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COVID-19: Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford says high cases due to early vaccine programme success

Wales’ first minister said he is having to re-impose some COVID restrictions due to rising cases because the country had such a successful vaccination programme and low cases in early summer.

Mark Drakeford announced on Thursday measures including self-isolation for fully vaccinated household contacts of positive cases, twice-weekly lateral flow tests for pupils and an encouragement to work from home.

People will also be asked to wear a face covering in indoor public places and the use of its COVID pass will be extended to theatres, cinemas and concert halls from 15 November.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said he had to bring in more restrictions due to rising cases

Cases have risen in Wales to the highest rates since the pandemic began, and Mr Drakeford said he is particularly concerned to see a rise in people over 60 years old getting COVID.

He told Sky News’ Vanessa Baffoe: “I think there are some explanations of why we’re in the position we’re in today.

“Wales had a very successful vaccination programme, it may be that we’re seeing the waning impact of that initial vaccination earlier here because of our initial success.

“It’s also the case earlier in the summer, for weeks and weeks, Wales had the lowest level of coronavirus anywhere in the UK and it may be there’s just a greater reservoir of people here in Wales waiting to be infected by the Delta variant, that’s driving the numbers that we see today.

“What is certainly true is numbers at this level are causing harm in the community, are driving more people into hospital and we have to make a concerted effort over the next three or four weeks to bring those numbers down.”

New COVID restrictions in Wales

  • Fully vaccinated people over four years old in household with someone who tests positive or has symptoms must self-isolate until a negative PCR test
  • Non fully vaccinated people must self-isolate for 10 days if a close contact or household member tests positive
  • Head teachers to be given extra support to put rapid measures in place if case rates spike locally
  • Secondary school students and staff must take twice-weekly lateral flow tests
  • COVID Pass extended to theatres, cinemas and concert halls from 15 November
  • If cases do not reduce in the coming weeks, the COVID Pass will be extended to hospitality.

While Wales is bringing back restrictions, it is removing the remaining seven countries on the red travel list, in line with England.

Mr Drakeford said he understands that might seem incongruous but he does not have much choice due to how overseas travel into and out of the UK works.

“When they change the rules in England, in any practical sense it’s impossible for us to do anything different in Wales because almost everybody from Wales who travels abroad or who returns to this country from abroad comes through English ports and airports and then travels on to Wales,” he said.

He added that he wished the UK government “took a more precautionary approach” to international travel.

And he said he has been urging Westminster “for a number of weeks” to move to plan B – mandatory face coverings in some settings, a work from home mandate and vaccine certificates in certain scenarios.

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“It would certainly help us here in Wales to have a single communication that says across England and Wales we are all taking this virus as seriously as we need to take it as we go into the autumn and winter,” he added.

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