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No ‘expert advice’ that underpins Boris Johnson’s plan to ease all restrictions

ECONOMY MINISTER Vaughan Gething has said the Welsh government hasn’t seen any “expert advice” that underpins Boris Johnson’s plan to ease all Covid restrictions in England

The Prime Minister made a surprise announcement that self-isolation rules and all remaining restrictions in England could end early this month.

Wales will gradually begin to relax some of its remaining coronavirus protections as cases continue to fall, the Welsh government has announced today.

Latest Covid infection survey figures published by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) are showing a fall in Covid infections in Wales.

Following the latest three week review into Covid restrictions in Wales, Ministers have agreed that from 18 February the legal requirement to show a Covid Pass to enter certain venues and events will be lifted.

From Monday 28 February, the requirement to wear face coverings will be removed from most indoor public places, apart from in retail, public transport and health and care settings.

If the public health conditions continue to improve, the legal requirement to wear face coverings in all remaining settings could be lifted by the end of March.

In a move widely seen as political rather than based on science, Boris Johnson announced that the legal requirement to self-isolate following positive test will be lifted “within weeks in England.”

Wales has not made any similar announcement around ending self-isolation.

Speaking to Sky News this morning, Vaughan Gething said: “We’ve taken advice from our scientific advisors and our chief medical officer.”

“They agree this careful and gradual approach to easing restrictions is now the right and proportionate thing to do.”

He said, “The Covid Pass domestically will go next Friday and face coverings will only remain in place for retail, public transport and health and care settings from the 28th of February.”

“We’ll look at the rest of our public protection measures in our next review in early March.”

Mr Gething said: “We’ve always got to be prepared to look at the evidence and then to make choices that accord with the evidence and the expert public health advice that we get.”

“We took a different path recently to England, for example, having some protective measures of the turn of the year.”

“And actually we had a lower level of Covid infections as a result, despite our very high case rates.”

He said: “We’ll be publishing a summary of our chief medical loss advice so people know that these are properly considered choices.”

“We’re not playing fast and loose with public health or indeed, the future of the economy.”

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson said he anticipated the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test will be lifted within weeks in England – a month earlier than initially planned.

The Prime Minister also announced that he will set out his roadmap for ‘living with Covid’, including both domestic and travel restrictions, when Parliament returns on February 21.

Mr Johnson told MPs: ‘It is my intention to return on the first day after the half-term recess to present our strategy for living with Covid.

“Provided the current encouraging trends in the data continue, it is my expectation that we will be able to end the last domestic restrictions – including the legal requirement to self-isolate if you test positive – a full month early.”

Mr Gething said he was “surprised at both the timing and the nature of what the Prime Minister said.

“Earlier points in the pandemic when significant changes have been made, there has been a conversation between health ministers across UK.

“A conversation between chief medical officers across the UK and there’s been advice from Sage the scientific expert committee

“None of those things happened before the Prime Minister made his surprise announcement immediately before Prime Minister’s questions.”

He said: “So if there is expert public health advice that underpins the announcement made by the Prime Minister, I haven’t seen it and the public hadn’t seen it.”

“Crucially, there hasn’t been a conversation between the chief medical officers across the UK to try to come to some form of consensus around why this could be the right thing to do.”

The latest figures from the ONS infection survey show that “England saw a slight rise in case rates, Covid infections are higher in England and in Wales as we speak.” Said Mr Gething.

“So it is quite surprising because isolating when you’re infectious protects other people.” He said.

Mr Gething said that when he was self-isolating after testing positive for Covid, “If I’d gone out and day three after my first test, I would probably have been infectious and I could have harmed other people by passing on the virus.”

“That’s why the self isolation measures are important.”

“It’s why we still think it’s the right thing to have them in law.”

“We’ll continue to take advice from the chief medical officer.

“I’ve got a good deal of optimism about the future. But as ever, if there is a significant change in the position, then we have to be prepared to change our position.”