The framework will help to determine when the strict stay-at-home restrictions can begin to be relaxed in Wales and will help to find a way for people in Wales to live and work alongside coronavirus.
A Wales-wide programme of surveillance, case identification, and contact tracing is being developed through the office of the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Frank Atherton. This will highlight the importance of community testing and support the containment of emerging coronavirus infections as and when restrictions are eased.
Launching the framework, the First Minister said:
Our approach to date has been one of lockdown. We have taken unprecedented steps to protect everyone, but particularly those most at risk from serious illness.
This has helped the NHS prepare and cope with coronavirus and, even though we have sadly seen more than 640 people die, it has helped to save many more lives. But this strategy comes with its own costs to people’s wider health and wellbeing and long-term costs to our economy.
We are keeping these regulations under constant review. We know coronavirus will be with us for a long time yet but we want to see whether there are things we can do while we continue to tackle the virus and while the search for better treatments and a vaccine continue.
The framework – and the seven questions – will help determine when the time is right to relax some of the stay-at home regulations.
The seven questions are:
- Would easing a restriction have a negative effect on containing the virus?
- Does a particular measure pose a low risk of further infection?
- How can it be monitored and enforced?
- Can it be reversed quickly if it creates unintended consequences?
- Does it have a positive economic benefit?
- Does it have a positive impact on people’s wellbeing?
- Does it have a positive impact on equality?
The Chief Medical Officer for Wales’ office has developed the Wales-wide programme of surveillance, case identification, and contact tracing.
It will have four main strands – improved surveillance of cases of coronavirus; effective identification of cases and contact tracing; learning from international experience and engaging with the public.
Dr Atherton said:
Action to ease the lockdown restrictions will need to be supported by a comprehensive public health response, which will need to developed quickly and at scale.
Across the UK, we have worked and put in place unprecedented measures to contain and delay the spread of coronavirus. We have also worked to reduce the overall impact of the virus by strengthening essential services, including healthcare.
We are now working towards a new recovery phase to lead us out of the pandemic but only when the conditions are right.
The First Minister added:
Coronavirus is not going to disappear – it is likely it will be with us for a long time. We will need to have some sort of restrictions in place for some time yet to continue to control the spread of the virus and reduce community transmission. This framework will help us determine what is right for Wales.
There is a long road ahead of us towards recovery to pre-pandemic levels, but if we continue to work together, I hope we will be able to make changes to the restrictions and see a gradual return to something resembling normal life.
The Welsh Government has worked closely with the rest of the UK throughout the pandemic and has shared the development of the framework with the Scottish, Northern Irish and the UK governments.