Andrew RT Davies MS, Shadow Health Minister for the Welsh Conservatives, has called for hyper-local lockdowns in recent days. Such an approach should be applauded- it is easy to slip back into the train of thought that national lockdowns or severe restrictions are the only means to control this virus. He is also right to say, that we have to live with this virus. COVID-19 is unfortunately, like other coronaviruses, here to stay.
Wales enters a new period of national restrictions, being advised for example to only travel when necessary, and it will unfortunately have dire consequences on the economy, just as adjustments to people’s personal and premises licenses to sell alcohol are after 10pm will also. This of course feels like a step-back from our efforts against COVID-19.
However, the Davies Approach could be a sustainable way forward. The so-called local lockdowns now affect twenty-five percent of Wales, with other counties possibly going to join that club, with outbreaks in Cardiff, Swansea and Carmarthenshire too. This seems implausible going forward and is surely a failure on Wales’ test and trace system which was supposed to prevent such measures. Moreover, if the data is good enough, Welsh Government will know where these outbreaks are by town, village and even postcode detail. There was great success in containing the outbreak on a hyper-local level around Wrexham Maelor Hospital several months ago, as was the case around an area of Weston Super Mare over the border.
It is important Welsh Government seeks to minimise disruption at every possibly opportunity and does not default to the weapons we have deployed against COVID-19 fairly unsuccessfully so far. The Davies Approach of hyper-local lockdowns needs serious exploration, and given Drakeford and co are quick to say our test and trace system is better than England’s then they should put that hypothesis to the test.