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Present

  • Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS (chair)
  • Rebecca Evans MS
  • Vaughan Gething MS
  • Lesley Griffiths MS
  • Jane Hutt MS
  • Julie James MS
  • Eluned Morgan MS
  • Jeremy Miles MS
  • Mick Antoniw MS
  • Dawn Bowden MS
  • Hannah Blythyn MS
  • Julie Morgan MS
  • Lynne Neagle MS
  • Lee Waters MS

Officials

  • Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary
  • Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
  • Will Whiteley, Deputy Director Cabinet Division
  • Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications
  • Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
  • Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
  • Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
  • Daniel Butler, Special Adviser
  • Ian Butler, Special Adviser
  • Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser
  • Sara Faye, Special Adviser
  • Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
  • Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
  • Mitch Theaker, Special Adviser
  • Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
  • Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
  • Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
  • Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services 
  • Andrew Goodall, Director General, Health
  • Reg Kilpatrick, Director General, COVID-19 Crisis Coordination 
  • Andrew Slade, Director General, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources 
  • Catrin Sully, Cabinet Office
  • Andrew Jeffreys, Director Treasury 
  • Frank Atherton, CMO
  • Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser Health
  • Fliss Bennee, Co-Chair TAC
  • Tom Smithson, Deputy Director COVID-19 Restart
  • Liz Lalley, Deputy Director Recovery
  • Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
  • Dylan Hughes, First Legislative Counsel
  • Jo-Anne Daniels, Director Mental Health, Vulnerable Groups and NHS Governance
  • Jason Thomas, Director Culture Sport and Tourism
  • Neil Buffin Senior Lawyer
  • Claire Bennett, Communities and Tackling Poverty (12th July)
  • Huw Morris, Director Skills, Higher Education and Lifelong Learning (12th July)
  • Louise Brown, Head of Employability Plan (12th July)
  • Tom Taylor, Deputy Director Contact Tracing (14th July)

12 July

Item 1: Minutes of the previous meeting

1.1 Cymeradwyodd y Cabinet gofnodion y 5 Gorffennaf / Cabinet approved the minutes of 5 July.

Item 2: Senedd Business

2.1 The Minister for Rural Affairs and North Wales, and Trefnydd informed Cabinet that voting time was expected at 6:50pm on Tuesday and around 7pm on Wednesday.

Item 3: Review of Coronavirus Restrictions (No.5) Regulations – 15 July and Revised Coronavirus Control Plan

3.1 The First Minister introduced the paper on the Review of the Coronavirus Restrictions Regulations, which sought a steer from ministers on the Government’s response to the current cycle. Given the previous concerns about the spread of the Delta variant it had been decided in early June to stagger the move to Alert Level 1.

3.2 Community transmission of COVID-19 was high with case numbers increasing, mostly amongst younger less vaccinated people. Rates in the over 60s was increasing but a lot more slowly. The estimated reproduction rate for Wales was now between 1.2 and 1.6.

3.3 The pressure on the NHS in Wales remained stable and it was experiencing the lowest levels of COVID-19 since reporting had begun, although if cases continued to rise rapidly so could hospital admissions.

3.4 There were around 3,666 confirmed cases of the Delta variant in Wales, making it the most dominant. Of the cases detected, 48.7% were unvaccinated, 33.6% had received one dose and 17.6% had received 2 doses, however this data might include vaccinations that had not been given the 14-21 days required to provide maximum protection. Nevertheless, the vaccination coverage in the over 40s was high, and this had appeared to have altered the relationship between community transmission and harms.

3.5 The CMO’s advice indicated that the current epidemiological picture changed the balance between direct and indirect harms and made it increasingly difficult to justify the stringent use of public health powers to continue restricting economic, social and cultural activities.

3.6 Ministers were reminded that the restrictions relating to COVID-19 within the Coronavirus Control Plan were for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence, spread of infection or contamination. There must be a threat to public health and the restrictions had to be proportionate in what they were intending to achieve.

3.7 Cabinet had already discussed, the previous day, some of the proposals within the paper and it was noted that these decisions would now need to be confirmed.

3.8 It was agreed that the Regulations should be amended to provide, from 17th July, for the rule of six to be applied to private dwellings and visitor accommodation. Ice rinks would be allowed to re-open and indoor events would be allowed to restart.

