Covid
Welsh Regulation sign Ceredigion. Source: Cwmcafit (via Wikimedia Commons)
Health and Social Care

We Need To Rethink Our COVID Strategy

At 6pm this evening, Wales plunges into its second national lockdown.

Fire-break, circuit-break, Labour ministers can dress it up whichever way they like, but for the next fortnight, Welsh economy and society is under lockdown, writes Andrew RT Davies MS, Shadow Minister for Health, Social Services and Sport.

We have not been convinced by the Welsh Labour Government that a nationwide lockdown is either proportionate or necessary.

On Tuesday, Public Health Wales finally published the localised data we have been demanding from the health minister for a few weeks, and sadly that did little to satisfy our concerns.

The maps demonstrate the Welsh Labour Government could and should adopt a far more targeted approach tackling this virus. For ease, I provide a snapshot of the data:

  • In the Vale of Glamorgan, the highest incidence rate was in the Ogmore-by-Sea and Llandow area where there had been 9 cases over the past 7 days.
  • In Pembrokeshire, the worst-hit area was Pembroke Dock with 10 cases over a seven day period. Vast parts of the county were in the lowest incidence decile.
  • The majority of Powys was in the lower incidence deciles. Newtown North the highest incidence area with 9 cases in the 7 day period.
  • Only two areas out of 10 in Ceredigion were not in the lowest decile range.
  • In Gwynedd, seven areas were in the lowest decile. The major hotspot areas were around the university in Bangor.

Regrettably, we have seen a recent rise in cases elsewhere in Wales, with some significant and troubling COVID-outbreaks in Welsh hospitals, which are now spiralling out of control.

In the interests of balance, ministers could argue that targeted intervention is required in problematic host-spots such as in Cardiff, particularly in the densely populated student areas of Gabalfa and Cathays.

However, in vast swathes of Wales, a lockdown simply does not stack up. From a public health or economic perspective, it makes no sense to shut down large areas of Wales where incidence rates are currently low.

This will be a huge blow for businesses in counties such as the Vale of Glamorgan, Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion, particularly when they are desperately struggling to recover from the first dose of lockdown.

It will also have an enormous impact on the mental health of a nation which is coming under increasing pressure and strain, both at home and in the workplace.

Many are at breaking point and will not be reassured by the staggering nature of Welsh Government ministers already contemplating a third dose of lockdown medicine before we’ve even been administered the second!

It really is time for a rethink in COVID strategy in the corridors of Cathays Park. Last week, Welsh Conservatives outlined our plan to tackle coronavirus this winter.

This involved the immediate resumption of a compassionate shielding process with a winter protection plan that includes a number of financial, leisure and emotional supportive measures. Such measures for those shielding would include:

  • New food box scheme for the 130,000 on the shielding list.
  • Urgent financial package of support for those ‘shielding’ who are unable to work.
  • Work with retailers to introduce a dedicated two-hour supermarket shopping slot for the elderly and those at risk.
  • Secure priority service from energy suppliers similar to the previous agreements with supermarket retailers
  • A ‘physical and mental well-being guarantee’ ensuring people can leave their homes for regular exercise, mirrored with a commitment that the ‘bubble’ and the extended household rule will be maintained.
  • Deliver leisure and entertainment measures such as socially distanced age-controlled cinema shows.

We would also prioritise testing in the problem areas – hospitals, care homes, food processing factories and universities – protect the at-risk occupations with PPE and double-down with a strong ‘hands, face and space’ public information campaign.

But whilst we question the path ministers are currently taking, it’s only right that we remain open-minded about the need for stricter measures in due course, if the evidence dictates.

And as ever – even for those of us who argue this is not proportionate – it is important for the public to understand this is now the law of the land and it must be adhered to across Wales.

Regrettably, we were once again unable to raise these concerns and question the Labour despots in-person in the Welsh Parliament this week as the socialists continue to evade scrutiny at all costs, choosing instead to run the country by media like some tin-pot dictatorship.

Wales can and should be better, but we are once again being let down by the socialist commissars in Cardiff Bay.

If only it wasn’t so serious.

Andrew RT Davies MS is the Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central and Shadow Minister for Health, Social Services and Sport for the Welsh Conservatives.