Covid: New restrictions 'likely' in Wales, health minister says

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Samantha Haynes

By Samantha Haynes

Published: 12/12/2021

- 17:47

Eluned Morgan says Welsh Government will 'act proportionately', after the First Minister announces Covid reviews will take place weekly due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant

New restrictions are “likely” to be introduced in Wales as the country faces an impending “tsunami” from the Omicron variant, the health minister has said.

Eluned Morgan said the Welsh Government wanted “to act proportionately” as there were only around 15 cases of the new strain but that was likely to “change very quickly in a very short space of time”.

In last Friday’s three-week review, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced reviews would now take place weekly due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant.

“We’ve got over 500 cases per 100,000 which means that Delta is still alive and well within our communities,” Ms Morgan told the BBC Politics Wales programme.

“At the same time as we’re facing this likely tsunami that is going to hit us fairly soon.”

Ms Morgan said the Welsh Government wanted to “act proportionately” and would not impose new measures “unless they are necessary”.

“I think if we’re honest, that is likely to change in the next few weeks. But we are still learning about this new variant,” she said.

The minister said “no decisions” had been made yet on what future restrictions could look like.

“The last thing we want to do is to impose the kind of restrictions that we saw last Christmas unless we absolutely have to,” she said.

“We know that last Christmas was really disappointing for so many people. That’s not where we want to be, but we will always act in the best interests of the people of Wales.”

She told the programme it was “very commendable” that health boards had been urging people not to attend Christmas parties due to the pressure on NHS services but the Welsh Government was not yet echoing that advice – urging people to take lateral flow tests before going out.

“I think there will come a point where that may be likely to happen,” she said.

Future restrictions would be measured against the health, social and economic impact but Ms Morgan said it would be “much more difficult” if there was no furlough scheme.

She also urged people to get their booster jab as two doses of the vaccine “simply won’t cut it” with the Omicron variant.

“We’re ramping up the programme as quickly as we possibly can and we’ve got an army of helpers to roll it out,” she said.

“I would appeal to the Welsh public to step forward when they’re called. We cannot afford to wait, the wave is coming towards us and it’s coming towards us at a very, very fast rate.”

The Welsh Conservatives urged the Welsh Government to “ramp up” the booster campaign.

Shadow health minister Russell George said: “The latest data shows boosters are a strong wall of defence against the new variant and the delivery of jabs must be the priority so we can protect people and public services.

“Welsh Conservatives have been demanding walk-in centres for months to improve take-up rates as we know vaccinations are the key to a society living with coronavirus and free from restrictions.

“These are beginning to materialise, but again we need to see more urgency.

“It’s important that ministers get evidence to justify any restrictions rather than use the absence of evidence, such as on vaccine passports, to make decisions.”

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