Wales’ First Minister has made a massive mistake | Will Hayward

People have been following his rules at the expense of their own health and wellbeing because they thought it would save lives – now it doesn’t appear the First Minister knows what they areSHARE

  • BY WILL HAYWARD
  • 21:07, 11 MAY 2020UPDATED08:48, 12 MAY 2020

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(Image: Ben Evans/Huw Evans Agency)

The First Minister of Wales has just made a massive mistake. A mistake that suggests a casual attitude to rules people have been following at the expense of their own health and wellbeing because they thought it would save lives.

During a press conference today Mark Drakeford said that it was ok to meet up with one member of your family from outside your household, providing you maintain appropriate social distancing.https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

When asked about the new changes announced by the UK Government in England, Mr Drakeford said: “I am not sure that I fully understand what is being proposed in England.

“It has been the case throughout coronavirus in Wales that if you as an individual are out taking exercise you can, at a social distance, have contact with one other person. We always said that two people can interact in that way and if you did as I did go on my bicycle to my allotment through one of the major fields in Cardiff then you see people doing that all the time.”https://tpc.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0

This seemed different to what had been the reality for people all over Wales for the past six weeks. Really? I could have been having a distant chin wag with my mate while exercising all this time?

When it came to WalesOnline’s turn to ask a question we wanted to clarify. The First Minister had been clear but with something like this, accuracy could be a matter of life and death.https://d-6818501004217698187.ampproject.net/2005050322001/frame.html

When asked for clarification, Mr Drakeford repeated: “The rules in Wales are that two people can meet providing they observe social distancing, so if one person from a household is going out and meeting another member of their family then under our rules that would be permitted.”

Mr Drakeford went into some detail, emphasising members of the public could not meet more than one person from another household at the same time.

He said: “You can’t go above two, once you go above two, in our definition it is a gathering and gatherings are not allowed.”

We therefore published an article saying exactly what Mark Drakeford had said.

However we have now been told by the Welsh Government that the answer given by Mr Drakeford was not their advice.

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “Our overarching advice is to stay at home. You need a reasonable excuse to go out, and arranging to meet friends and family is not reasonable excuse.”

So we are in a situation where the First Minister of Wales has given the wrong advice. He was not asked if it was ok for people to bump into people they know. He was asked if it was ok for people to meet other members of their families living in different households, as is happening in England.

We are in a situation where our top politician either doesn’t understand what’s happening across the border or doesn’t understand the rules he is asking us to follow.

The Welsh Government is asking us to follow a stricter set of rules to those people in England have to follow. Many welcome this as they are worried by coronavirus. Yet these restrictions have a huge impact on isolated people who live alone. If these rules are as important as we are told, how can the man in charge of them not know what they are?

Equally worryingly, it is hugely damaging for public confidence in the rules – and the likelihood of them being followed – if the man who sets them can’t remember what they are.

We hear again and again that the Welsh Government is following the science. In recent weeks they have refused to make electorally popular decisions such as mass testing in all Welsh care homes because the science suggested you only needed to do it in care homes with existing cases.

It would have been politically expedient to test all, but in order to follow the science they did not.

This means that, if their advice is NOT to meet people from other households it would be for a very good reason. By the time the Welsh Government had given us a correction at 6.50pm over 50,000 people had read this incorrect advice.

Even the most sceptical minded reader would probably take the advice of Wales’ top politician at face value. This isn’t a meme doing the rounds on Facebook, this is the head of our government.

Many of these people have probably been desperate to see their family or close friends for the past two months. They may have made plans to see their family the next day. Perhaps they even went out straight away, texting parent/grandparent/sibling/child/friend on the way to their local park.

They did this in good faith. Not only that they would not be fined, but more importantly, on the understanding they were not putting themselves or a loved one at risk.

For weeks now people in Wales, some of which are desperately lonely or with mental health problems, have stayed away from their support networks. All because of these rules. But the man behind the law doesn’t seem to know what the rules are.

It demonstrates a concerning lack of understanding from our top policy maker. Yes we “follow the science” but ultimately every decision is a political one. And the person at the top just acted in a way that suggests he doesn’t know what he has actually imposed on people for the last two months.

Beyond the potential loss of life this also risks eroding public trust in the advice and the lockdown. This could be far more deadly than people going to the park this afternoon.

But I really hope it doesn’t have an impact on comparative openness that the Welsh Government has operated in when compared to their UK counterparts in London.

Anyone who watches the First Minister’s press conferences live will have noticed the differences between them and the Westminster ones.

Instead of the Westminster Politician Bot 3,000s, desperately trying to look Churchillian and selected because of their winning combination of empty slogans and unwavering loyalty to Mr Cummings, the Drakeford ones are different.

He does seem to genuinely try to give insight into their policy making. He really endeavours to help people understand why the Welsh Government is doing something. Of course he is a politician, and should come served with a dollops of critical thinking and anti-spin, but at least you usually felt you left more informed than you entered.

Everyone makes mistakes, we know that.

But Mr Drakeford and his government ran for election saying that people should vote for them because they will make their lives better. When you run for public office you are held to a higher standard – especially as leader. Mistakes cost lives, and Mr Drakeford has just made a massive one.https://d-6818501004217698187.ampproject.net/2005050322001/frame.htmlFollow @WalesOnlinehttps://d-6818501004217698187.ampproject.net/2005050322001/frame.html

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Kazan- Kazan National Research Technical University Казанский национальный исследовательский технический университет имени А. Н. Туполева he graduated in Economics in 1982

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