First Minister blames public fatigue and people breaking rules for Covid-19 surge in Wales

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said public fatigue, household mixing, and people’s behaviour to and from hospitality venues has led to a surge in coronavirus transmissions in Wales.

The Welsh Labour leader said most people in Wales had kept to rules intended to curb the spread of the virus, only for a minority to break them – resulting in numbers “flying up again” following the end of the country’s 17-day firebreak.

Wales was the only country in the UK to not see a fall in Covid-19 cases at the end of November, despite its lockdown ending on November 9.

Its excess death rate has also been higher than in England and Scotland over recent weeks.

On Wednesday, Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast: “It is the weeks since the firebreak that we have seen the gains waning.

“It is partly because, despite the strict rules we have here, fatigue, people’s sense of no hope for the future has meant that not everybody has been willing to abide by the restrictions that are still necessary.

“We have seen people having house parties, people inviting large numbers of people back to their own houses when that is absolutely not allowed within our rules.

“We had some difficulties, not necessarily in hospitality venues, but the way in which people behaved before and after going to hospitality venues.

“Most people in Wales do everything they can to abide by the rules but with coronavirus you only need a relatively small number of people who are not prepared to do that and you see the numbers flying up again.

“You see the impact on our hospitals, you see the impact on our healthcare staff and that is what we have – to persuade people to take that responsibility seriously.”

Mr Drakeford defended his decision to end Wales’s lockdown after 17 days, following criticism that it was too short.

“We didn’t come out of the firebreak too early. The firebreak period did everything that we hoped. It set the clock back three weeks. It gave us three weeks where the R number was below one,” he said.

Later on Wednesday, Wales’s chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton also said the reason transmissions rates were on the rise was because people were mixing with each other.

But he denied that he was shifting blame on to the public.

Dr Atherton said: “This is in no way putting blame on to people. This is just explaining what is happening and explaining the way in which the virus transmits from person to person. The more we mix, the more the virus spreads.”

He added: “The message I’m trying to give is Government can do so much, it can set the rules, it can try to protect people, it can provide the NHS services that we all rely on.

“But there is something about personal responsibility as well for how we behave individually and collectively.”

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