THE First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has hinted at further lifting of restrictions in the weeks ahead.
Beginning the latest and last of his press conferences before the election he used sign language to welcome everyone and thanked the British Sign Language interpreters for their efforts at the press conferences during the pandemic.
Updating the position on vaccination the First Minister said that more than 1.2 million people had already said yes to the vaccine. Almost 40% in their 50s have had their first dose he said.
The following slide demonstrates the great progress Welsh Government are making.
The First Minister said that More than 318,000 people in Wales have completed the full two doses of the vaccine. He said that Wales was now vaccinating more than 1% of the population of Wales every single day. He said that it is a remarkable testament to the people working in the 600 vaccine centres. He said: “We could do even more if we had more vaccine. There has been a four week hold up in shipment of vaccines to the UK from India. We are confident that no appointments for the second dose will be cancelled.”
The First Minister gave reassurances that Wales would be using all three vaccines by April.
On the safety of the Astrazeneca vaccine the First Minister said that the MHRA independent regulator have said that the benefits of the Oxford vaccine in preventing Covid-19 far outweigh any risks and that they had carried out a scientific review of data the results do not suggest the vaccine causes blood clots in veins. Several European countries are restarting their programmes as a result. He said: “MHRA have said that people should come forward when invited and I strongly endorse that advice.”
The First Minister confirmed that here in Wales the Public Health Service in Wales is stable with 44 cases per 100,000 in the population. The positivity rate is at 3.9 percent. The First Minister said that Welsh Government is closely monitoring the situation in Ynys Mon and Merthyr Tydfil where cluster of cases linked to the household and social mixing has driven up rates.
Mr Drakeford said he was concerned over the ‘apparent reluctance’ in some places to engage with contact tracing teams. He said: “That contact is vital. It is the way in which we identify the source of infection and how far it has spread. It becomes more important as we start to relax restrictions. We have to act fast because the Kent variant is the dominant form of the virus in Wales and we know that it spreads very quickly.”
He urged people to watch the rugby at the weekend with members of their own household. He said: “The last thing we want is to mark a potential grand slam weekend would be a legacy of a surge in Coronavirus cases.”
On Monday Welsh Government will lift restrictions on non essential retail and garden centres will open.
On March 27th Welsh Government may lift stay local restrictions and reopen the self contained tourism sector. The First Minister said: We will be looking to see if outdoor areas of historic interest and gardens could open in the light of the most up to date public health information.”
The First Minister then spoke about the marking of the 1st anniversary of the pandemic in Wales, which will be on Tuesday, March 23rd. He said his thoughts were with all of the families who had ‘lost someone they loved to this cruel virus’.
Wales after the pandemic will be different. I want it to be a place where everybody has a future in front of them. Where all our young people have a good education and a job to look forward to. A Wales where no one is held back and no one is left behind. This Pandemic has Laid bare the stubborn and deep rooted inequalities in our society. The Future must also be one in which we do more to address those underlying causes.
The First Minister concluded by saying that Welsh Government would set up a task force to address the inequalities disabled people face. Welsh Government will also publish the race equality action plan setting out aims for a truly anti racist Wales.
We are making changes today for a different fairer future for us all