Mark Drakeford

Wales Would “Not Rule Out” Recruiting Unvaccinated NHS Workers Sacked in England Over Vaccine Mandate

Well that was unexpected. Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford – who has consistently erred on the side of totalitarian when responding to the pandemic – has said he would “not rule out” recruiting NHS workers from England who leave their jobs due to its mandatory vaccination policy. The BBC has the story.

Vaccines are not compulsory for NHS staff in Wales.

Mr Drakeford said a “vast majority” of care sector staff had also taken the “protections that vaccination offers”.

When asked if he would take on NHS staff from England, Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Broadcasting House: “We wouldn’t rule it out but it would depend on what anybody said in an interview when they were applying for a job.

“We’re not going to make vaccinations mandatory in our NHS,” he said.

“We haven’t in our social care services because we have succeeded by persuasion by getting the vast majority of people who work in our services to do the right thing and take up the protections that vaccination offers.”

NHS staff in England must have a first jab by February 3rd and be fully vaccinated by April 1st to continue in frontline roles.

The U.K.’s Department of Health said there were no plans to delay and it was “the right thing to do to protect patients”.

Mr Drakeford said: “I don’t expect us to go looking for people who have not been vaccinated but, if people apply, then they would be interviewed in the normal way.

“We’d look to see what lay behind their decision.

“We wouldn’t rule them out but we certainly won’t be going out there looking for them.”

Come on Boris, when you’re being outflanked on freedom by Mark Drakeford you know you’ve gone wrong somewhere.

Worth reading in full.

U.K. Government Has “Abandoned the Science”, says Wales First Minister – as He Sets Course For ‘Alert Level Zero’ Which Keeps Masks and Vaccine Passports

The U.K. Government is more interested in distracting people from its issues than Covid and has “long abandoned any sense of following the science”, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said, as he confirmed further easing of rules in Wales. The BBC has more.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve always taken a different approach in Wales, one that does things step-by-step in line with the science.

“We’re a Government that doesn’t need to grab headlines to distract attention from the difficulties that we would be in if we were in the same position as the Government in England.”

Wales is currently in a three-week process of removing most of its Covid rules, with fans now allowed to return to sports stadiums and pubs and restaurants allowed to operate outdoors without the rule of six or social distancing.

But even when Wales reaches alert level zero, some measures will remain, such as face masks in shops and hospitality venues, Covid passes for nightclubs and large events and self-isolation rules.

In England, however, all Plan B measures will end on Thursday, including mandatory face masks and Covid passes.

Referring to the No 10 parties scandal, Mr Drakeford added: “I don’t think there’s any doubt at all that the U.K. Government has long abandoned any sense that it is following the science. It is a Government desperately in difficulties of its own making and is forever on the lookout for a headline which will distract people’s attention from the awful mess that it finds itself in.”

Welsh Secretary Simon Hart said: “The First Minister’s comments are an uncalled for and opportunistic insult towards medical advisers and the public.”

Russell George, the Conservative MS for Monmouthshire, asked why, if Mr. Drakeford is “so confident that he’s getting things right in Wales”, he is “running away from a Wales-specific public inquiry”, noting that: “We’ve got the worse Covid death rates of any of the U.K. nations.”

The fact that ‘Alert Level Zero’ in Wales still involves the Plan B measures – vaccine passports and mask mandate – that England is now lifting, plus the Plan A measure of self-isolation that Boris has signalled he will shortly repeal, tells you everything you need to know about Mark Drakeford’s idea of ‘The Science’. Does he ever intend to remove these measures? If so he hasn’t said – and he’ll clearly need to think up a new name for his alert levels when he does.

Worth reading in full.

Parties at Number 10 Suggest Boris and His Team Thought Covid Restrictions Were Pointless. So Why Did They Impose Them?

I’ve written a comment piece for Mail+ about the recent spate of revelations about Downing Street parties, pointing out that it isn’t just Tory politicians and their staff who’ve been ignoring the Covid restrictions.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it isn’t just Conservative politicians and their senior aides who ignored the restrictions they expected the rest of us to comply with.

