The new blockade regulations in Wales will be announced by Prime Minister Mark Drakeford today, but the extension of the two-week “fire protection” is ruled out.
Following the announcement that the four-week blockade would take effect in England on Thursday, November 5, questions were asked whether the Welsh restrictions would be extended. But the Welsh government has not confirmed that the fire protection will end as planned on November 9.
And later today, Monday, Mr Drakeford will announce a new set of national measures that will take effect next week.
The Prime Minister will say that the new measures – details of which are not yet clear – will only work if everyone in Wales changes their behavior.
He will say: “We must do everything possible to reduce our exposure to the virus by reducing the contacts we have with other people – at home; at work and when we go out.
“We have to do the minimum – not the maximum that the rules allow.”
Discussions continue throughout the Welsh Government weekend to finalize the new guidelines, and an announcement is expected at a press conference to be held at 12.15 p.m.
Speaking last week, Mr Drakeford said: “The fire season will end on 9 November.
“When the fire protection is over coronavirus he will still be here with us, and even if a small minority behaves as if this is not the case, then the risk is that the firefighting period will fail and all the hard work of everyone else will be in vain.
“That’s why the cabinet is meeting this week and has decided not to return to the network of local restrictions we had earlier in the fall.”
Mr Drakeford added: “Instead, we will introduce a simpler set of national rules that are easier for everyone to understand to help us be safe and keep the virus under control.
“We have worked hard this week to create this new set of measures that we can all live with this winter and that will provide maximum protection along with the greatest possible freedom.
“This is a difficult balancing action, as the virus thrives on contact between people, especially indoors.”
Ministers in Wales were also scheduled to meet yesterday to discuss any border issues that could arise from the new national blockade in England, which will run until 2 December.
Earlier, Mr Drakeford wrote on Twitter: “Any message will be about England. The Welsh fire will end on Monday, November 9. Our cabinet will meet tomorrow to discuss any potential border issues for Wales in the light of each communication by № 10. ”
There was some confusion over the status of the lock after Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer suggested that Mr Drakeford was considering extending Welsh restrictions.
Speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr’s show on Sunday morning, Sir Keir said that “ideally, he would like to see a ‘four-state approach’ to tackling the pandemic.
“What Mark Drakeford wants is better communication with the prime minister to negotiate a way forward.
“I’m sure he would be ready for that if the prime minister called him this afternoon.”
However, a spokesman for the Welsh Labor later clarified that the party leader was not talking about extending the fire protection.
“Keir Starmer spoke of Mark Drakeford’s repeated calls for a ‘regular, reliable rhythm’ of intergovernmental communications to allow for better planning in the UK,” he said.
“Mark has made it clear that the fire protection will end on November 9. He was also found to want a four-state approach, but warned that there was currently “a vacancy in the heart of the UK government”.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething also rejected the extension.
Speaking to Times Radio, he said: “We were adamant that we were acting at this time, we were working to put an end to the fire once and for all. We will see the benefits of this after the fire is over.”
But he did not rule out a future lock, saying: “None of us can know exactly where we will be in six weeks, let alone three months.
“It would be foolish and just not fair to tell the public that we can rule out measures at some point in the future.”
Sir Kier also praised Mark Drakeford for his approach to locking.
He added: “Mark studied science and took a holiday in Wales,” he said.
“He started early with his decision.
“The only thing we’ve learned about the coronavirus is when you have to act, you have to do it quickly and decisively, and the sooner the better.
“Mark Drakeford and Welsh Labor started early, so the rate of infection and mortality was lower in Wales when they came to the conclusion, that’s the turning point.”
- The Argus will report live from the first minister’s press conference at 12.15 today.