Welsh health minister admits he would have made ‘different choices’ in early days of pandemic
Wales’ health minister has admitted he would have made “different choices” in the early days of responding to the coronavirus pandemic, but denied the Welsh Government had been “cavalier” in its approach to tackling the virus.
Vaughan Gething said that, had he been armed with the knowledge he now has, then the Government would have done things differently.
Mr Gething made the admission while appearing on the BBC Politics Wales show, where he was questioned about the discharging of 1,300 patients from hospitals into care homes during March and April.
The blanket coronavirus testing of patients being discharged from hospital into care homes in Wales did not begin until the end of April – meaning some of the 1,300 could have had Covid-19 and passed it to other residents.
“It should always have been the case that anyone who was symptomatic should have been tested and that was our understanding of the science and the evidence at the time when all of the choices were made,” Mr Gething said.
“We of course developed further understanding and further knowledge, so if I had the knowledge I have today, I’d have probably made different choices at a number of points in the coronavirus pandemic.
“We certainly haven’t taken a cavalier approach.
“The safety of the people in Wales has always been the driving force in the choices we’ve made, right from the choice to stop large areas of NHS activity in the middle of March, to the way we’ve done the testing strategy, to where we are now.”
The latest figures from Public Health Wales show a further three people have died after testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths in Wales to 1,444.
The total number of cases increased by 39 to 14,742.
The declining number of deaths in Wales comes as the Welsh Government prepares to review the lockdown measures, with expectation there may be some loosening of the regulations.
On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales would continue with its cautious approach and would not be pressured into following England’s speedier approach.
In Wales people are restricted to journeys of five miles for leisure and non-essential shops remain closed.
But in England, there is no travel limit and shops are reopening from Monday.
Mr Gething said the restrictions in Wales could ease this week but the objective was to keep Wales safe and people could expect to see a “different kind of normal”.
“We may have some more headroom because of the efforts of the people of Wales in following the lockdown rules and guidance,” he said.
“The Cabinet will discuss that this week. We’ve already signalled that we want to see pupils return to schools in a very different way at the end of this month.
“We’ve already signalled that we would like to be in a position to open up more non-essential retail.
“It will be a very different kind of normal.”
But the minister rejected calls for the two-metre social distancing rule to be reduced to one metre.
“The two-metre rule is there to keep us safe as there is very clear advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) across the UK to keep the two-metre rule and that’s the position we’ll adopt in Wales,” he added.
The Welsh Government has also updated the official guidance on the use of face masks, including in the health and social care sector and for the vulnerable.
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