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His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, 10 June 1921 to 9 April 2021

Read about the arrangements following The Duke of Edinburgh’s death

Present (via Teams)

  • Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS (Chair)
  • Rebecca Evans MS
  • Vaughan Gething MS
  • Lesley Griffiths MS
  • Julie James MS
  • Eluned Morgan MS
  • Ken Skates MS
  • Kirsty Williams MS
  • Jeremy Miles MS
  • Hannah Blythyn MS
  • Jane Hutt MS
  • Julie Morgan MS
  • Dafydd Elis Thomas MS
  • Lee Waters MS

Officials

  • Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary
  • Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
  • Carys Evans, Principal Private Secretary First Minister
  • Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications
  • Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
  • Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
  • Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
  • Ian Butler, Special Adviser
  • Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser
  • Sarah Faye, Special Adviser
  • Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser
  • Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
  • Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
  • Gareth Williams, Special Adviser
  • Mitch Theaker, Special Adviser
  • Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
  • Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
  • Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
  • Jonathan Scourfield, Specialist Policy Adviser
  • Dewi Knight, Specialist Adviser for Education Reform
  • Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services
  • Andrew Goodall, Director General, Health
  • Andrew Slade, Director General ESNR
  • Reg Kilpatrick, Director General COVID-19 Crisis Coordination
  • Frank Atherton, CMO
  • Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser for Health
  • Simon Brindle, Director Restart Coordination
  • Tom Smithson, Deputy Director Restart
  • Liz Lalley, Deputy Director Recovery
  • Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
  • Dylan Hughes, First Legislative Counsel
  • Terry Kowal, Senior Legislative Counsel
  • Neil Buffin, Senior Lawyer
  • Cathy Weatherup, CMO’s office
  • Ffion Thomas, CMO’s office

Item 1: COVID-19 - Options for post-firebreak – Update from the Chief Medical Officer

  1. The First Minister advised ministers that the purpose of the meeting was for Cabinet to agree a new set of rules that would need to be put in place, from 00:01 on 9 November, to replace the fire-break regulations.
  2. Ministers were reminded that any restrictions put in place would be 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. The First Minister invited the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to provide an update on virus transmission rates.
  4. The progression of the virus in Wales indicated a worsening situation, which was to be expected, and underlined the importance of entering into the firebreak period in an attempt to slow the increase in cases, hospitalisation and deaths. There had been over 1,000 new cases a day over the past week, with over 1,400 reported the previous day.
  5. The 7 day average for confirmed cases in Wales was almost 230 per 100,000, with Merthyr Tydfil being reported as a particular hotspot with now over 500 cases per 100,000.
  6. There were significant increases in people becoming infected across England with more regions going into tier three restrictions. There was a similar increase in cases across Western Europe.
  7. The number of cases within hospitals in Wales were stable, albeit increasing, and whereas intensive care beds were currently dominated by non-COVID patients, this could change quite quickly.
  8. It was expected that the fire-break in Wales would have a positive impact on the transmission curve, but it would take some time for the results to emerge. However, there may be a need for further interventions during the winter.

Item 2: COVID-19 - Shape of the post-firebreak period

  1. The First Minister referred to the discussions that had taken place earlier in the week about the set of principles and a series of options for the post fire-break period.
  2. The fire-break would not have solved the problem of current behaviours being insufficient to prevent transmission of the virus from spiralling out of control. Affecting behaviour change was therefore the most pressing challenge, with unenforceable rules appearing to have a diminishing effect. Any new rules would need to be accompanied by a change in behaviour to suppress the virus.
  3. There would be a return to exponential growth and a requirement for a further firebreak to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed if people were not helped to change their behaviour. Ensuring they had less contact with people, encouraging social distancing and adopting other risk management approaches when people did engage with others were all key actions to prevent further spread.
  4. The alternatives to behavioural change and stricter lockdowns were limited. While some marginal gains may be possible by improving Test, Trace and Protect capacity, its effectiveness was also reliant on people adhering to the self-isolation guidance.
  5. On the basis that the government was aiming to secure behavioural change, as opposed to wide scale new economic closure or education disruption, ministers were asked to agree a number of specific measures outlined within the papers. Annex A set out proposals where there had been broad consensus in previous discussions.
  6. Cabinet agreed with the pre-firebreak model of blended learning in Further Education settings.
  7. Ministers confirmed that Higher Education should be regarded as a blend of regulated and unregulated settings and would continue the existing blended learning delivery model, while being asked to consider remote or distance learning approaches. This would provide consistency with the policy on home working.
  8. In terms of the economy, non-essential retail businesses, including cafés, pubs and restaurants should revert to the pre-fire-break regime. There would be no change to the 10pm curfew for alcohol sales, but this would need to be kept under review with particular attention to the cross-border implications.
  9. However, a number of additional risk management measures should be adopted under the reasonable measures regulation. Premises would be required to display specified information, such as the level of coronavirus risk and specific risk factors associated with their premises, in a prominent place. This should describe how the risks were being mitigated and set out what people using and working in the premises should do. There would also be a specific Fixed Penalty Notice regime to ensure that businesses took the required reasonable measures to prevent people contracting or spreading coronavirus.
  10. Ministers agreed that there should be a greater emphasis on remote working, particularly from home, and employers should be encouraged to do more to facilitate this.
  11. Organised indoor activities in regulated settings, such as community centres, would be allowed, apart from celebrations and pursuits involving singing, for up to a maximum capacity of 15 people. Strict social distancing measures and case by case risk assessment and management would continue.
  12. Childcare would continue to operate as it did before the fire-break and regular informal childcare would continue to be an exemption to rules on gatherings.
  13. The reasonable excuses, prior to the firebreak, would be maintained, such as the visiting of care homes. People would also be able to vote in elections. In addition, places of worship would reopen for services and ceremonies with capacity determined by the necessary risk assessments.
  14. One of the more complex areas that ministers would need to consider was the issue of household mixing. Given that this was where most of the transmissions occurred, the CMO advised Cabinet that there was a need to avoid a situation which could lead to extended chains of transmission.
  15. It was agreed that officials would need to provide further advice to ministers.
  16. Cabinet agreed that self-isolation should become a legal requirement and people would be required to do so as soon as they developed symptoms and not after they had been tested. They would be eligible for a payment of £500 to cover lost income. A duty would be placed on employers to ensure they could not prevent an employee from following advice to self-isolate and there would be a new offence of knowingly giving false information to the TTP service.
  17. Cabinet agreed that all schools post-firebreak should return to full operations under COVID-19 safe conditions from 9 November, with blended learning provided to those required to self-isolate. This was particularly important for socio-economic reasons and because of indirect harms to children and young people.
  18. There was a need for officials to provide ministers with further advice on the implications for the culture, sport and tourism sectors.
  19. Given that there were still a number of issues to be resolved and time was short to draft the necessary legislation, it was agreed that Cabinet should meet again over the weekend.
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