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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
  • Kirsty Williams MS
  • Hannah Blythyn MS
  • Jane Hutt MS
  • Julie Morgan MS
  • Dafydd Elis Thomas MS
  • Lee Waters MS

Apologies

  • Ken Skates MS
  • Jeremy Miles MS

Officials

  • Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
  • Will Whiteley, Head of Cabinet Division
  • Toby Mason, Head of Strategic Communications (via video link)
  • Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
  • Alex Bevan, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Ian Butler, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser (via video link)  
  • Paul Griffiths, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Gareth Williams, Special Adviser (via video link)
  • Mitch Theaker, 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)
  • Dewi Knight, Specialist Adviser for Education Reform (via video link)
  • Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services (via video link)
  • Andrew Goodall, Director General, Health (via video link)
  • Andrew Slade, Director General ESNR (via video link)
  • Frank Atherton, CMO (via video link)
  • Simon Brindle, Director COVID-19 project team (via video link)
  • Tom Taylor, COVID-19 project team (via video link)
  • Nick Batey, COVID-19 project team (via video link)
  • Christopher Stevens, COVID-19 project team (via video link)

Item 1: Three week review of Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations – Update from the CMO

  1. The focus of the Cabinet meeting was the latest 21 day review of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations and other lockdown measures. In accordance with the Regulations, the imposition or continuation of a requirement or restriction had to satisfy three conditions. 
  2. The Regulations 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. The First Minister invited the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) to provide an update on virus transmission rates and his views on the available headroom. The CMO was concerned about the alarming increase in cases in Wales and across the UK. 
  4. Over the past four days the rate of infection in Wales had tripled to 150 cases, the largest number of daily infections since May. Caerphilly County had accounted for almost a third of the increase, which had led to the imposition of local lockdown measures. House parties and private indoor gatherings appeared to be the source of the increase in infection rates in the County, rather than controlled environments, such as public houses.
  5. Generally across Wales, transmission amongst households, not just in homes, accounted for over 25% of the new cases. Travellers returning from abroad and increased cases in the workplace, such as food processing plants and call centres accounted for the rest.
  6. The situation was a lot different to the conditions surrounding the last review and there was a need to be more precautionary with any further lifting of restrictions.

Item 2: Three week review of Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) Regulations – review of lockdown restrictions

  1. Cabinet agreed that, given the emerging situation and the CMO’s concerns, the restrictions on households meeting with other households in the home should remain in force following the current review period. It would be important to reinforce the messaging around this, particularly light of what was happening in Caerphilly County. 
  2. Ministers recognised that the meaning of ‘a gathering’ had appeared to become more confusing for certain people since the restrictions had been eased. It was always the Government’s intention that this meant any form of interaction where people, including strangers, did things together. However, the reopening of cinemas had caused some ambiguity.
  3. The intention in prohibiting most gatherings was to address the health risk arising from social interactions and the danger of social distancing not being maintained when people who knew each other were in the same place undertaking the same activity. However, people who happened to be in the same place and doing the same thing were captured by the broad interpretation, which was impractical given that people visiting a public house or shopping were not considered to be ‘a gathering’.
  4. Therefore, Cabinet agreed that from 12 September ‘a gathering’ should be more narrowly defined, which would capture only social interaction with people from other households. A new definition would be introduced and there would be restrictions on ‘events’, such as organised activities. This would clarify that the intention was to prevent such activities or ‘events’ until restrictions were relaxed. This could be linked to the number of people involved, irrespective of whether people were doing things together. These changes would be technical with the aim of simplifying and reflecting the current position.
  5. Given recent events, Ministers agreed that Local Authorities should be provided with new powers to close premises on public health grounds. This would support interventions as outbreaks occurred and enable Authorities to take action to close off land or individual local businesses to stop gatherings or events. This would be a ‘stand-alone’ power, which would be different to Premises Improvement Notices and Premises Closure Notices. 
  6. Welsh Ministers would need to be notified when these new powers were used and the Government would also retain concurrent powers.
  7. In terms of relaxing the remaining restrictions, there were no plans to make any changes on Friday of that week as there was no headroom given the reopening of schools and the developing issues in Caerphilly County.  
  8. However, it was recommended, depending on the spread of virus, the Government would signal from 19 September that organised activities indoors for up to a maximum of 30 people could take place. This would align with the rules for exercise classes indoors and wedding receptions. All activities would be subject to the relevant risk assessments by the relevant body and be in an open premises.  
  9. A range of activities could take place, such as breastfeeding and weight loss classes, while enabling small social events in assisted living settings. All would be required to take place in regulated settings, such as community centres.  This would also enable village halls and community centres to recover lost income. Cabinet agreed with these recommendations.
  10. It was noted that people were still unaware that those who worked from home, or in other people’s homes, such as music tutors, could do so under existing regulations. It was agreed that the First Minister should raise this at his press conference on Friday.
  11. There would also be an opportunity on Friday to signal further pilot events during September and October that would follow on from the three events taking place outdoors for up to 100 people. Early indications suggested the first three events had been successful and demonstrated these could be conducted effectively and safely.
  12. Therefore, it was proposed to signal the intention over the next two months to hold a series of up to five specific outdoor pilots of up to 500 people. There would also be an event specifically aimed at young people to help reinforce the messages about social distancing. 
  13. In addition, an indoor business event and two non-business events, to cover sports and the arts for up to 100 people, would be piloted.
  14. Cabinet welcomed these proposals.
  15. There were only a small number of sectors that remained closed under the regulations, and in line with the proportionately test, it was proposed to signal on Friday that all of these sectors, apart from nightclubs, should be allowed to open. 
  16. Permanent skating rinks would be able to reopen from 3 October. There were only two rinks in Wales, Cardiff and Deeside, and the Deeside rink was currently a field hospital.
  17. Mitigations suggested that it was no longer proportionate for concert halls and theatres to remain closed.
  18. Ministers agreed with these proposals.
  19. Cabinet noted that, in addition to the issues raised at the meeting, at the press conference on Friday the First Minister would reinforce the fact that the Government’s priority was to ensure schools could remain open and restrictions would be re-imposed to ensure this happened.
  20. The importance of observing the restrictions, particularly about meeting indoors, would be reinforced. People would be reminded that they should not be socialising with people who were not within their household or extended household.  
  21. Individuals and companies who were responsible for premises open to the public would be reminded that they could be closed if reasonable measures to minimise exposure to the virus were not followed.