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Present

  • Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS (Chair)
  • Vaughan Gething MS

Via video link

  • Rebecca Evans MS
  • Lesley Griffiths MS
  • Julie James MS
  • Eluned Morgan MS
  • Ken Skates MS
  • Kirsty Williams MS
  • Jeremy Miles MS
  • Jane Hutt MS
  • Hannah Blythyn MS
  • Julie Morgan MS
  • Lee Waters MS
  • Dafydd Elis Thomas MS
  • Shan Morgan, Permanent Secretary (via video link)
  • Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
  • Carys Evans, Principal Private Secretary First Minister
  • Will Whiteley, Head of Cabinet Division
  • Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications
  • Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Dan Butler, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Ian Butler, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
  • Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Gareth Williams, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Tom Woodward, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Christopher W Morgan, Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
  • Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
  • Jonathan Scourfield, Specialist Policy Adviser (via video link)
  • Frank Atherton, CMO
  • Reg Kilpatrick, Director Local Government
  • Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser for Health
  • Debra Carter, Deputy Director Local Government Strategic Finance
  • Fliss Bennee, Co Chair, Technical Advisory Cell Covid-19 ECCW
  • Zowie Hay, COVID-19 team
  • Jo Trott, Head of COVID-19 project team

Item 1: 3 week review of Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations

  1. The First Minister informed Cabinet that a significant amount of material had been circulated to support Cabinet’s consideration of a few but complex decisions in relation to the 21 day review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations and other lockdown measures. The Chief Medical Officer had also circulated his advice relating to the proposals in the paper.
  2. The Deputy Director of Local Government Strategic Finance advised Cabinet that the paper had considered a summary of the review findings and outlined the risks and advantages of maintaining a 4 nations approach. The focus of the 3 week review was to consider the entire suite of measures, requirements and restrictions, along with their interactions, as a package within the overall health objectives.
  3. As part of an internal review, 3 priority areas had been identified for early consideration as part of lifting the lockdown restrictions.   These were: the opening up of public spaces; increasing economic activity and increasing essential health care services.
  4. The current evidence on the effect of ongoing restrictions and requirements was that the key indicators, which related to direct harm from the virus were either stable or stabilising. Too early or extensive easement of restrictions could lead to a return of exponential growth of viral transmission, and there would be a need to closely monitor the experiences of other nations.
  5. There were concerns about the indirect harms that arose from lockdown measures, and the potential for disproportionate harms to both socio–economically disadvantaged and younger people.
  6. In line with Cabinet priorities, and with consideration of the assessment from SAGE on where activity could resume without materially affecting the rates of transmission and public health objectives, along with the wider consideration of economic, social and wellbeing objectives, 4 proposals were recommended.
  7. To improve the health and wellbeing of individuals, greater use of outside spaces for the purposes of exercise, health and wellbeing should be allowed. There should be increased economic activity in areas already allowed to open, but not choosing to do so, and some closed outdoor economic activity should resume, such as outdoor markets and garden centres.
  8. Some limited public services, starting with libraries and household waste and recycling centres, could be allowed and there should be a continued and gradual increase of essential non-COVID activity in the healthcare system.
  9. Cabinet agreed that, given the concern that people were not currently accessing health services, the continued and gradual increase of essential non-COVID activity in the healthcare system should carry on.
  10. Cabinet agreed that schools should not be reopen on 1st June, but given that there had been a commitment to provide three weeks’ notice to any change in policy, the minister should make the announcement later that day. However, it was important to make clear that schools remained open for those with ALN and the children of key workers.
  11. Ministers agreed that those businesses that had closed through choice, rather than any for any legal reasons, should be encouraged to reopen where it was safe and some economic activity should be allowed to resume with appropriate social distancing measures in place.  Specifically, garden centres could re-open but there were concerns about allowing outdoor markets to recommence, because of the greater difficulty in securing and enforcing social distancing in such settings.
  12. Cabinet discussed whether any additional activity in outdoor settings should be allowed and acknowledged that to do so would have health and wellbeing benefits and could reduce indirect harm associated with lockdown. However, there was a concern that if there was any relaxation in the regulations the rate of infection could increase and any material rise in the reproduction rate above one could have a significant impact on the population and the NHS’s ability to manage cases.
  13. Cabinet agreed that the Regulations would be amended to remove the requirement that exercise should only take place ‘once a day’.
  14. Cabinet confirmed that local authorities could consider reopening libraries and household waste recycling centres. Garden centres would be permitted to open from Monday with appropriate social distancing in place. Outdoor markets would be considered further.
  15. Evidence suggested that COVID-19 did not survive well in direct sunlight, which suggested the outdoors was safer and gave weight to the argument for exercise being allowed more than once per day. The Health and Safety Executive had set out effectiveness of measures in mitigating the spread of the virus, with the use of PPE in public the least effective barrier compared with other engineering and administrative measures such as social distancing, thorough cleaning and hand washing protocols, which had far higher success in eliminating the virus.
  16. It was recognised that it was important to bear down on the spread of the virus itself, but strike the difficult balance to keep the rate of infection below one, while creating capacity to deal with the other harms.
  17. Cabinet, after considering the evidence from SAGE, the headroom available in the rate of infection and the consequences of adjusting the Regulations in the modest way suggested, reached its conclusion based on all available evidence. Cabinet was reassured that should the transmission or infection rates begin to increase then appropriate steps to reintroduce certain measures could be taken.
  18. It was confirmed the shielding group should continue to protect themselves by staying home.
  19. Cabinet agreed that officials should proceed in line with the comments made by ministers.

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