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Advice presented to First Minister on post-firebreak restrictions.

First published:
19 November 2020
Last updated:

I have reviewed the proposals to retain existing restrictions in the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020, with some changes to the enforcement provisions following a review of the Fixed Penalty Notice regime and some generally technical amendments. 

My advice continues to be informed by the outputs of the UK Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell (TAC), and through discussions with Chief Medical Officers in the 4 Nations and the Chief Economic Adviser in Wales.

There is good evidence that the Welsh firebreak has had the intended impact on the transmission of COVID-19. Case rates have been reducing, there is an indication of hospital admissions stabilising, and the latest estimate of R for Wales is between 0.9 and 1.2. Many factors can influence these figures so progress should be closely monitored, along with the data and experiences from the other parts of the UK and internationally, where different regimes and timeframes have been imposed.The improvements that we are currently seeing are fragile and I fully expect to see a rebounding of case rates in the next two weeks (indeed there is already some indication of this in some of our local authority areas). I am yet to see any evidence that the extent of public behavioural change needed in order to keep viral transmission within manageable bounds has been achieved in Wales or in other UK nations. I therefore agree with the proposals to keep existing restrictions in place as this provides a consistent and continued message on the risk of social mixing. Penalties for a range of non-compliance issues including for failing to self-isolate should contribute to making our everyday environments safer. 

There has been considerable progress in the understanding of COVID-19 transmission through droplets, small aerosol particles and on surfaces, with the most significant risks being indoors, in crowded and unventilated settings. As the festive season approaches, everyone should be aware of these risks and know what to do to prevent or avoid them. A concerted national campaign is welcomed, focusing on our collective responsibility to put into practice social distancing, wear face coverings where required, wash our hands regularly and stay outside whenever we can.

Our challenge over the next weeks is to keep the prevalence of COVID-19 infection as low as possible as we move towards the winter festive season.

Dr Frank Atherton
Chief Medical Officer
19 November 2020