will be a better one.''

However, he did not rule out any further restrictions in the new year, which would be announced in advance to allow people to prepare.

On Tuesday, Welsh doctors and care workers were some of the first people in the world to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

Every health board in Wales began administering the vaccine on 8 December - dubbed 'V-Day' - making it one of the first countries to start protecting people against the virus.

It comes less than a week after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency for use in the UK.

Christmas bubbles in Wales can be joined by a single person, single parent or someone with caring responsibilities, the FM announced

Today there is a great deal of hope going around, and rightly so. To have a vaccine for a completely new virus, approved and ready for use in ten months instead of ten years is an historic feat of human endeavour.

Science is spearheading our return to the new normal.

But that new normal is still many months off, and right now doctors are keen to inject some reality, too.

Wales is in a very difficult place with covid Infection rates are higher than any other part of the UK, doctors are worried whether the NHS will cope, and hospitals are already extremely busy and stretched.

Unlike the first wave, the NHS is trying to keep as many routine services going as possible.

But as more covid patients are admitted and more intensive care beds are needed, staff will have to be pulled from routine work to deal with the ever-mounting demand for covid care.

The vaccine news is positive and the Welsh Government hopes it'll be an incentive for people to stick to the rules a little longer before everyone can get a jab, or enough people get it for herd immunity to be a factor.

But walk through the centre of major towns and cities in Wales and you'd be forgiven for thinking there was no pandemic.

I reported from Cardiff Christmas market on Black Friday, where thousands descended on the city to grab a bargain. Social distancing was near impossible - it didn't matter how many signs, one-way arrows or bottles of hand sanitiser you had.

The image of thousands of shoppers on the streets fills NHS staff with dread. So do the daily statistics. They know that in ten to 14 days, the new infections today will be impacting their hospital wards, their ITU beds, their ability to provide safe and effective care.

As one doctor tweeted ahead of getting their first vaccine dose: "Complacency is the real danger here."