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