Plaid Leader Adam Price unveils party’s post fire break plan

The Autumn Fire Break should be the “last national lockdown” Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price has said.

The Plaid Cymru Leader was launching his party’s proposals for the post Fire Break period.

The proposals are presented to ensure the Welsh Government follows through on its pledge to “adopt a zero-Covid-19 strategy for Wales”, to advance policies and technologies that can enable life to return to normal as far as possible, and to seek to reduce all deaths attributable to the Covid-19 crisis.

The plan calls on the Welsh Government to optimise Wales’ testing capacity and to facilitate the 24 hour turn-around time, self-isolation supported financially up to £800, blended learning in schools, maintaining travel restrictions, mass testing, identifying Covid-free or Covid-light zones in hospitals, mental health support and a vaccine plan for Wales.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said,

“As this pandemic wears on, possibly for months or even years to come, we need a sustainable alternative. Government needs to set out a plan for next six months and a broader vision for next 18 months. We can’t keep going in and out of national lockdowns - this circuit breaker has to be the last.

“Above all else, the Welsh Government must focus on optimising Wales’s own testing capacity through NHS so that Wales is decreasingly reliant on the failing UK Lighthouse Labs to process tests and reaches the 24-hour turnaround timescale target.

“This is both a health and an economic emergency and businesses must be supported financially to weather the storm.  The Westminster Government must also commit to maintaining the furlough scheme in Wales for as long as the Welsh Government deems it necessary to support our public health measures.

“It’s time for a new strategy, a new approach to enable life to return to normal as far as possible.

‘AFTER THE COVID FIRE BREAK: 9 proposals for the 9th of November

1. Fixing Test and Trace

Over-reliance on the UK’s Lighthouse Labs is preventing Wales’s testing system from operating with maximum efficiency.

The Welsh Government should focus on optimising Wales’s own testing capacity through NHS and university laboratories in order to expedite the testing process and facilitate reaching the ‘24-hour turnaround’ timescale target.

Compliance is also key if the Test, Trace, Isolate, Support is to work effectively. This should be incentivised through ‘supported isolation’ including assistance if needed with accommodation, domestic assistance, and financial support up to £800.

Tests need to be freely available to not only symptomatic people but also asymptomatic contacts.

Children and school staff should be prioritised for routine rapid testing in order to ensure that asymptomatic cases are picked up and isolated.

Students should also be given access to tests upon leaving university to give them and their families confidence that they can visit one another over Christmas.

In the absence of tests, they should be advised to quarantine for 14 days before travelling home for the Christmas period in an effort to curtail transmission of the virus, particularly to parents and grandparents who may be in higher risk categories. Students should also be tested before they return to University after Christmas and isolate in bubbles until they receive their test results back.

2. Financial Support

Businesses that are either unable to trade, or whose trade is severely curtailed, including tourism, hospitality, and cultural businesses will need further immediate and longer term financial support. Whilst mitigation measures as we come slowly out of the firebreak and includes closing hospitality in the early evening any restrictions such as these must be accompanied by adequate financial support.

In order to avoid plunging workers and businesses in Wales into further uncertainty, the UK Government must also commit to maintaining the furlough scheme in Wales for as long as the Welsh Government deems it necessary to support our public health measures.

3. Blended learning

A programme of blended learning in schools - allowing for a 2-week rota for older pupils -should be pursued in order to regulate attendance numbers in schools whilst rotating pupil learning between home-based and class-based lessons in order to avoid disadvantaging some individuals.

The Welsh Government should also consider establishing ‘Nightingale' classrooms to provide more space for social distancing and smaller class bubbles – with students also required to wear face coverings.

4. Non-Covid Care and Treatment

The Welsh Government should bring forward a detailed strategy for identifying Covid-free or Covid light zones at the earliest possible opportunity ensuring multiple locations are available in various parts of the country in order to avoid a postcode lottery which disadvantages some patients due to their geographical location.

Step up - step down facilities are also needed to ensure people can be discharged from hospitals with the opportunity of isolation before going home or being placed in a care home.

5. Vaccination

A Vaccine Plan for Wales would provide valuable timelines for the public to work and plan around; enable the preparation of supply chain and logistical systems; provide key dates for public and policy planning; and initiate the challenging and refutation of anti-vaccine disinformation at the societal and individual levels. It would also give people hope.

The Government must also be prepared to bring forward a ‘Plan B’ should a vaccine not arrive.

6. Travel Restrictions

Travel restrictions imposed in Wales to prevent transmission from Covid hotspots elsewhere in the UK should continue after the fire break and the Welsh Government should work with governments elsewhere in the UK to ensure that these regulations are clearly communicated to everyone affected alongside adequate financial support for businesses that these restrictions will impact.

Quarantine rules must be preserved and strengthened, and the Welsh Government should consider the introduction of isolation centres where travellers can isolate in a fully supported environment upon their return to Wales.

7. Communication

Since the beginning of the pandemic, public buy-in has been paramount and will become increasingly important as we enter the post-fire break period.

Welsh Government should persist with holding daily media briefings after the fire break in which they present the most current and comprehensive data available.

Now that the Welsh Government has adopted a zero-Covid policy, this must be communicated effectively to the population through a public information campaign rolled out at the earliest possible opportunity.

8. Mental Health Provision

The Covid pandemic threatens a legacy of mental health crises in all parts of the UK. Now that the Welsh Government has appointed a Minister with dedicated responsibility for mental health, it must now bring forward a comprehensive post-Covid plan for ensuring that those whose mental health has suffered during the pandemic are adequately supported, and that the resources necessary to support them are made available.

9. Compliance

Ensuring greater adherence and where appropriate enforcement will be vital if the post-fire break restrictions are to prove effective. A ‘Covid Secure’ rating should be provided to businesses to encourage confidence and incentivise adherence to social distancing requirements, face coverings, PPE etc.

Clarity over who is to enforce regulations is also needed and appropriate resources provided e.g. resources for local authorities for Covid marshals and so forth.