Once again, the Conservative UK Government has got it wrong. Despite clear advice from the SAGE Committee, Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak decided to delay, just as they did in March. Predictably, the outcome has been the same – a dramatic surge in cases and an accompanying large rise in hospital admissions that could have been avoided or at least reduced had prompt action been taken.
And once again the Labour Welsh Government has been shown to have taken the right decision by acting decisively. Even temporary lockdowns have serious consequences for workers and businesses, so these are not decisions to be taken lightly. However, when trends in case numbers indicate that the NHS will be overwhelmed this winter unless something is done quickly, then there is only one responsible course of action — protect the NHS and protect lives.
While it is too early to draw firm conclusions on the effectiveness of the temporary lockdown in Wales, the latest statistics for North West Wales offer some suggestion that the hoped for benefits will be achieved. On Ynys Môn the number of coronavirus cases fell from 95 in the week 17-23 October to 77 in the week 24-30 October, while in Gwynedd the reduction was from 102 to 76.
Yet even if this trend continues, it is clear that we all have a future duty to consider what we can do at a personal level. As Mark Drakeford, First Minister, has said, “We will only get through this if each one of us asks not what can I do, but what should I do? If we do that, avoid company, travel as little as we can, work from home wherever possible, then we have a path out of this together.”
- One key goal for Welsh Government has been to help working people to stay at home when they experience symptoms by offering adequate financial support. With this in mind, £32 million is being made available for two schemes to address the financial barriers faced by people needing to self-isolate.
- People on low incomes can apply to receive a £500 payment if they have tested positive for coronavirus or are asked to self-isolate by the NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service because they have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive.
A new top-up payment is being introduced for social care workers in Wales that will increase statutory sick pay to the normal wage level if staff have to take time off because they have coronavirus or are self-isolating.
The UK Government has stood out for what the Financial Times has called “the flimsiness of its sick pay and its failure to do much about it”. In the UK statutory sick pay is just £95.85 a week and for almost 2 million low-paid workers earning less than £120 a week, it is zero. This is a national disgrace – we look forward to the day when a Labour Government in Westminster will tackle this situation.