Wales’s introduction of a two week so-called Covid ‘firebreak’ is the most dramatic divergence between the UK nations yet. The ‘firebreak’, which will see people told to stay home and non-essential retail and hospitality closed, will give us some sense of how effective or not the ‘circuit-break’ that Sage proposed would have been.
The ‘firebreak’ is strict. People will be banned from meeting people from other households indoors and out, senior years at secondary school will not return to the classroom after half-term, and places of worship will be closed for everything other than funerals.
The new rules will undoubtedly cause social and economic harms. Mark Drakeford, the Welsh First Minister, says the ‘firebreak’ will run from this Friday to Monday 9 November. But one does remember the Varadkar question to the Irish version of Sage: can you give an assurance that 4 weeks will be enough – which the scientists could not answer. The other question is whether this is going to be a stop, start system with another firebreak being necessary later this year.
If the Welsh ‘firebreak’ does appear to be successful in turning things round, the pressure will grow on Boris Johnson to introduce one in England. But right now, Downing Street is determined to stick to its regional strategy. Though, it would not surprise me if restrictions became even tighter in the worst hit places in Tier 3.