Explains our responsibilities and how we are working with other bodies during the coronavirus pandemic.
Role of the Welsh Government
The Welsh Government is responsible for the public health response to the coronavirus pandemic in Wales.
It is doing this by exercising its legal powers to impose restrictions that prevent or slow the spread of coronavirus, and by overseeing the Welsh NHS, which is treating those who have become ill.
It is also providing additional support to that available from the UK Government to businesses and individuals who have been affected by the economic impact of the public health measures taken.
The Welsh Government is working in collaboration with the other governments in the UK to take an aligned, “four nations” approach where this is beneficial and appropriate. This is co-ordinated by the UK Government through the crisis contingency committee meetings of “COBRA”, which in turn receives advice from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).
The decision to impose a UK-wide “lockdown” on 23 March 2020 was made following a meeting of COBRA, based on advice from SAGE. Implementation of the lockdown is, however, a matter for the UK Government in respect of England only. Power to impose the lockdown in Wales rests with the Welsh Government and the Welsh Government has discretion about how it should be implemented.
What happens within the Welsh Government?
Within the Welsh Government all major decisions in relation to the coronavirus emergency are taken or approved by the First Minister Mark Drakeford MS, in consultation with the Welsh Government Cabinet. The Cabinet meets formally at least once a week but Ministers also meet daily to assess the latest situation.
Primary responsibility for the Welsh NHS lies with the Minister for Health and Social Services Vaughan Gething MS. He also has primary responsibility for public health matters, having regard to the advice of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, Dr Frank Atherton. Responsibility for legal matters (in particular the legislation made in response to the emergency) rests with the Counsel General, Jeremy Miles MS. The Counsel General is also responsible for co-ordinating the Welsh Government’s approach to the longer term recovery from the impact of the pandemic.
The extensive impact of the public health emergency is such, however, that it has an impact on the portfolios of all Welsh Government Ministers.
Welsh Civil Service
Within the Welsh Civil Service, the Permanent Secretary to the Welsh Government, Dame Shan Morgan, has created an executive committee of senior officials tasked solely with dealing with coronavirus related issues. This committee meets twice a week and among other things has overseen a widespread redeployment of officials to coronavirus related work.
The Welsh Government’s Department for Health and Social Services is responsible for the management of the public health response to the coronavirus in Wales. The Department is headed by Director General, Andrew Goodall, who is also the Chief Executive of the Welsh NHS. The Welsh Government has also established a COVID-19 Project team to support a coordinated and joined-up approach to the Welsh Government’s overall response.
In addition, the Emergency Coordination Centre (Wales) (ECC(W)) co-ordinates the Welsh Government’s response to major emergencies in Wales that require a multi-agency approach. Its role is mainly focused on situational awareness – gathering and disseminating information and keeping the Welsh Ministers, senior Welsh Government officials and the UK Government informed as situations develop. The ECC(W) also disseminates information to, and receives information from, Welsh Strategic Co-ordinating Groups (SCGs) which may include, for example, the police, fire and rescue services, transport authorities and the military. It also provides a means for SCGs to raise concerns with the Welsh Government and, if necessary, the UK Government.
Public Health Wales
Public Health Wales is the national public health agency in Wales and is one of the public bodies that forms part of the Welsh NHS. One of its roles is to protect the public from infection and to provide advice on epidemiology (the incidence and prevalence of disease). Although operationally independent of the Welsh Government, it acts at the Welsh Government’s direction.
Wales’ seven health boards are responsible for planning and providing community and hospital-based NHS healthcare and mental health services for their local populations. They are independent organisations but take their strategic direction from the Welsh Government.
The health boards, together with Velindre NHS Trust (which provides specialist cancer care) and the Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust, are enacting their plans to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. These focus on increasing critical care capacity, the number of ventilators and overall hospital bed numbers, including through the development of temporary field hospitals.