/The differences between Wales lockdown exit plan and Englands

The differences between Wales lockdown exit plan and Englands

Both the Welsh and UK Governments have now produced their respective “roadmaps” for easing us out of lockdown.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled his “conditional plan” to reopen England on Sunday, May 10, with Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford following suit on Friday, May 15.

But while they both outline the same vision for returning public life to normal over the coming days, weeks and months, there are marked differences between the plans.

Here, we assess the two approaches and see where they differ.

1. Wales’ traffic light system vs England’s three steps

The Welsh Government has adopted a red, amber and green traffic light system to ease the Covid-19 restrictions.

Wales is currently still in the “lockdown” phase which – as we all know – involves staying at home and only maintaining contact with people in our own households, with limited exceptions.

However, Mr Drakeford said in his press conference on Friday that we are moving “carefully and cautiously” towards the first “red” stage.

First Minister Mark Drakeford
(Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency)

Here is the traffic light system for Wales and what restrictions are likely to be lifted first:

  • Red – Schools enabled to manage increase in demand from more key workers and vulnerable pupils returning; local travel, including for click and collect retail allowed; people allowed to provide or receive care and support to/from one family member or friend from outside the household.
  • Amber – Priority groups of pupils to return to school in a phased approach; travel for leisure allowed together with meeting with small groups of family or friends for exercise; people able to access non-essential retail and services; more people travelling to work.
  • Green – All children and students able to access education; unrestricted travel subject to ongoing precautions; all sports, leisure and cultural activities, as well as socialising with friends permitted, with physical distancing.

If hospital admissions increase, particularly in critical care, then any changes could be reversed.

Read more about exactly what the document says about things like schools, seeing family, and shopping here.

In contrast, the UK Government started to ease some measures for England last Wednesday.

They include allowing people to “sit in the sun” in their local park, driving to destinations such as the beach (but not crossing into Wales or Scotland), and actively encouraging people to go to work in fields such as construction and manufacturing where working from home was not possible.

And unlike the devolved nations, which continue to call on people to stay at home, the UK Government has now gone with the controversial message “stay alert, control the virus and save lives”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing the UK about coronavirus
Prime Minister Boris Johnson
(Image: Andrew Parsons/10 Downing Stree)

The UK Government has outlined three steps to easing measures, with step one already in operation.

  • Step one – Anyone in England who cannot work from home should now consider travelling to work, avoiding public transport wherever possible; English local councils encouraged to let vulnerable pupils and the children of critical workers go to school; paid childcare by nannies and childminders can take place; unlimited outdoor exercise; people in England can drive to an outdoor place no matter how far from their household as long as they adhere to physical distancing.

  • Step two – In England, a phased return for early years settings and schools, with early years, reception, year 1 and year 6 to return in smaller classes; secondary schools begin face-to-face contact for years 10 and 12 pupils; non-essential shops to reopen on a phased basis; cultural and sporting events allowed to take place behind closed doors for broadcast; the potential to allow two households to share childcare to create a “social bubble”.

  • Step three – The UK Government plans to reopen remaining businesses such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, places of worship and cinemas in England.

All of the measures outlined by the UK Government will be subject to a ‘covid alert system’ – five levels that will govern how quickly lockdown restrictions could be eased in England.

These include:

  • Level five (red) – a “material risk of healthcare services being overwhelmed” – extremely strict social distancing;
  • Level four – a high or rising level of transmission – enforced social distancing;
  • Level three – the virus is in general circulation – social distancing relaxed;
  • Level two – the number of cases and transmission are low – minimal social distancing;
  • Level one (green) – Covid-19 is no longer present in the UK – no social distancing.

These levels will be determined by the Covid-19’s reproduction (R) number, a scientific measure of how fast the virus is spreading, as well as the number of confirmed coronavirus cases at any one time.

2. Timescales

The Welsh Government’s roadmap does not contain dates on when lockdown restrictions could be eased in Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said this was because the changes will be made “when the scientific and medical advice tells us it is safe to do so”.

However, he did state that some measures, such as mass gatherings, would need to be reintroduced much further down the line than other areas, such as retail.

In contrast, the UK Government did set out some specific dates for easing lockdown measures, including outlining a “phased return” for early years settings and schools in England from June 1.

Its report also states that English businesses such as pubs, restaurants, hairdressers, beauty salons, places of worship and cinemas could all open by July 4.

However, Boris Johnson said these were all “conditional” dates and would be subject to five tests being met, including:

  • Test one – making sure the NHS can cope and continues to have sufficient capacity;

  • Test two – a “sustained and consistent” fall in daily deaths;

  • Test three – solid data showing the rate of infection is decreasing to “manageable” levels;

  • Test four – ensuring that supply of tests and personal protective equipment (PPE) can meet future demand;

  • Test five – avoiding a second peak that would risk overwhelming the NHS.

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3. The level of detail

The Welsh Government’s roadmap document, entitled ‘Unlocking our society and economy: continuing the conversation’, is 20 pages long.

In contrast, the UK Government’s strategy is more than double that and includes information on testing rates, critical care bed capacity and mobility trends data.

However, it must be pointed out that some of the UK Government’s data and graphs do refer to the UK as a whole, or break down the number between the different UK nations.

It also mentions the economic impact of the virus, while the Welsh approach has been more aligned with health outcomes.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said the Welsh Government’s exit strategy was thin on detail on how it will end community transmission.

Mr Price said any exit strategy for Wales should mirror the New Zealand model of driving down the R number (rate of infection) to reduce number of avoidable deaths to zero and to “eradicate” new cases rather than simply “managing” them.

The Plaid Cymru Leader said local lockdowns should also be considered if there are local clusters once cases have been successfully suppressed nationally.

Dr David Bailey of BMA Cymru

Similarly, commenting on the Welsh Government’s strategy, British Medical Association (BMA) Welsh Council chair Dr David Bailey said: ” BMA Cymru Wales welcomes the cautious approach outlined today by the First Minister, which lays out a traffic light system that will help the public begin to understand how we will get back to ‘normal’.

“It’s clear that the job of protecting the NHS in Wales is not over yet. The public has been incredibly committed to respecting lockdown restrictions in Wales so far, and as a result, the health service has not become overwhelmed.

“It’s essential that as we progress through the stages outlined in the plan for easing restrictions, public messaging continues to be clear so the general public understands what they can and cannot do, to ensure we don’t see an increase in the spread of the virus.”

He added: “Welsh Government has outlined its commitment to continue working with us, and other partners, as we move forward and we will continue to represent the views of doctors across Wales.

“Our priorities remain clear – doctors and frontline healthcare professionals must be assured that supplies of appropriate PPE will continue, to ensure patients and staff are kept safe.

“We are working with Welsh Government on a risk assessment framework to ensure vulnerable and BAME doctors, who are at higher risk of death from Covid-19, are better protected.

“The Test, Trace, Protect strategy must also be monitored and evaluated without delay, to ensure it is working effectively.”

Original Source