3.9 The Regulations would allow for up to 1,000 people at indoor seated events and there would be a limit of up to 200 at standing only venues. As with all events, there would be a requirement to undertake a full risk assessment and it was noted that local authority enforcement officers had the powers to respond to events not being organised within the requirements. 

3.10 Furthermore, the restrictions requiring food and drink to be consumed while seated for events would be removed.

3.11 In addition, children would be allowed to attend supervised residential activity centres from 17th July and guidance would be updated to ensure that organisers informed parents or guardians of the increased risk of mixing and staying overnight.

3.12 In terms of night clubs and adult entertainment venues, Cabinet agreed with the advice from public health officials to delay the re-opening until the move to Alert Level 0.

3.13 In terms of any relaxations under Alert Level 0 that could be introduced alongside moving to Alert Level 1, it was agreed that caps on the number of people who could gather outside in all settings should be removed. In addition, the reasonable measures regime for outdoors should be adjusted so that physical distancing was no longer an absolute requirement. However this would remain one of a package of measures that organisers should consider. Furthermore, all the outdoor elements of Alert Level 0 would be brought forward to 17th July.

3.14 It was also agreed the First Minister should signal later that week that Wales would move to Alert Level 0 from 7 August, providing the public health situation remained favourable.

3.15 Cabinet approved the paper.

3.16 Ministers turned to the paper on the revised Coronavirus Control Plan and the remaining issues that needed to be resolved in firming up arrangements for Alert Level 0. 

3.17 Cabinet discussed proposals to lift requirements for the use of face coverings and concluded that the restrictions should remain in place for all indoor settings, to ensure the safety of the most vulnerable. The only exception to this would be in hospitality settings, where venues would need to continue to set out the risks and mitigations so customers could take informed choices. It was expected that the exemption could be extended to other settings in response to how people behaved. It was noted that schools and colleges would be governed by the framework that had been announced by the Education Minister. The rationale for this decision would need to be clearly communicated.

3.18 It was noted that ministers would return to potential changes to the reasons for self-isolation on Wednesday, when further advice would be available.

3.19 Cabinet agreed that officials should proceed in-line with the decisions taken by ministers.

Cabinet reconvened on 14th July to consider the future of self-isolation for contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases

4.1 The First Minister introduced the paper which outlined proposals that would need to be considered on the future of self-isolation for contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases.

4.2 The paper highlighted that vaccinations had weakened, but not broken, the link between COVID-19 and serious harms. As restrictions eased there had been rising case numbers but far lower rates of hospitalisations and deaths. The proportion of cases resulting in hospitalisation was around 2.8% at the end of June, compared to a peak of 10% in December.

4.3 There had been a significant and sustained rise in the number of contacts being asked to self-isolate both as a result of being contact traced by TTP and because of notifications generated by the NHS COVID-19 App. In light of the high number of contacts isolating, the impact on the delivery of public services and the decisions made by the UK government, there was a need to review the approach in Wales. There was emerging evidence on the impact of the vaccines on reducing transmission and preventing serious illness, and there was a need to be mindful of the impact on the economy, public services and education, as well as the wellbeing of people affected.

4.4 It was noted that it would be difficult to have a different regime in Wales to that of England for travellers returning from ‘amber’ list countries, particularly given the large number of people that would use English travel hubs. However, people would still need to have a PCR test on day 2 after returning home. They would need to register with the TTP system, refrain from visiting care homes and hospitals for a period of 10 days after returning home and self-isolate immediately should they develop symptoms. The advice about refraining from all but essential travel and the recommendation to holiday in Wales would remain in place.

4.5 Cabinet confirmed that all people who tested positive for COVID-19 should continue to self-isolate.

4.6 Ministers discussed whether it was still proportionate for contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases to self-isolate and agreed, given the reduced risks outweighed the wider harms, this would no longer apply to those who had received two doses of the vaccine.

4.7 However, the self-isolation rules should remain in place for those 18 and over who had not yet been fully vaccinated.

4.8 The First Minister would set out the approach agreed by Cabinet in his Statement to the Senedd later that day. The First Minister would also indicate the self-isolation rules would be relaxed following the next review in early August, should conditions remain favourable.

4.9 Cabinet agreed that officials should proceed in line with the decisions made by ministers.

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