A photograph emerged last night of Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Opposition, drinking a beer with Labour staff in a constituency office in Durham when Tier 2 measures were in place. Given that Starmer has consistently called for even tougher Covid restrictions in England – much like those imposed by Mark Drakeford, the Welsh Labour leader – this is another example of flagrant hypocrisy.

Mind you, Drakeford himself is no angel. In November of last year he was photographed dancing in a crowded room at a Diwali celebration without a mask, breaking his government’s own rules making them compulsory in all indoor spaces.

And let’s not forget Sadiq Kahn, the mayor of London. In October, he berated Boris for not following Drakeford’s lead and imposing a mask mandate and condemned those who refused to voluntarily wear face coverings as ‘selfish’. A few days later he was photographed at a crowded party with Liverpool footballer Mo Salah with no masks in sight.

This begs the question: Why have all these advocates of lockdowns and related restrictions been flagrantly ignoring the rules?

It’s not a straightforward example of ‘do as I say, not what I do’ – something we’ve grown used to from the political class – because these leaders supposedly had a vested interest in following their own rules. After all, weren’t they worried about catching the virus? They told us these measures were for our own protection.

The only explanation I can think of is that they knew some of these rules were pointless. We now know that many of the non-pharmaceutical interventions governments made around the world to try to control successive waves of Covid infections made little or no impact on the overall ebb and flow of each variant. Just look at Sweden, which didn’t impose a lockdown in 2020 and had one of the lowest excess death rates in Europe that year.

More recently, Boris himself proved the doom-mongers of Sage wrong when he ignored their apocalyptic predictions of what would happen if he didn’t impose tighter restrictions – 5,000 deaths a day, said Professor Lockdown. The Omicron variant, like the previous ones, has proved self-limiting and begun to fade without the Government doing much at all.

But this begs another question: If they knew the rules were pointless, why did these political panjandrums advocate for them in the first place? My conspiracy-minded friends will say it’s because they were doing the bidding of an international cabal of rich, powerful men who had a vested interest in locking everyone down, whether because they would benefit financially – hello, Jeff Bezos – or because it helped advance their sinister political agenda known as ‘the Great Reset’. But I think the truth is less exciting.

I believe the reason the Government imposed three lockdowns – and countless restrictions in between – was because it calculated it was better to be seen to be doing something to try to suppress the virus rather than just ‘letting it rip’. Boris must have known over 100,000 Britons would likely die as a result of the pandemic and there was little he could do about that, but at least it would be harder for his political opponents to hang those deaths around his neck if he locked us all in our homes. And the reason his opponents criticised him for not going even further is because they hoped to do precisely that.

The one good thing to emerge from these scandals is that it will make it harder for the political class to play the public for fools again. If senior politicians ever impose another plethora of pointless, incomprehensible restrictions – whether Tory or Labour – I hope we’ll all pay about as much attention to them as they do.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: A leaving party was held at the Cabinet Office in December 2020 for Kate Josephs, head of the Government unit responsible for drawing up Covid restrictions. The Telegraph has more.

Mark Drakeford Vows to Keep Draconian Restrictions in Place as U.K.’s Daily Covid Cases Fall For Second Day in a Row

Mark Drakeford dismissed the evidence showing the worst of the Omicron wave has passed and vowed to keep tough restrictions in place in Wales for the foreseeable future. He attacked Boris Johnson for being too weak to introduce the Covid measures his scientific advisors have recommended and said England was an “outlier” among the four nations of the United Kingdom – the only one not to take action to protect its citizens. MailOnline has more.

Mark Drakeford launched an astonishing tirade at Boris Johnson over Covid restrictions today as he vowed to ignore clear evidence that the worst of the Omicron wave has passed in order to keep tough restrictions in place in Wales.

The First Minister branded England an international “outlier” in resisting tighter curbs and accused the PM of overseeing a ‘politically paralysed’ administration that had tied his hands.

It came as he used a press conference to insist that Wales’s tough Covid restrictions on bars and mass events must stay in place due to an Omicron “storm” breaking over the nation.

