Will national lockdowns work this time? Wales could be an early indicator

It is not difficult to see that Covid is spiralling out of control in the four countries of the United Kingdom and indeed globally.

Northern Ireland is in the middle of a four-week national lockdown, Wales are progressing through their two-week national ‘firebreaker’, here in Scotland we are coming to the end of our (originally supposed to be two week) three-week ‘circuit breaker’ of tighter restrictions predominantly in the central belt, and England has just entered a month long lockdown.

Governments across these islands are desperately trying to get a handle on the situation and we are seeing so many of the systems set up since the lockdown struggling to cope with the strain.

The UK government’s £12 billion Serco-run track and trace programme is unable to keep up with demand, and there are reports now coming out that professional NHS contact tracers are being replaced with Serco’s own people who seem to be far less qualified for the job. It is, therefore, not surprising to see cases in England rising far faster than anywhere else in the UK, and offers an insight into why the Welsh government decided to implement restrictions across the entire country in an effort to get a handle on this where the contact tracing system has undeniably failed.

Whether or not the decision Drakeford’s government has reached will make an impact is yet to be seen, certainly we know that actions taken to curb the spread of the virus must go above and beyond the English government’s tier 3 restrictions (as they were at the time), as SAGE made this point when the prime minister first set his new system out to the public. And while Drakeford’s own special flavour of lockdown has certainly ruffled some feathers, I can’t bring myself to disagree with most of his decisions.

Wales has been catching a lot of flack for instructing the few remaining shops to only sell essential items, prompting a number of videos of twats being twats. We’ve seen footage of irrationally angry people ripping down tape and barriers all so they can buy some nonsense that, any other day, they would have walked right past.

This kind of behaviour is not only irresponsible and dangerous in the middle of a health crisis, but also highlights how pathetic these people are. This kind of behaviour is emblematic of either an unwillingness or inability to care about the health of other people. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which is worse.

Going too far, however, are reports of some supermarkets not quite understanding what is and isn’t essential. A Welsh Tesco was forced to apologise after a customer was wrongly told that period products were deemed non-essential under the new guidelines.

This is more an example of simply not thinking through what they had been told rather than any kind of malicious rule-breaking or point scoring, but it does show how important it is that people take the time to understand the restrictions and rules which affect them.

The Welsh ‘firebreak’ is due to have ended by the 9th of November. There is a possibility that it may be extended now that the UK government has finally agreed to extend the furlough scheme, making the announcement less than six hours before it was due to end, and only extending it when the south of England was put into lockdown. This kind of support was not offered to any of the other three nations, nor to the North of England.

Drakeford says he still intends to end Wales’ lockdown as normal. The number of daily cases in the country do appear to be slowing which suggests that his new measures have had the desired effect.
But we have been down this road already this year, and only time will tell whether these restrictions have done enough.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

By Adam Losekoot

Senior Opinion Editor, 'The Opinionator', sexy bastard and all round stand up guy