Covid Christmas rules wont be agreed for weeks

Covid Christmas rules wont be agreed for weeks

It could be “weeks” before there is an announcement on the Covid rules around Christmas, Wales’ health minister has said.

Welsh ministers and other UK administrations are in talks over a set of agreed rules for the festive period.

Vaughan Gething said whatever happened, the period would “not be like normal”.

“You shouldn’t expect there to be a definitive statement in the next few days or weeks,” he told a press conference.

“We have quite a long way to go in the course of the pandemic we’ve been dealing with before we get to the Christmas period.”

There had been calls for a single approach from the different UK administrations about Christmas so families who live in different areas can deal with a single set of rules.

Mr Gething said discussions were ongoing about what will be in place for travel, “and we’re still looking at the evidence about what we might be able to do around contact”.

“But it does rely on the picture that we’ll see in the developing evidence over the coming weeks”, he added.

He noted that other faiths had seen their festivals limited by Covid restrictions, most recently Diwali.

Meanwhile Mr Gething said the rate of cases in Wales was continuing to fall, one week after Wales’ firebreak lockdown.

Cases in Merthyr Tydfil, which has seen the highest case rate of any local authority in the UK, have more than halved, he said.

“On Friday, I said we were starting to see some very early positive signs that cases of coronavirus are beginning to fall. This downward trend is continuing.”

The seven-day incidence rate for Wales is now at about 160 cases per 100,000 people – a reduction of 70 from this time last week, he said.

He also said people needed to be aware of the differences between coronavirus and seasonal flu, with the former having a higher mortality rate and a greater proportion of sufferers becoming seriously ill.

After the news of another potentially effective vaccine, Mr Gething said he “doesn’t plan” to make Covid vaccines mandatory.

He said he had never tried to mandate any vaccine, and would not want to do so with Covid.

“I’m interested in people understanding the evidence for the safety of the vaccine , then making the right choice to protect them, their family and their community” he added.

On Sunday, Public Health Wales’ Dr Giri Shankar said it was a “worry” to see queues of people outside shops at the weekend.

Mr Gething said there had been “pent-up demand” after the firebreak, with retailers operating limits on numbers in their stores.

While he had seen pictures of people socially-distancing, “I have seen some images that are more concerning where people have forgotten about social distancing and are returning to a more normal way of behaving.

“Now, if that continues we really will face difficult choices, and we’re likely to see the trend that we’ve already seen with reducing cases – that can easily reverse.”

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