A failure of policy has led to an urgent need for a ‘fire break’, a limited period of buying time to address the weaknesses of the test, trace and isolate system, according to Plaid Cymru.
Such a move would ensure a significant reduction in the R number and lay the foundations of a Covid-19 elimination strategy.
As the first party in Wales to advocate a fire break, Plaid Cymru said it remained steadfastly supportive of this proposal. However, it added that there were specific details that it would like to see included in such a proposal if it was to receive the party’s full support and prove an effective way forward. It added that now is the time to come together to once again protect our NHS and save lives.
Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister for Health and Care, said:
“I want as few restrictions as possible to be imposed, but properly enforced, and with clear support for people and businesses affected.
“But regrettably, because of the failure of policies by Welsh and UK Governments to date, to reach that point we need a fire break now to get the virus under control and to start afresh.
“The First Minister must urgently publish a detailed plan to address the inadequacies of the current response, including proposals such as those Plaid Cymru is proposing today.
“They include a range of measures to improve our track, trace and isolate system, to safeguard workplaces, and to ensure sufficient financial support for businesses and their employees.
“In light of the advice from SAGE and the record number of Coronavirus cases in Wales last week, the case for a fire break is now overwhelming.
“No one wants to live in a perpetual state of coming in and out of enhanced restrictions. This break has to be the start of a different approach. Action taken now has to make a real difference in bringing down the R number and ultimately saving lives.”
The 14-point plan follows:
1. Drive down ‘R’ significantly below 1 as a basis for an elimination strategy.
2. Adopt the Public Health Wales recommendation of testing asymptomatic contacts of people who have tested positive.
3. Immediate and significant extra resources for our own testing and tracing capacity with an upper limit of 24 hours between test and result whilst developing the capacity to complete mass, routine testing for healthcare workers and whole populations in localised areas.
4. Full implementation of SAGE recommendations (September 21st meeting) and a requirement for Government to ask TAC to look again at global success stories – such as Vietnam – and to produce recommendations based on those findings.
5. Full disclosure of latest ‘fire break’ advice given to and work commissioned by Welsh Government. (Latest TAC advice and work by Swansea University)
6. Every person entering or returning to Wales from abroad to be tested and retested again within days.
7. A legal requirement to safeguard workplaces by making a ventilation plan for every public building and workplace, school, and college, plus mandatory face masks in workplace canteens and corridors.
8. Commitment without delay to cancel GSCE and A-Level exams in 2021. Publish a clear plan to enable students to return home for Christmas, including testing for each student in time for them to get a result before they leave, with a requirement for Welsh domiciled students to self-isolate for two weeks in their homes if they test positive.
9. Re-evaluation of current Welsh Government financial support to maximise support to business and individuals.
10. Stricter enforcement of non-compliance, adopting a zero-tolerance approach.
11. Urgent stock take of resources (PPE, ventilators, critical care beds) and a renewed emphasis on early medical intervention.
12. Identify non-Covid hospitals to facilitate treatment for cancer and other serious illnesses alongside the development of “isolation hospitals” – separate facilities in which Covid-19 and positive patients can be treated away from other patients. The Government should also develop “self-isolation centres” such as those in Canada where people who cannot isolate from their families at home can do so safely. Isolation hospitals or units are key to combatting hospital-acquired infection.
13. Strengthen the public facing communications, re-introduce the daily press conference and provide daily, not weekly, release of statistics. This should include better communication around the benefits of earlier intervention to treat Covid symptoms and the preventative steps that can be taken.
14. Surveys conducted by the ONS have found increased levels of anxiety during lockdown and the following period. The new Minister for Mental Health should outline a Post-Covid Mental Health Recovery Plan designed to support those who have experienced mental health issues during the pandemic, and the Welsh Government should allocate funding to ensure the successful delivery of this plan.