As the rest of the U.K. eases restrictions he warned of “a difficult month ahead”, despite admitting that the variant may not be as severe as previous waves.

But then, in a rant at Mr Johnson, he added: “In England, we have a Government that is politically paralysed, with a Prime Minister who is unable to secure an agreement through his Cabinet to take the actions that his advisers have been telling him ought to have been taken.

“And even if he could get his Cabinet to address them, he can’t get his MPs to agree them.

“The outlier here is not Wales. Wales is taking action, as is Scotland, as is Northern Ireland, and as are countries right across Europe, and right across the globe.

“The one country that stands out as not taking action to protect its population is England.”

But his outburst came as a senior disease expert said a surge in the number of severe Omicron cases and deaths is unlikely to be seen in the current wave.

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, Chairman of the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication, University of Cambridge, said: “The big severing is between really severe outcomes and that there’s still no sign of a serious increase in intensive care, and ventilation, and in deaths.

“We would have expected to see that by now in London and elsewhere – so that is the really reassuring thing.

“I think we can guarantee that over this wave, as we endure the next few weeks, what we’re not going to see is a big surge in very severe outcomes.”

Worth reading in full.

English Border Pubs Bracing For 100,000 to Cross From Scotland and Wales on New Year’s Eve

English border pubs are expecting upwards of 100,000 Scottish and Welsh revellers to cross into England on New Year’s Eve amid mounting anger at Nicola Sturgeon and Mark Drakeford for cracking down on festivities. MailOnline has more.

On Monday, Boris Johnson confirmed England will not see additional Covid measures introduced before New Year’s Eve despite nightclubs closing and curbs being placed on large gatherings in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The restrictions on events in neighbouring nations are expected to prompt a flood of people crossing into England to celebrate on Friday December 31st.

Scotland’s Deputy First Minister John Swinney today admitted the Scottish government is powerless to stop Scots heading to England.

But he said he would “discourage” people from making the trip, arguing it is not in the “spirit of the rules that we are putting forward”.

Mr Swinney said there will be no policing of the border to stop people crossing and ultimately “people are free to make their own judgements”.

His comments came as Ms Sturgeon prepares to deliver a Covid update this afternoon after case numbers in Scotland reached record highs.

The festive period has seen daily cases in Scotland climb to more than 8,000, with a pandemic-high of 11,030 recorded on Boxing Day.

It remains unclear whether Ms Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister, is planning to introduce further restrictions, stick with the ones she has already announced, or remove some of the existing curbs.

The regional differences on social gatherings are expected to see a surge in Scottish and Welsh revellers crossing into England on New Year’s Eve.

Greg Mulholland, at the Campaign for Pubs, said as many as 100,000 could cross the borders for a “normal” New Year’s Eve without table service-only or mask wearing requirements.

He told the Sun: “We need a more coordinated, common sense approach. It’s confusing for the many thousands of people who live near a border, and frustrating for publicans in Scotland and Wales.”

Social media was flooded with people saying they planned to head to England on Friday to bring in the New Year in the face of stringent restrictions on clubs and bars in their own nations.

Furious Tory MPs and hospitality bosses in Scotland and Wales yesterday demanded Ms Sturgeon and Mr Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, publish figures justifying their Covid crackdowns.

City centres in the principalities, including Northern Ireland, were pictured desolate and lifeless last night amid the introduction of new Covid restrictions for pubs and clubs, which included the rule of six and social distancing for thousands of venues.

Meanwhile revellers let their hair down in England after Health Secretary Sajid Javid confirmed no new rules would be put in place before the end of the year.

Worth reading in full.

Stop Press: Former Labour MP Tom Harris says the absurd new Covid Rules in Scotland and Wales prove the Left just loves to boss everyone about.

Mark Drakeford Criticised by Health Expert For Spreading Misinformation To Justify Restrictions

On Wednesday, Mark Drakeford declared that the Omicron variant is just as deadly as any previous Covid strain if the person infected had not contracted the virus before. In response to this statement, Jamie Jenkins, the former Head of Health Analysis at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said that the Welsh First Minister was attempting to justify further Covid restrictions by deploying an “untrue statement with the intent to deceive” the public, and that the Welsh Government itself does not possess the evidence that upholds Drakeford’s conclusion. The Telegraph has the story.

