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Millions in cash promised in budget but no changes to restrictions from First Minister

THE First Minister of Wales provided words by St. David today, Monday (Mar 1)at his three week review.

He said that St. David told us to ‘do the little things’– ‘be joyful and keep the faith’.

It may be a sobering message to many in Wales who are longing for some form of sign that life can resume again. Sadly there was no mention of changes to the restrictions and we will have to wait another three weeks before the next review.

The First minister began by wishing everyone a Happy St. Davids Day saying it was a day to celebrate Wales beating England and the success of the vaccination programme.

The First Minister said that 100,000 people in Wales have had both doses of vaccine, higher than any other part of the U.K.

He said that the situation continued to improve with 64 cases per 100,000 and the R number below 1. The first Minister paused to remember those who had lost loved ones during the pandemic.

The First Minister said that Wales has launched a concordat (Convention) with the Republic of Ireland, which will focus on energy, economy and cultural projects . He also applauded the sacrifices made by volunteers and workers in social care and the Health Service for keeping Wales going.

Turning to financial matters the First Minister said that there would be an extra £682 mil for the NHS and local authorities to support vaccination, boost testing and track and trace. Part of it would also be for social care, schools, vital public transport and a discretionary assistance fund.

Mr Drakeford said that he would also do things in the opposite of the UK Government on international travel. He said that he would start from the premise that it is not OK to travel unless you are travelling from a country where the virus was under control.

We asked the First Minister if given the statement that getting children back to school is the governments top priority would it not have made sense to vaccinate teachers as the top priority long before children are going to be returning to school. We pointed out that it is a profession whereby adults share the same space with 30+ children and numerous other adults daily. Other professions don’t have those same numbers of contact.

We put it to the First minister that if the answer is that teachers do not need to be vaccinated as a priority why then have the children not been allowed back to school before now.

He replied: “This has been a very hotly debated topic. We asked the JCVI to look at it specifically and they did. Their conclusion is that it would slow down the vaccination of people if we were to do it by professional group. It was one of three approaches they have looked at for the next phase of vaccination. I think governments are sensible to follow the best advice we can .

“The advice we have is doing it in the way the JCVI suggests will get not just teachers but retail workers, taxi drivers, bus drivers, police officers and all those other people who are in close contact with other people as part of their job vaccinated in the quickest and most effective way. That’s the advice. We will stick to it. People will go on I know and quite rightly making a case for doing it differently.”

We then asked the First Minister if he honestly believed that the top priority for the people of Wales is a national forest, banning single use plastics and the eradication of the car in favour of bicycles and public transport? Isn’t the real priority where the next pay packet will come from and how people will be able to put food on the table for their families? Has the First Minister become a Rainbow Warrior to woo the young voters in May?

The First Minister responded:  “I agree with you that jobs, and I was very clear at the weekend that jobs would be at the very top of our list particularly jobs for young people was fundamental to the recovery as is investment in our public services and that absolutely does include as you will see in the budget tomorrow further investment in responding to the needs of those children who don’t have enough money within their families to do things that other people can take for granted.

“That doesn’t mean at all that people in Wales are not interested in other things as well. The climate emergency is absolutely real as well as the Coronavirus emergency. People in Wales are quite rightly looking to the government to make our contribution to tackling a problem, which if we don’t tackle it, Poppy Evans, both of them, will not have the sort of futures that we would like to see for them.

“A national forest as well as being a symbol of fantastic natural beauty of Wales and a tourist attraction, and a place where people will enjoy is part of our climate change approach as well because planting trees as we know is fundamental to dealing with carbon in the future. There was lots in what you said I agree with but what I probably don’t agree with is that people in Wales are not interested in those issues alongside the day in day out things that matter to them as well.”


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