Drakeford describes pathway to reopening society by the spring

Talks are being held about lifting some lockdown restrictions in Wales by Easter.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has been talking about the “pathway to opening society” by the spring as cases in Wales continue to fall, and the vaccination programme hits the first target.

People in Wales have been living with Level 4 restrictions since December 20, and the next review is due to be held next Friday (February 19).

Speaking to BBC Breakfast on Friday (February 12), Mr Drakeford said that discussions were being held with tourism and hospitality leaders in Wales about the possibility of opening up around Easter, which is on the first weekend in April this year.

He said: “Here in Wales, numbers of people infected with coronavirus continue to go down. If that can be sustained over the weeks to come, then we can see a pathway into the spring in which we will be able to restore freedoms to people that they have had to go without in this second wave.

“But that is a very big if, because there are so many unknowns. There are new variants that are happening in different parts of the world that could make difference here in the United Kingdom.

“But, with vaccination and numbers falling, provided we re-open society carefully and cautiously, and don’t allow the virus to get away from us again, we can see path into the spring that we can see ourselves going back to doing some of the things we are all missing so much.”

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He was then asked what he meant by the spring, and said: “We have got Easter at the beginning of April this year, and it is always an important time for our tourism and hospitality industries.

“We have been talking with them about what might be possible around the Easter period. But it is all very much caveated that the current progress that is being made can continue and it is lifted in a careful and cautious way.

“Easter is amongst the dates we are using in our conversations with businesses and people in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford also said that talks continued to be held about the return to schools for the youngest children in Wales on February 22. He is due to give the latest coronavirus briefing at 12.15pm on Friday. Follow live updates from the briefing here.

He said everything that can be done to safeguard staff and children “is being done”.

There was also optimism about the vaccination programme after Wales became the first UK nation to hit the target of vaccinating the top four priority groups by this weekend.

The Wales vaccination programme in numbers

The numbers vaccinated by Friday, February 12:

  • 13,988 care home residents have been reported to have had their first dose of the vaccine, as well as 33,832 care home staff.
  • 160,106 over-80s have been reported to have had their first dose.

  • 117,181 healthcare workers have been reported to have had their first dose.

  • 248,827 aged 70-79 have been reported to have had their first dose.

Mr Drakeford said that, despite a planned dip in supply over the next two weeks, they were on target to have the next five groups vaccinated by the spring.

The next five groups are:

  1. All those 65 years of age and over
  2. All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality
  3. All those 60 years of age and over
  4. All those 55 years of age and over
  5. All those 50 years of age and over

He said: “We have the confidence that we will complete the vaccination of the next five priority groups by the spring,” he said. “That is what we promised we would do, we remain firmly on track to do that.”

Let us know how you feel about when the lockdown should be lifted:

Speaking about the vaccination programme, health minister Vaughan Gething said: “Every vaccine given to someone in Wales is a small victory against the virus and we are already looking ahead to meeting our next milestone.

“The first milestone in our Vaccination Strategy set out that everyone in first four priority groups will have been offered their first dose appointment by mid-February.

“Not everyone in these groups will have attended their appointment yet, some will not have responded and some will have chosen not to have the vaccine.

“We would ask individuals to keep their appointments as allocated where possible.

“If people cannot attend their appointment for a genuine reason we ask them to let the health board know via the contact details provided in their invitation. The appointment can then be rearranged for a more convenient time or location.

“Once you have been vaccinated, you should continue to follow the guidance of staying at home, staying two metres apart, washing your hands and wearing a face covering to protect those around you.”

WalesOnline – Wales News