Mark Drakeford has been accused of lying to the public by a former health statistics boss after he said Omicron was “probably” just as severe as delta, despite three studies concluding the opposite.

Jamie Jenkins, the former head of health analysis at the ONS, said that the Welsh First Minister had made an “untrue statement with the intent to deceive” as he scrambled to justify his Covid restrictions in the face of evidence that the latest Covid variant is milder.

On Wednesday, Drakeford said he did not think it is “as simple as saying Omicron is less serious than Delta”.

“If you have been infected previously, it may be that it is a less severe attack,” he told a press conference.

“If you have never had Covid and you get Omicron, the evidence is it is probably just as severe as any other form would be.”

His comments came despite new studies from the University of Edinburgh, the U.K. Health Security Agency and a group of South African scientists, which all suggested that Omicron produced less severe symptoms than delta, and was between 50% and 80% less likely to hospitalise patients.

Jenkins told the Telegraph that Drakeford was “deceiving the Welsh public” to justify Wales’s latest Covid restrictions, which include £60 fines for employees who travel to the office when they could work from home, a limit of six people in groups at pubs or restaurants and the return of two-metre social distancing.

He said that the Welsh Government appeared not to have firm evidence to support Drakeford’s assertion that Omicron was likely to be as severe as delta.

“I think the word ‘probably’ is a bit strange from the First Minister, because if you’re going to make statements to bring restrictions on businesses, you want more than ‘probably’,” he said.

“For him to say that the evidence is that it is ‘probably’ just as severe is just bizarre, because to say that, you have got to have some evidence, haven’t you?”

Worth reading in full.

Decision Whether to Impose Vaccine Passports on Pubs Will Be Made at the “Last Minute”, Says Mark Drakeford

Mark Drakeford has said that a decision on whether to extend the Welsh Government’s vaccine passport scheme to pubs won’t be taken until the last possible moment, with the Welsh First Minister adding that “circumstances and knowledge are developing so fast”. Drakeford also mentioned that imposing vaccine passports on pubs would not have been taken into consideration if the Omicron variant had never emerged. BBC News has the story.

A decision on whether to extend Covid passes to pubs and restaurants will be made at the “last minute”, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Ministers are to consider whether to expand the scheme over the next week, with the next Covid rules review due on Friday.

Drakeford said the emergence of the Omicron variant has led to knowledge and circumstances developing “so fast”.

The first case of Omicron was confirmed in Wales on Friday.

Covid passes are already required for cinemas, theatres, nightclubs and large events in Wales.

They show if someone has been fully vaccinated or tested negative for Covid in the past 48 hours.

The Welsh Conservatives have said they remained opposed to Covid passes because they do not seem to present “additional benefits” to stopping Covid.

But the First Minister told Politics Wales he did not think the Welsh Government would be considering extending passes to hospitality if it had only been dealing with the dominant Delta variant.

He said: “We’ve got another week to go. We will learn a lot in that week about the Omicron virus.

“If we were to do it, it would simply be to help those businesses to stay open and still attracting customers through the door because people would feel confident that everybody else in that setting were either vaccinated or had taken a lateral flow test.

“But we haven’t made that decision, and we won’t make that decision right up until the day we have to, because circumstances and knowledge are developing so fast around the new variant that you ought to wait to have the maximum amount of information that you can.”

Sam Rowlands, Conservative Member of the Senedd (MS) for North Wales, said the Government should ensure “every part of our energies” is put in to rolling out booster jabs rather than extending use of the pass.

“With that you could see much better walk-in centres – rapid roll-out of walk-in centres across the country,” he said.

Plaid Cymru deputy leader Sian Gwenllian MS said: “We need to rely on the evidence and listen to what the experts say before bringing in any new regulations but if they are needed, they are needed.”

Drakeford said he could not claim the Covid pass scheme was making a difference “above the fact that it makes that extra marginal difference alongside everything else you do”.

Worth reading in full.