Cabinet meeting: 29 November 2021
Minutes of meeting of the Cabinet on 29 November 2021.
In this page
- Rt. Hon. Mark Drakeford MS
- Rebecca Evans MS
- Vaughan Gething MS
- Jane Hutt MS
- Julie James MS
- Jeremy Miles MS
- Eluned Morgan MS
- Mick Antoniw MS
- Dawn Bowden MS
- Hannah Blythyn MS
- Julie Morgan MS
- Lynne Neagle MS
- Lee Waters MS
- Lesley Griffiths MS
- Andrew Goodall, Permanent Secretary
- Des Clifford, Director General Office of the First Minister
- Will Whiteley, Deputy Director Cabinet Division
- Toby Mason, Strategic Communications
- Jane Runeckles, Special Adviser
- Madeleine Brindley, Special Adviser
- Alex Bevan, Special Adviser
- Daniel Butler, Special Adviser
- Ian Butler, Special Adviser
- Kate Edmunds, Special Adviser
- Sara Faye, Special Adviser
- Clare Jenkins, Special Adviser
- Owen John, Special Adviser
- Andrew Johnson, Special Adviser
- Mitch Theaker, Special Adviser
- Tom Woodward, Special Adviser
- Christopher W Morgan, Head of Cabinet Secretariat (minutes)
- Damian Roche, Cabinet Secretariat
- Catrin Sully, Cabinet Office
- Tracey Burke, Director General, Education and Public Services
- Reg Kilpatrick, Director General, COVID-19 Crisis Coordination
- Judith Paget, Director General Health
- Andrew Slade, Director General, Economy, Skills and Natural Resources
- Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
- Frank Atherton, CMO
- Rob Orford, Chief Scientific Adviser – Health
- Andrew Sallows, Delivery Programme Director NHS
- Liz Lalley, Director Recovery
- Tom Smithson, Deputy Director COVID-19 Restart
- Helen Lentle, Director Legal Services
- Jason Thomas, Director Culture, Sport and Tourism
- Andrew Granville, Cabinet Office
Item 1: Minutes of previous meetings
1.1 Cymeradwyodd y Cabinet gofnodion y 22 Tachwedd / Cabinet approved the minutes of 22 November.
Item 2: Senedd business
2.1 Cabinet considered the contents of the Plenary grid and noted the statement on a Healthier Wales, scheduled for Tuesday had been replaced by a Statement on COVID-19 to update Members on the new variant, Omicron. Voting time was scheduled for 7pm on Tuesday and around 6:35pm on Wednesday.
Item 3: Shaping Wales’ Future: Setting national milestones and national indicators
3.1 The First Minister introduced the paper, which asked Cabinet to agree that the first wave of national milestones and revised national indicators be laid in the Senedd on 14th December.
3.2 The Well-being of Future Generations Act (Wales) 2015 placed a duty on Welsh Ministers to develop national indicators and national milestones for Wales, which measured progress towards the seven well-being goals. These were long term targets for Wales and would have implications for the Welsh Government, public bodies and Public Services Boards.
3.3 Several of the proposed first wave of milestones reflected long term public policy commitments or legislative targets of the Welsh Government. This included a million Welsh speakers, Net Zero Carbon Emissions, using a fair share of the world’s resources and pay equality. Others built on already planned actions such as to increase employment and qualification levels and reduce those not in education, employment or training.
3.4 The draft milestone values had been developed following a range of engagement activities with key stakeholders, public bodies and the Future Generations Commissioner’s office. The public consultation was launched in September and sought views on the proposed wave one milestone values and limited revisions to the national indicators. The consultation closed on 26 October and attracted 94 responses.
3.5 Cabinet approved the paper and noted that the next Future Trends Report would be published to coincide with the laying of the national milestones and revised indicators.
Item 4: First Minister’s items
The co-operation agreement with Plaid Cymru
4.1 Ministers noted that Plaid Cymru had approved the Co-operation Agreement at its party conference on the weekend.
4.2 The text of the agreement had been incorporated into the Revised Programme for Government, which would be circulated to Cabinet shortly. The First Minister would be making a statement to the Siambr the following week on the changes to the Programme for Government.
COVID-19: the omicron variant
4.3 The First Minister invited officials from the Health Department to provide Cabinet with an update on the latest developments concerning the new variant of COVID-19, now known as omicron.
4.4 The CMO reported that Omicron was first reported by South Africa to the World Health Organisation the previous week and was now rapidly becoming the most dominant variant in that country. Since then, the variant had been identified in mainland Europe, Scotland and England, and it was only a matter of time before cases would appear in Wales.
4.5 Evidence from South Africa suggested that omicron had increased transmissibility when compared to the Delta variant with the potential to re-infect those who had been previously infected. It was not known at this stage whether omicron would be more harmful.
4.6 The public health response would be to try and control entry of the new variant into the country and then slow its introduction into the population by using TTP and requiring those infected and close contacts to self-isolate. Generally, the population would be encouraged to maintain social distancing and wear face coverings while indoors. The JCVI was expected to recommend an acceleration of the vaccine programme across the UK later that afternoon.
4.7 In terms of the Delta variant, the situation was still improving with a significant reduction in infection rates in the over 60s being reported.
4.8 The Chief Scientific Adviser for Health advised Cabinet the South African infection rate had increased approximately tenfold, from 200-300 cases per day to around 2,000-3000 per day and cases in the population had increased from 1% to 30%. The initial projections on the spread of the variant had already been surpassed, suggesting that Omicron had the potential to escape the vaccines. Given the high natural immunity in South Africa from previous infections there should have been a better resistance to this strain.
4.9 The Delivery Programme Director for the NHS indicated that those in hospital with COVID-19 continued to fall. Daily admissions had reduced from 45 to 30 and there were currently 634 people occupying beds. The situation was also improving with those in critical care, with now only 47 beds occupied by patients with coronavirus. However, these occupancy rates were still above the historic maximum.
4.10 The First Minister informed Cabinet there had been a series of meetings over the weekend to consider the impact of the new variant. However, the UK government had continued to take decisions without consulting the devolved nations. The First Minister, along with the First Minister of Scotland, had written to the Prime Minister seeking an urgent meeting of COBRA to discuss a co-ordinated four Nations approach to Omicron. They had also called for tighter travel restrictions and Treasury support should lockdown measures be required in Wales or Scotland.
4.11 It was reported that plans had been drawn up over the weekend to enhance the vaccination programme with the aim of increasing the number of people receiving boosters from 128,000 to 300,000 a week. It would be extended to all adults and the gap between the second dose and the booster would be reduced from 6 to 3 months. In addition, those who were immune-suppressed would be offered a booster 3 months after their third primary dose and all 12-15 year olds were eligible for a second dose.
4.12 Ministers agreed it would be important to continue to encourage all those who had not been vaccinated to come forward, particularly those in Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities.
4.13 It was noted the UK had moved quickly over the weekend to add southern African countries linked to Omicron to the red list for international travel, requiring anyone returning to the UK from these nations to quarantine in a managed hotel for 10 days.
4.14 Cabinet considered the impact on the education sector and agreed that the use of face coverings should be strengthened in secondary schools, colleges and Universities for the rest of the winter term. All staff and learners would be required to wear such coverings while indoors when physical distancing could not be maintained.
4.15 Ministers agreed that more should be done to enforce the regulations and noted the case against Cinema and Co Ltd, which had refused to comply with the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (No.5) Regulations, was being considered in Swansea Magistrate Court the following day.
4.16 It was agreed that Cabinet would need to reconvene on Thursday to consider developments in relation to the omicron variant in advance of the next formal review, which was scheduled to take place the following week.