Chief Medical Officer Advice on 21 day review
I have reviewed the proposed amendments to the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 2) (Wales) Regulations 2020 which include:
- to require the collection of contact details in hospitality businesses and other high risk premises
- to signal expanding the scope of extended households: to include up to four households as part of a single exclusive extended household
- to signal allowing small receptions after a wedding or civil partnership ceremony and gatherings after a funeral of up to 30 people indoors
- a technical amendment to the Regulations to clarify that the only sentence a magistrate can issue is a fine under the 1984 Public Health Act
I support these proposals as being in keeping with the prudent approach to easement which we have adopted in Wales.
Whilst the overall public health conditions remain stable, the expansion of the extended households to enable a greater number to meet at one another’s houses should be carefully considered. In these circumstances we know from international evidence that the risks are greater for confined spaces with poor ventilation, where reminders to socially distance are absent or ignored, and where the sharing of facilities is practiced.
In England the number of daily cases has risen and the R number is now close to one. A similar picture is seen in other European countries for example in Italy where the highest daily rise since May 29 was recorded on August 7. Local outbreaks and re-imposition of restrictions are happening in other UK nations and across the globe. It seems highly likely that these trends are linked to the re-opening of the indoor hospitality sector so I fully support the requirement for this sector and other high risk settings to routinely collect contact information for the purposes of contact tracing.
On face coverings our recent re-assessment of the evidence by Health Technology Wales continues to conclude that there is weak evidence of a potential small beneficial effect on transmission and that there are also potential negative effects. On this basis I agree that we should continue to advise that three layered face coverings are recommended in crowded indoor settings where it is not possible to maintain social distancing.
If viral transmission increases or in outbreak situations it would seem proportionate and reasonable to go further and to mandate the use of face coverings. I therefore support the proposal to link the mandating of face coverings to our triggers for escalating our health protection arrangements. This will provide us with an opportunity to de-escalate our measures as and when viral transmission is controlled.
Dr Frank Atherton
Chief Medical Officer
13 August 2020