Wales Lockdown Warning Suggests Looming Dilemma for Johnson


Wales warned that the results of its coronavirus lockdown, which ends tomorrow, won’t be visible until later this month, indicating that U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be in a similar position in a few weeks, having to make a decision on whether to extend the lockdown across England without clear evidence of whether it has worked.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said that while “early indications” show Wales has done enough with a 17-day “firebreak lockdown” to avoid repeating the process before Christmas, the lag between people catching the virus and becoming ill means the picture won’t be clear for a “couple of weeks.”

“We hope to see the numbers decline, that is when we expect the number of people going into hospitals to begin to go into reverse,” Drakeford told Sky News on Sunday, adding that it was “inevitable” that data showed the number of infections had risen in the early part of the lockdown.

Scientists have warned Johnson that he’s likely to face the same dilemma ahead of the expiry of England’s partial lockdown on Dec. 2 -- the data available at that time may show that the number of coronavirus infections and the transmission have not dropped sufficiently to lift the restrictions. Though the lockdown will expire by law, the government has said it will consider all pandemic data when it decides what to do next.

Tory Divisions

The problem for the British prime minister is that senior members of his Conservative Party have threatened to rebel if the government seeks to extend the lockdown. “Some of us voted against lockdown but my sense is that far more would make a stand if a third lockdown were to be contemplated,” senior Tory Graham Brady told the Observer newspaper.

Brady’s comments come after a row erupted over the data used by the government to justify putting England into partial lockdown. Having projected daily deaths reaching 1,500 by December, officials later said the upper limit should have been 1,000 deaths per day.

“Transparency is us putting all the data out there and when there’s a mistake with it, we change it and so we respond to the very scrutiny that transparency brings,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told Sky News on Sunday.

Drakeford said Johnson’s government has promised a meeting of the devolved administrations of the U.K. to discuss a single approach to the coronavirus over Christmas, amid concerns over potential problems caused by families with members in different regions.

“The restrictions people have had to live with are incredibly difficult and demanding, and everybody is tired and fatigued of coronavirus. If we can offer respite over Christmas that is what we would want to do,” he said. “I really hope the U.K. government is serious about this and make certain that those opportunities exist for us all.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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