First Minister explains why tough Welsh lockdown rules must remain in place

THE country’s First Minister has told the nation the tough lockdown measures must remain in place across Wales to continue suppressing COVID-19.

Addressing the country at a press conference in Cardiff on Friday, Mark Drakeford MS said that headroom was only available for minor tweaks to the national lockdown that has been in force since December.

Mr Drakeford said that, whilst the situation in Wales is starting to improve, the tough alert level four rules must continue to be in place for another three weeks to allow the NHS to recover from the latest COVID-19 wave.

He added that pushing the restrictions out too soon would be like “letting the coronavirus genie out of the bottle” and having a third wave of the virus sweep Wales.

He said: “We need to stay and work from home a while longer. This will give us the time we need to reduce to even lower levels as the vaccination programme continues to be rolled out to more people in the top priority groups.

“There are 1,300 people so ill in Wales that they need hospital treatment. There is a similar number in hospital recovering from coronavirus. All this means that, despite progress, it’s too early to start lifting restrictions.

“The Welsh Government’s strategy for lifting restrictions will always be careful, gradual and always with public health safety at the forefront of our thinking.

“The risk of lifting restrictions further would be everything we’ve achieved over the last six weeks would be undermined and a case of letting the coronavirus genie out of the bottle.”

In his update, the Labour leader of Wales revealed several other things about the devolved Government’s latest plans – including schools, vaccination efforts and what limited changes people will be permitted to do from Saturday.

He admitted that, should more headroom become available, his top priority was getting as many pupils from across the education spectrum back into the physical classroom.

This comes after he announced primary school children could begin a phased return to school from February 22 after the half term break.

On the border, where pupils potentially cross between England and Wales for school, Mr Drakeford confirmed that, whilst the differences can be confusing, rules for individual schools will follow the country they are in.

For example, if you attend a school in Wales but live in England, the chances are it could open after half term.

However, if you are living in Wales but travel over the border for classes in England, then schools in the country won’t be opening their doors beyond vulnerable and key worker provision until March, it was confirmed.

Travelling for education purposes is permitted under the alert level four guidance.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno