Statement by First Minister

TITLE Coronavirus (COVID-2019)
DATE 24 March 2020
BY Mark Drakeford AM, First Minister

Llywydd, a week ago I answered questions in the Senedd about coronavirus.

In the course of the last seven days, the scientific advice is clear – the pace of the spread of the virus has accelerated considerably across the United Kingdom.

As I stand here today – in a noticeably changed Senedd – I am sad to report there have been 16 deaths of people of people diagnosed with coronavirus in Wales and more than 400 cases confirmed – these figures are rising every day and will continue to rise over the days and weeks to come.

This is a virus, which is easily transmissible and against which we have little natural protection. For most people, coronavirus will be a mild illness but, as we know, and as these figures show, some groups of people are more at risk of developing a serious and even fatal illness if they are exposed.

The demand on our NHS services is already significant and could become overwhelming.

That is why we are all being asked to take a series of unprecedented steps to change the way we live our lives because that is the best chance we have to slow the spread of the virus.

And slowing the speed allows us to protect our NHS and to save lives.

Throughout this period, COBRA has met regularly and has taken advice from the four UK chief medical officers and from the Scientific Group for Emergencies.

As that advice has evolved, we have progressively tightened the measures we need to take.

Since the Senedd last met, we have closed schools, closed down pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants.

Yesterday, the Welsh Government took measures to close down caravan parks, campsites, tourist hotspots and beauty spots to reinforce the guidance about people not gathering in large numbers and keeping their distance.

We also announced the strict enforcement by local authorities of the closure of pubs and bars with the risk of licensees losing their licences if caught flouting the ban.

A few hours later COBRA met again to consider even stricter measures.

As you will have seen from the statements, which I, the Prime Minister and the First Ministers of Scotland and Northern Ireland issued, what was previously advice is now a requirement.

For the next three weeks at least, all high street shops and community spaces will be closed. But food shops, local NHS services, pharmacies, banks and post offices and petrol stations will continue to be open.

All gatherings of more than two people in public will not be allowed.

We must stay at home, leaving only for strictly limited reasons:

Shopping for basic necessities, for example food and medicine, but these trips must be as in frequent as possible.

One form of exercise a day, for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household.

Any medical need or to provide care or to help a vulnerable person.

Travelling to and from work, but only where this absolutely cannot be done from home.

These are extraordinary measures but they are necessary to reduce the spread of coronavirus and allow the NHS to save lives.

As we all follow these new rules, they will reduce our day-today contact with other people and the speed and transmission of coronavirus. These are rules for everybody – nobody is an exception.

All our lives are changed, including the way in which this Senedd will work.

The measures I have outlined here, came into force at midnight last night and will last for three weeks, when they will be reviewed.

Llywydd, the UK Government will provide the police with powers to enforce these measures. Of course, I hope we do not reach that point.

Responding to this pandemic is the work of the entire government. Last night the Education Minister provided additional guidance to parents and schools in light of these new requirements.

The Economy Minister has set out advice for businesses and the Environment Minister is having daily talks with the food and farming industry. The whole Cabinet is focused on the public health emergency in front of us.

Today Ministers would have provided statements about the work they are undertaking – we will ensure these are available to Members and the public.

The way the Welsh Government is able to work so closely with local government, with the trade unions, with the voluntary sector and with employers and businesses is fundamental to the way we are responding to this pandemic.

Llywydd, I want to close by thanking everyone for their help and support as we face this public health emergency together.

This is a worrying time for families in communities throughout Wales and I know there will be many, many questions, especially following last night’s announcement. We will try our best to respond to them all.

We have asked a great deal of the public; of our health and social care staff; of our public services; of our army of volunteers; of our small businesses – you have responded magnificently.

Thank you all. Diolch o galon i chi gyd.

 

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