First Minister anticipates ‘common approach’ to easing lockdown across UK

The First Minister of Wales has said he believes the UK will take a common approach and “move forward in the same basic way” when easing lockdown restrictions.

Mark Drakeford announced a further three weeks of the measures in Wales on Friday, though he said three small adjustments would take place from Monday.

People in Wales will be able to exercise more than once a day, with garden centres allowed to reopen with social distancing guidelines in place and local authorities starting planning on how to safely open libraries and recycling centres.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast the Welsh Government’s changes to the restrictions were “very modest but meaningful”.

He insisted that announcing the changes ahead of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s address on Sunday was not intended to pressurise England to come into step with Wales.

“We’ve announced what we’re going to do but we’ve also said we won’t introduce these changes until Monday, so that the United Kingdom does indeed move forward together into the next period,” he said.

“It’ll be for the Prime Minister to decide what happens in England and I don’t want to anticipate that but you will have seen what his spokesperson has been saying over the last couple of days – that the prime minister is committed to a cautious approach to lifting lockdown, he’s focused on the public health implications of any changes.”

Mr Drakeford said he believed that changes already announced in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland would be “echoed” in England.

He told BBC Breakfast he thought there would be a “common approach” to easing lockdown restrictions in the four nations.

“It’s inevitable that we have to fine-tune that approach to meet the different circumstances of different parts of the United Kingdom but I think that we will move forward in the same basic way,” Mr Drakeford said.

Mr Drakeford also told the BBC that schools in Wales will not reopen in the next three weeks, or in June.

He said the Welsh Government would be “watching very closely” the impact of the three minor changes to lockdown restrictions in Wales.

On Friday, it published modelling advice from its technical advisory cell.

This estimated the R value – the number of people the average infected individual would spread the virus to – to currently be around 0.8 in Wales.

It said the figure is previously believed to have been around 2.8.

Modelling shows that if R remains at 0.8 over the next three months, there will be an estimated 5,100 new cases, 2,800 hospital admissions and 800 deaths.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast: “If, as we believe, these measures don’t lead to an increase in the circulation of coronavirus, then we will be looking to see whether there are any further steps that we can take, but we will always be taking those steps through the lens of public health.

“We are not going to do anything in Wales that puts at peril the enormous efforts that everybody has made to drive the spread of coronavirus down.”

He acknowledged there had been signs of increased traffic, which he said was partly due to more people returning to work.

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh regulations on exercising would include the word “local” to ensure people only exercised where they live.

“It is not an invitation for people to get in their cars and to drive long distances to exercise elsewhere,” he told BBC Breakfast.

On Friday, Public Health Wales said a total of 1,090 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus, an increase of 28 on Thursday’s figures.

A further 152 people tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases to 11,003.