Coronavirus fourth wave is 'baked into things' and restrictions likely to last this year, First Minister says

Mr Drakeford indicated he did not see any return soon to scenes like these and that restrictions would continue throughout 2021 Credit: PA Images

A fourth coronavirus wave is "baked into things now" and there will be some degree of restrictions throughout 2021, the First Minister has said.

In an interview with the i newspaper, Mark Drakeford said he felt Prime Minister Boris Johnson's ambition to ease all restrictions by 21 June was "fanciful" and that people would continue to have to mix very carefully into the summer and beyond.

"I think coronavirus is with us for the rest of this year," he said.

"A fourth wave is baked into things now – it’s how we deal with that and have a fourth wave that is as suppressed as we can make it so that we don’t have to take the sort of drastic action we’ve had to in the last 12 months.

"But that does mean that things like social distancing, hand washing and respect in the way we deal with other people, thinking carefully about the number of people we mix with – I think that’s with us for the whole of this calendar year."

Mr Drakeford added that the vaccination rollout would help to limit future efforts to contain coronavirus, but that it alone would not provide a panacea.

Over a million people in Wales have now been vaccinated although Mr Drakeford stressed vaccines alone would not be a "get-out-of-jail card" Credit: PA Images

Responding to the First Minister's comments Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said he saw "no reason" why there could not be a return to a level of normality in the summer.

He said, "With the great success of the vaccination programme we’re now in a position to provide people in Wales with some hope and a path forward.

"If we continue on the current trajectory in relation to the vaccine rollout and low case numbers there’s no reason a good level of normality can’t return this summer.

"Sadly, Labour ministers are distracted from delivering on people’s priorities and more interested in playing political games than delivering a roadmap out of lockdown for families, workers and businesses in Wales."

Announcing a roadmap out of lockdown for England recently, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he felt all restrictions could ease in summer Credit: PA Images

Public Health Wales data published on Thursday revealed 1,034,141 people have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.

Almost a quarter of a million people - 221,902 - have been given a two-dose course.

On Wednesday homeless people and those living in temporary accommodation were added to vaccination priority group six, meaning they will soon begin being vaccinated.

Under the plans, vaccines will be taken to those eligible as opposed to having often vulnerable people having to travel to vaccination centres.

Visions of the future have markedly differed between the Welsh and Westminster administrations.

In England, Boris Johnson recently published a roadmap for his plans to navigate out of lockdown and said the country was "on a one way road to freedom".

His ambitions include potentially reopening all aspects of society by June 21, outdoor hospitality opening as early as April 12 and international travel possibly resuming from May 17.

Planes were grounded at Cardiff Airport for much of 2020 and into this year Credit: PA Images

However, that view is not shared amongst the Welsh Government.

Last week, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he could not realistically see a return to international travel, live music or sporting events with crowds.

Mr Johnson's future planning was based on optimism as opposed to data, the Health Minister added.

On Monday Professor Chris Whitty, the UK Government's chief scientific advisor, said recent modelling suggested there could be a further 30,000 coronavirus-related deaths across the UK as restrictions are lifted.

Mr Drakeford is expected to lay out more plans for easing some restrictions on 12 March.

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