By Mason Quah
WELSH First Minister Mark Drakeford has spoken out about the stark contrast between the English and Welsh responses to the pandemic.
Speaking on a panel for the Zero Covid Coalition, Drakeford explained the decisions that led to his government breaking away from the course set by Westminster, and the importance of communicating effectively to the public.
Many of the measures mandated in Wales are non-intrusive to daily lives, such as still requiring masks on public transport and in businesses.
Large outdoor events like football matches require participants to have Covid passes showing either a double vaccination or a negative lateral flow test.
The most important aspect, Drakeford notes, is maintaining the cooperation of the public.
He said: “We have managed despite the enormous difficulties to keep the bulk of Welsh public opinion onside.
“We’ve done all that not for the sake of being different but because we are following the evidence and we have shared that information with Welsh citizens.”
Comparing this to England, he said: “When you use the rhetoric of Freedom Day to give people the false belief that the coronavirus is somehow all behind us, it becomes that much harder to convince people these measures are still necessary.”
Keeping the public active in the response has been a boon to the Welsh covid response.
The Test, Trace and Protect (TTP) system relies on local volunteers as opposed to contractors or external phonebanks.
The First Minister believes that this has improved receptiveness, as people are more willing to listen to others in their own community than to the central government.
“You know that the reason the advise is being given is not because there is profit to be extracted but because it is the best public advise.”
“The NHS is still absolutely recognisable in Wales as a public service.”
Drakeford concluded by commenting on the future trajectory of the pandemic and the importance of not relying exclusively on vaccination going into the winter flu season.
“Coronavirus has certainly not gone away in Wales. Vaccination has amended the link between falling ill and hospitalisation but not eliminated it.”
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