Covid restrictions in Wales are “throttling recovery”, a UK minister has said, after hearing concerns the nation faces the “most intrusive” rules in the UK.
Welsh Secretary Simon Hart also heard accusations that Wales’ Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford has engaged in “political posturing” by imposing restrictions different to those in England over the Christmas period as the Omicron variant of Covid began to spread.
At Wales questions, Conservative MP for Preseli Pembrokeshire Stephen Crabb said: “With Welsh Labour Government ministers now bringing in fines to try and stop people from going to their workplaces, the crazy decision to prohibit Park Runs, and the Welsh hospitality sector effectively under lockdown into new year, does he (Wales Secretary Simon Hart) share my deep concern that yet again it is Wales that faces the most burdensome and most intrusive restrictions of any part of the United Kingdom and does he agree with me that these measures are driven more by fear and pessimism than by good science?”
Mr Hart said: “I think it is absurd that in his own town of Haverfordwest a popular Park Run cannot take place, people cannot watch rugby on the touchline but they can crowd into a pub, that is nonsense and it is throttling recovery.”
The Labour First Minister of Wales engaged in “political posturing” with Christmas Covid restrictions, UK ministers have heard.
Conservative MP for Lichfield, Michael Fabricant, told the Commons: “Having spent Boxing Day and New Year’s in Wales, the home of my beloved mother, I met a number of people, business people, in the evening who all said that Mark Drakeford’s plan for Covid restrictions is nothing but political posturing and that it is damaging their economy.”
Wales Secretary Simon Hart replied: “There has been a huge effort on the UK Government and Welsh Government to try and maintain public confidence in what has been an incredibly trying period of time.”
He added: “The recent raft of measures and some of the confusing examples have left even the most loyal people doubting whether he (Mark Drakeford) is still up to making those decisions.”
Mr Fabricant and Mr Hart were among the Conservative MPs who were critical of a Welsh Government decision to stop Park Runs and other outdoor gatherings as Omicron spread, while Health Secretary Sajid Javid wrote a blog post on the Park Run website emphasising the importance of exercise to health.
As the Prime Minister gave an update on the latest Covid measures for England, he faced calls to thank the Welsh Government for the four million Covid lateral flow testing kits it gave to England over Christmas.
Labour MP for Lewisham East Janet Daby asked: “I wonder if the the Prime Minister would take the opportunity and to join me in thanking the Welsh Labour Government for sharing four million tests with England?”
Boris Johnson replied: “Actually the UK Government supplied tests to the whole country, but we are very, very proud to collaborate with people and testing organisations across the country.”
Since Boxing Day, nightclubs in Wales have been closed, and there have been limits on the number of people who can gather for both outdoor and indoor events.
Similar restrictions were brought in by devolved governments in Scotland and Northern Ireland, by the UK Government has stuck with its winter Plan B.