A Follow Up: The Welsh Coronavirus Response – Labour Article
As of 6pm on 8 September, Wales saw the start of its first local lockdown in the Caerphilly county borough. Having previously written about both local lockdowns and the Welsh coronavirus response, not to mention also living in this area, I couldn’t not write about this.
I must admit that this news initially shocked me. Watching the announcement, not even 24 hours before the lockdown was set to ensue, was surprising. But, thinking about it now, I have no doubt that this lockdown is necessary.
In just a seven day period, there were 133 new cases of Covid-19 in the area. This was a significantly dramatic increase for an area that had been doing seemingly well. Back in June, this same area (Aneurin Bevan Health Board area), was reporting very few cases. They had had a vast improvement compared to the months prior. Clearly something’s gone wrong since then.
Health Minister Vaughan Gething linked the rise in cases to “people socialising indoors” with limited social distance and “holiday travel abroad”. Subtle implications seem to place a lot of blame on the younger generation. In reality, no one generation is to blame. From a plane from Zante rife with coronavirus cases landing in Cardiff just a couple of weeks ago, to crowded local supermarkets with no masks in sight, everything has been pointing towards a local lockdown.
Having previously praised the Welsh response to coronavirus, I have to follow up. While they have acted fairly quickly in Caerphilly, it doesn’t compare to the effectiveness of their response up until now. There are plenty of problems with the restrictions, or the lack of restrictions on some level.
One of the main restrictions, and arguably the most important in containing the virus, is that nobody can enter or leave the area without a “reasonable excuse”. Sounds fair, right? But what is a reasonable excuse? Although there is some guidance on this, it seems awfully vague to me.
Secondly, pubs and restaurants are allowed to remain open. And this hasn’t gone without its fair share of criticism from the citizens of Caerphilly. A quick twitter search makes this very clear. And I get it.
Vaughan Gething defended this decision on Twitter, saying that “the act of transmission… isn’t [in] pubs” – a statement that is demanding more criticism. There is little evidence to suggest that Covid-19 hasn’t been transmitted in these environments. I would argue it is the opposite that can be proved.
Call me a sceptic, but it just doesn’t make sense to me. How is it logical that I can go to the pub and sit a few metres away from people I don’t know, yet I can’t visit my grandparents who were part of my extended household just a few days ago? So there’s certainly a few problems that need ironing out by the Welsh government.
But what about local lockdowns in general? I previously questioned the success likelihood of local lockdowns, given the lack of evidence for success in areas with smaller populations (like the UK), and the freedom and reliance we have on travelling beyond particular areas. To an extent, I still stand by this statement.
For ease of public understanding, and to form a sense of unity, it would be much more sensical to implement stricter rules nation-wide. It is baffling to me that people in the neighbouring counties of Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen are still able to travel without restriction, and can meet with a greater number of people both indoors and outdoors. I can get to these places within ten minutes. And it works both ways; people travel in and out of these county boroughs every day. Without wishing a rise in cases on these particular areas, I do wonder how long it will be until they too see a spike in cases.
So, moving forward, there is a lot for the Welsh government to consider – not just regarding local lockdowns either.
It was only last week (11 September) that Drakeford got on board with a compulsory face-covering mandate in all shops and indoor spaces across Wales. This change, coming into force on Monday, is perhaps a little later than preferred. But at least the Welsh government has finally caught on. Not only will this move to protect people’s health, but it will also remove any falsities that coronavirus has disappeared. Living in Caerphilly, I can safely say this pandemic is far from over.
In the last few days, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taff have too seen the imposition of stricter restrictions to avoid an all-out lockdown. But, I won’t be surprised if the Welsh government imposes more local lockdowns in the next few weeks. And rightly so. While I have criticised certain aspects of these, I do believe they are necessary to control the virus.
Ultimately, the Welsh government needs to do better if we stand a chance at eradicating this deadly virus. They cannot let their previously pragmatic and proactive response wain.
Written by Co-Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo
Point of Information
Local lockdowns are necessary but restrictions need to be country-wide – A Conservative Response
I would like to thank Abi for highlighting an extremely poignant issue with the coronavirus response, which Boris Johnson must improve on. He has done a brilliant job thus far with the measures that have been put in place. However, there must be further centralisation of messages. Devolution has meant that local regions have been able to implement local lockdowns such as in Leicester. But there has been mass confusion surrounding messages from the government when it comes to national lockdowns.
As Abi has stated, Mark Drakeford has only made face masks compulsory to wear in all shops and indoor shops in Wales as of 11 September. Boris Johnson should have made this policy compulsory UK-wide when it was introduced from 24 July. There has been too much confusion surrounding the coronavirus response.
In agreement with Abi, restrictions and messages must be the same UK-wide. But, situations are different regionally so Boris Johnson must have an overarching executive message but let regions implement lockdown measures locally when necessary.
Written by Conservative Guest Writer, Max Jablonowski
Confusion in Caerphilly – A Liberal Response
I was very interested to see what Abi’s response to the measures taken by the Welsh government after both she and I praised their initial response in a previous article. I have to say, though, that whereas Abi and I agreed before, our views on the latest events differ somewhat.
Abi is right to say that the response to coronavirus from the Welsh government has been muddled. As we have seen with the Prime Minister’s recent announcement, it is almost impossible to have a clear policy that covers everything. However, the measures taken in Wales need to be much clearer.
As Abi mentions, what is a ‘reasonable excuse’? Will anyone be allowed in and out of Caerphilly county? A good friend of mine is from Caerphilly. When he heard the news of the lockdown, he had to pack his car and drive down to Exeter before the lockdown got put in place; he very nearly got caught out. As much as a local lockdown is an appropriate way to deal with the increase in cases in the area, the Welsh government’s handling of it has been far from what it needed to be.
Furthermore, I find it baffling that pubs and restaurants are staying open. Whilst limits have been put on gatherings, the pubs remaining open means that the virus can continue to spread in the area.
I also believe that Drakeford only making face-coverings compulsory in shops and indoor spaces last week is ridiculous. Whilst there is some debate to be had still about their effectiveness, face masks have proven to lower the risk of transmission.
As difficult a position that the Welsh government, and any government at the moment, are in, I hate to say that they already have let their good response to coronavirus wain.
Written by Senior Liberal writer, Fergus Harris