Mark Drakeford has spoken about Wales’ current Covid crisis and what will happen for the country in the future
More than 80% of adults in Wales need to be vaccinated to stop transmission rates rising
After the Covid conference on Friday, the First Minister has spoken out about the current coronavirus situation in Wales and what needs to happen for the country to safely return back to normal.
Mark Drakeford has stressed that more than 80% of Welsh adult residents must be vaccinated, or infected, in order to stop the rising transmission rate of the Delta variant.
He said the restrictions and vaccinations current balance will be likely to remain “for the foreseeable future”.
The Delta variant has surpassed the Kent variant in Wales which spread across the country last winter, which caused Wales to head into another lockdown. Public Health Wales’ figures reveal 2,236,901 people have had their first dose of the Covid vaccine in Wales, whilst 1,509,144 people have had their second dose; this shows that 59.82% of people are now fully vaccinated.
The First Minister, speaking to BBC Politics Wales, said: “It leaves Wales not relying wholly and exclusively on vaccination as the only thing we can do to prevent coronavirus from overwhelming the health service again.”
He continued by saying: “The social distancing, the mask-wearing, the hand-washing, all those things are a defence against coronavirus, as is vaccination.”
“First of all, we press ahead with the vaccination programme to try to get as close to that 80% figure as we can. The more we push the vaccination numbers up, we hope, the fewer other restrictions we will need. And for the time being, it’s going to be a balance between the two things.”
During the talk on Friday, Drakeford announced he would be pausing all major relaxations for the next four weeks, amid concern of the rising Delta variant and the start of the third Covid wave in Wales.
Public Health Wales’ recent published figures show the latest infection rate (on Sunday afternoon) is 25.1 cases per 100,000 population (based on data between June 8th and June 14th) which is up from 23.6 on Friday.
The First Minister also added that the key factor to easing restrictions: “will be the extent to which vaccination has altered the relationship between falling ill on the one hand and needing to be in a hospital bed on the other.”
“The bulk of people who are falling ill have not been vaccinated but there are still significant numbers of people who’ve had a first vaccine and smaller numbers of people who’ve been vaccinated twice.”
Speaking to WalesOnline, Mark Drakeford did comment on how he still doesn’t believe future lockdowns will be needed for Wales despite setting out a “sobering” roadmap should the rates continue to rise.
In a question posed by WalesOnline, asking: “Is it fair to assume that some restrictions will be in place till next year? If so, which ones do you expect to still be in place next year? Will it simply be social distancing and mask wearing?”, Drakeford responded with saying: “Well I hope that by next year, if things go as well as I would like them to go, then mandatory restrictions might be at a very low ebb indeed. This does not mean that we will not still be advising people in Wales that if you are in a crowded indoor place that wearing a mask would be a good idea to protect yourself and others, and that keeping a sensible distance from other people will also be a way you can protect people from the virus because the virus will still be here.”
“It is whether we have suppressed it to a sufficient extent through vaccination that we are able to stop making these rules mandatory and able to rely on people’s good sense to keep themselves safe.”
The First Minister also said: “I think that the level of willingness on the part of people in Wales to do things that keep themselves and other people safe remains at a significantly positive level.”
Discussing the vaccination process within Wales, Mr Drakeford said (the vaccine process): “remains to be completed by the end of September.”
“It becomes even more important that people stick to the appointment they have been offered and come forward when they have been asked to come forward. In that way we will get to that target by the end of September and possibly even a bit quicker than that.”
He further expressed his thoughts about how and when Wales can expect to go back to full normality: “If we can have it at the level that we have seen in the last few weeks, where we have had around 20 people in a hospital bed with confirmed coronavirus, then that is manageable – the health service can absorb that and do the job of trying to catch up up-do with the delays and helping people who need emergency care.”
“The health service is able to cope with flu, measles and chickenpox. All those things are endemic and we manage them every year. People still die from measles but we don’t close down society because of that because it is suppressed to an extent that the health service is able to absorb it and deal with it.”