Hope on the horizon? What to expect from the First Minister's roadmap out of lockdown

Wales' stay-at-home lockdown will stay in place for at least another three weeks, but what else can we expect from Welsh Government's 'roadmap' out of lockdown? Credit: PA Images

You may not hear the word ‘roadmap’ actually uttered by Mark Drakeford today but that’s pretty much what you can expect to get from him when he announces the latest review into lockdown restrictions in Wales. 

If not a roadmap then it’ll certainly be an indication that there’s light at the end of the tunnel, that we all only have to wait another three weeks before seeing the beginning of a return to freedom, as long as the transmission rate and the number of cases keep falling.

‘A roadmap’ is also what the Prime Minister has said he’ll set out for England on Monday, but when he visited a vaccination centre in Cwmbran on Wednesday, Boris Johnson made it clear that his roadmap will be based on ‘data not dates’ and that any easing he announces will be extremely cautious. 

It makes him sound like Mark Drakeford throughout last year, a shift in position which has earned him the opposition of some of his own backbenchers in Westminster but has cheered those who felt the UK Government in 2020 far too often gave false hope by setting arbitrary target dates or even made the situation worse by easing too quickly. 

It doesn’t mean, however, that Drakeford and Johnson have switched places or that the First Minister will drop his customary caution. He’ll make it clear that lockdown rules in Wales will be lifted slowly and only if the numbers are dropping. 

He’ll also be conscious to learn from his own mistakes and not just those he’s highlighted elsewhere in the UK. He and the Health Minister have acknowledged that Wales left the firebreak period too quickly, a lesson which has been painfully learned. 

Boris Johnson also visited a police station in Bridgend during his trip to Wales earlier this week. Credit: PA Images

Today will also mark the beginning of a new phase that will seem all too familiar from last year: a period of reviews that will excite and disappoint in equal measure, calls for more clarity and more financial help. 

And this phase coincides with a Senedd election here in Wales, local elections in England and a Parliamentary election in Scotland, all of which will be freighted with even more significance than usual.  The vote in Scotland, particularly, could lead to profound change for the United Kingdom itself. 

That means that, while the four governments may be talking more regularly now and while Boris Johnson and Mark Drakeford may now be using the same cautious language and are likely to making similar decisions about similar changes at similar times, I can still foresee differences being emphasised by both sides and criticisms of each other flying back and forth as much as they did last year. 

I guess it’s unavoidable in an election year and may confuse the picture, but that’s for the coming months. 

For now, it’s worth marking the fact that for all of us in all parts of the UK, the beginning is in sight of and end to a lockdown that for many has proven to be the darkest and most difficult of all and the beginning too of a recovery which will be far from easy but a recovery nonetheless. 

Forget the weather; this could be the real first day of spring.