Cir­cuit breaker is top op­tion to stop NHS ‘be­ing over­whelmed’

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Steven Morris

Wales is fac­ing a “cir­cuit breaker” lock­down of two or three weeks to stop hos­pi­tals be­ing over­whelmed, as the coun­try reaches what the gov­ern­ment de­scribed as a “crit­i­cal point”.

Min­is­ters will spend the week­end com­ing to a fi­nal de­ci­sion on their plans, but the Welsh first min­is­ter, Mark Drake­ford, said yes­ter­day a “fire-break” or cir­cuit breaker was the op­tion most ac­tively be­ing con­sid­ered to buy time to pre­pare for the dif­fi­cult months ahead.

If the re­stric­tions were im­posed, peo­ple would have to stay at home again, he said. A “top pri­or­ity” was to try to keep schools open, but he hinted that par­tial shut­downs were be­ing dis­cussed. The cir­cuit breaker would give time for field hos­pi­tals to be pre­pared and to af­ford breath­ing space for test, trace and pro­tect teams.

“This would be a short, sharp shock to the virus that would turn back the clock, buy­ing us more time and vi­tal ca­pac­ity. We face a very se­ri­ous sit­u­a­tion today in Wales. Un­less we are able to get coro­n­avirus back un­der con­trol there is a real risk our NHS will be over­whelmed. If that hap­pens even larger num­bers of peo­ple will die.”

The R num­ber in Wales is at 1.4 and there are more than 800 peo­ple in hos­pi­tal with the virus – up from 500 last week. Drake­ford ac­knowl­edged a cir­cuit breaker would mean more fi­nan­cial hard­ship and said min­is­ters were draw­ing up a busi­ness sup­port pack­age be­fore a fi­nal de­ci­sion.

Plaid Cymru has backed the call for a cir­cuit breaker, but the Welsh Con­ser­va­tives’ health spokesper­son, An­drew RT Davies, im­plored Drake­ford to think again. The de­ci­sion would have dev­as­tat­ing eco­nomic and pub­lic health con­se­quences, and should be the last re­sort, he said.

From last night the Welsh gov­ern­ment banned peo­ple trav­el­ling into Wales from Covid hotspots in the rest of the UK. Boris John­son has re­fused a re­quest to stop peo­ple trav­el­ling from English hotspots. Drake­ford said a let­ter from John­son was nev­er­the­less “rea­son­able” and reaf­firmed his wish to work with Wales.

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