Update by First Minister

TITLE Coronavirus (COVID-19)
DATE 03 June 2020
BY Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister


Llywydd, unwaith eto byddaf yn rhoi adroddiad i’r Senedd ar y camau diweddaraf wrth i ni ymateb i’r argyfwng coronafeirws.

Wythnos diwethaf daethom i ddiwedd y trydydd cyfnod o dair wythnos, pryd mae’n rhaid i ni adolygu’r cyfyngiadau sydd mewn lle.

Byddaf yn amlinellu y penderfyniadau a ddaeth i rym ar ddydd Llun, y cyntaf o Fehefin.

Fel o’r blaen, fe wnaethom ystyried y dystiolaeth ddiweddaraf gan SAGE a chyngor Prif Swyddog Meddygol Cymru.

Ar sail y dystiolaeth honno, rydym wedi cymryd camau gofalus tuag at lacio’r cyfnod clo er mwyn galluogi pobl i gwrdd â’i gilydd, mewn amodau lle mae’r risg yn isel.

Er bod y ffigyrau yn mynd i’r cyferiad cywir, dyw hi ddim yn saff eto i ni fynd ymhellach na hynny.

Llywydd, as in previous weeks, I will cover matters not dealt with in the statements, which follow from the Minister for Health and Social Services, the Minister for Education, and the Minister for Housing and Local Government.

In my previous statement on 20 May, I drew the attention to the impact of coronavirus on the Welsh Government’s budget.

The Minister for Finance and Trefnydd has set out the changes in the First Supplementary Budget last week.

This includes £2.4bn to support the coronavirus response, including £750m to fund our NHS and public service response. We have funded more than 55,000 grants to businesses in Wales, at a total cost of £660m. These businesses are also benefitting from rates relief through the £1.4bn package announced in March.

The Welsh Government’s response has gone far beyond the sums provided by the UK Government, but we remain constrained by the rigid Treasury rules that limit our ability to respond to the crisis.  The Finance Minister will continue to press the case for greater flexibility to enable us to direct resources where they are needed most.

The Welsh Government will continue to make new allocations in response to the crisis. Our initial funding of £10m helped more than 800 homeless people into housing since the lockdown began.  I am pleased that Minister for Housing and Local Government has identified a further £20m to help ensure that no-one has to return to the streets.  She will say more this afternoon.

Last week the Minister for Economy and Transport announced funding of £65m to ensure train services continue to operate on the Wales and Borders network. This follows funding of £40m confirmed in March, taking the total support to a maximum of £105m. We will continue to ensure vital public transport links are maintained.

Llywydd, I am pleased that the guidance we published last week on safety in the workplace was endorsed by both the CBI and the TUC. Last week also saw a meeting of the extended Social Partnership Council, attended by representatives of the third sector and Commissioners.

Llywydd, I will turn to the outcome of the three-week review concluded last Thursday 28 May.

The context is that coronavirus continues to present a cruel threat to health in Wales.  Yesterday the ONS reported that, in all settings, up to the 22nd of May, there were 2,122 deaths involving coronavirus in Wales.

The numbers are coming down, with patients in critical care beds reducing week by week, but we remember the loss of each individual life and the need for continued care and caution.

Members will know our coronavirus regulations must be reviewed every 21 days. The test we must apply is whether they are proportionate and necessary to protect public health. In applying this test we must have regard to the advice of the Chief Medical Officer, and we rely also on the latest evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

This is the third review, and I will summarise the process we have followed. First, we draw together a list of the potential options for easing the restrictions, drawn from ideas generated within and beyond the Welsh Government, including the many suggestions we receive from the people across Wales.

That list is reduced, through discussion and examination, to a shortlist of options, which are evaluated in detail against the questions set out in the framework document published in April, including the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act principles. Our aim is to identify measures, which have a positive impact and the least risk to public health. We are always mindful of the harms caused by the restrictions, not just to people’s health but to people’s social and economic wellbeing.

We have held discussions with the other governments in the UK, and the Mayor of London, to share ideas and analysis, to understand each other’s approach and the evidence in each of our jurisdictions.

Coherence does not mean taking an identical approach to lifting – or indeed imposing – restrictions – each government must be accountable for the balance of measures we decide to adopt.

Finally, we have considered the latest evidence about the transmission of the virus, which determines how much headroom there is for any easement without putting at risk the progress achieved so far.

We concluded the conditions allow for some modest adjustments to the restrictions. The very clear advice from both SAGE and the World Health Organisation is to make only one change at a time and to monitor its impact.

We decided to give priority to enabling people to meet others, as separation from family and friends has been so hard for people over the past two months. In doing so, we responded to the clear message from people in Wales that the lack of human contact was the issue that mattered to them the most.

The evidence said the safest way to this was outdoors, where the virus survives for a much shorter length of time than it does indoors.  Accordingly, people can now meet others from one other household, in the open air, in their local areas, if social distancing is maintained.

This will also be possible for people in the shielded group, provided they observe the social distancing – this will be even more essential for them.

We have made some other minor adjustments to enable students to return to FE colleges for the assessments that are essential to complete their courses and to enable weddings to take place when one of the couple is terminally ill.

I have also signalled that non-essential retail businesses, which are able to comply with the physical distancing duty, should start to make preparations over the coming three weeks to reopen after 18 June, if the evidence supports that.

Llywydd, we are already half way through the first week of the next review period. We are starting to consider options for further easement at the end of this period, supported by the contact tracing system which started in earnest on Monday.

We will continue to take cautious steps towards reducing the restrictions, in a collaborative four nations approach, protecting public health and responding to the priorities of the people of Wales.

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