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Drakeford blasts Boris saying England is ‘global outlier’ in the fight against Covid

FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford, claimed today that England was a “global outlier” in its handling of Covid policy. 

He said England was out of step with other countries around the world.

Asked why Wales was applying restrictions not in force in England, he replied: “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 and 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 Wales is not following what is going on in England. The real question is why England is such a global outlier in the way in which governments elsewhere are attempting to protect their populations from coronavirus.

Drakeford then proceeded to answer his own question. He said in England the government was “politically paralysed with a prime minister unable to secure an agreement through his cabinet to take the actions that his advisers have been telling him ought to have been taken”.

Asked later in the press conference to justify calling England an outlier, Drakeford said other governments were imposing restrictions on gatherings, going beyond the rules in place in Wales. He went on: “Right acrosss the world governments have been taking action, not to simply deal with the consequences of an Omicron wave, but to try to mitigate that wave and to protect their populations against it. The prime minister has chosen – in my view, because he has no viable alternative available to him – to ride it out, as he says, and that really does make that government an outlier.”

Asked what evidence he had to show Wales had got it right, and England wrong, Drakeford said that the Sage advice was available to everyone and that that showed action was necessary.

Drakeford said he expected current restrictions in Wales to remain in place for at least a fortnight.

He insisted Parkrun events were not banned in Wales. Parkrun has cancelled its runs in Wales, prompting Sajid Javid, the health secretary for England, to criticise the Welsh government restrictions that led to this. But, when asked about this, Drakeford said Parkrun runs were not banned. Up to 50 people could take part in a run under the rules, he said, and another 50 people could help with the organisation.

He said no decision has yet been taken about whether the Six Nations rugby matches that Wales is meant to be hosting in February and March will be able to go ahead in the country. Currently large sporting events of that kind are banned in Wales. He said: “t’s always been the case that the risks in major events are less at the event itself, particularly when those events are well run as certainly the autumn internationals were. It is how people travel to the stadium, it is how people gather around the stadium, it is how people behave – not at the game but around the game. So there are further measures that could be adopted that would help to mitigate those risks.

Of course, we would all far prefer to be in a position where the Six Nations could go ahead with people watching the game here in Wales. That is not a matter of dispute between any party. The issue that is under the microscope is whether we can do that safely.

Drakeford also said he has no problem with the decision of the Welsh RFU to explore hosting the matches outside of the country.

He said that the latest figures showed more than 2,300 Covid cases per 100,000 people across Wales and that cases were highest amongst 20 to 40-year-olds, 994 people being treated with coronavirus in Welsh hospitals – a rise of 43% compared to last week and the highest number since last March.

The First Minister also confirmed the latest figures suggested staff absences from illness and isolation across the NHS were 8.3% in Wales, as high as 16.5% in some NHS organisations.