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First Minister hits back at Boris Johnson’s ‘paralysed government’

THE First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford MS fired a number of shots over the bow of the good ship Downing Street today at his latest press conference.

When asked why Wales was continuing with restrictions when England wasn’t, what was the justification and if was it political posturing? The First Minister said: “Well, I would put the question in exactly the opposite way. The outlier here is not Wales. Wales is taking action as is Scotland, as is Northern Ireland and as are countries right across Europe. Right across the Globe. The one country that stands out as not taking action to protect its population is England. So the question is not why is Wales not following what is going on in England. The real question is:

Why is England such a global outlier in the way in which governments elsewhere are attempting to protect their populations from Coronavirus?

He continued” “The political contrast between Wales and England is this: Here in Wales, we have a government that is capable of acting and determined to act when that is necessary to protect our population and in England, we have a government that is politically paralysed where the Prime minister is unable to secure an agreement through his cabinet to take the actions that his advisors have been telling him 0ught to have been taken. And even if he could get his cabinet to agree them, he can’t get his MPs to agree them either.”

The First Minister attacked Boris Johnson again when asked about critical remarks the Prime Minister made about the rules/restrictions in Wales. The First Minister said: “I am quite sure that the Prime Minister is not familiar with the detail of the rule book here in Wales and he was just making a political point in a political context and I don’t think we should attach very much weight to that. What I am more concerned of is the enduring evidence that the people in Wales continue to do all the things we asked of them to play their part in supporting the efforts of the Welsh Government and our public services are making to help us all to deal with the impact of this latest wave of Coronavirus and

I place more reliance on the view of Welsh people about what goes on in Wales than I do of some relatively distant commentator

The First Minister presented two slides which gave an overview of the next three months in Wales, which showed a steep rise in cases between January and March.

He said the Welsh Government were reviewing the position weekly and that any change of rules would be made as soon as it was safe to do so.

He attacked the UK Government again when asked about a figure required before imposing tougher measures. He said: “We don’t have a figure in mind before we contemplate tougher measures. We do not have the financial fire power to do the things required. For that you need a UK Government prepared to act on behalf of the UK. Despite repeated efforts to persuade them to act in that responsible way we have not received the answer we were entitled to expect.”

The First Minister said that he had huge sympathy for people who work in hospitality and other sectors. We put £120million of Welsh government money on the table for January to February,” he said.

We asked the First Minister about Boris Johnson has calling out anti-vax campaigners and social media conspiracy theorists calling it mumbo jumbo and asked what measures were being taken to reach those to encourage those who have not or will not get vaccinated and if those measures were working?

The First Minister replied: “I think we have succeeded in Wales in persuading the vast bulk of our population to take advantage of the protection that the vaccination offers them. The very latest figures I’ve seen today is that if you look at people aged 60 and over, then over 90% of those people, well over 90% of those people have completed the first and second doses of the vaccination, and we’re well over 80% of people in those groups having had the booster as well.

Speaking about the positives The First Minister said: “One of the slightly encouraging side aspects of the booster campaign in the month of December is that we saw larger numbers of people coming forward for their first vaccine, or the people who’d had their first but not had their second coming forward for that as well. And in the figures that we published today, nearly a thousand people yesterday came forward for their first dose of vaccination and 3500 people came forward for their second dose. So, we are still gaining ground through the programme of persuasion and demonstrating to people that the vaccination is safe, that vaccination is effective. And while we’re still gaining ground in that way, frustrating as it is for people who have done everything that they can to see some people not playing their part, I think on this issue I agree with the Prime Minister that doing it on voluntary means is better than pursuing the course of action that some countries in Europe have which is a lot more hard-line.”

We pointed out that the First Minister was on record as saying that there are some estimates that suggest that, during the coming wave, half of the population of the United Kingdom will fall ill with coronavirus.  We asked if the Welsh Government have a detailed contingency plan to deal with that kind of worse case scenario during the peak of the latest variant, what would the main priority area be for substituting existing staff and where would those extra people come from?

The First Minister said: “Well, I think you’re right. You describe exactly the strategy that will be taken by our public services. So our local authorities for example, I know some of them who are withdrawing people who would work in leisure centres in order to do jobs that are more urgently necessary when people are falling ill because of the Omicron wave and the health service is responding in just that way. There was a question earlier about the fact in one particular health board where maternity services were spread in four different hospitals and they’ve had significant illnesses amongst midwives and other people who work in that field. What they’ve done is to consolidate the service onto smaller number of sights in order to use the staff they have to the best effect and its those sort of practical measures that all our public services have been working on. We of course have been working alongside them. I chaired the resilience forum for Wales myself prior to Christmas in order to ensure we had the best possible information from across our public services including non-devolved services like the police and those practical actions you cover the most urgent things first and if that means you’ve got to pull back on some of the things that are still important but not as urgent that is what we’ll have to do during what I hope will be a short period where the difficulties are at their most intense.”

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