Advice provided to Welsh Ministers about the 21 day review of coronavirus restrictions by Frank Atherton, Chief Medical Officer for Wales.
This advice is informed by the outputs of the UK Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies (SAGE) and the Welsh Technical Advisory Cell (TAC), and through discussions with Chief Medical Officers in the 4 Nations.
I note that the transmission of COVID-19 in Wales appears to be either stable or reducing. My view remains that too early or extensive an easement of restrictions could lead to a return of exponential growth of viral transmission.
As the number of cases of COVID-19 in Wales continues to reduce, it becomes increasingly important to take account of the indirect harms which arise from lockdown measures. I am reassured by the progress that we are making on the development of the mitigation and monitoring measures which we have indicated as needing to be in place to support the easement of restrictions; these include the Test Trace Protect Programme, enhanced surveillance, and the development of a set of “circuit breakers” against which we can measure the impact of any policy changes.
I also note the dynamics of viral transmission; the knowledge that the virus does not transmit easily in outdoor environments and is rapidly inactivated by heat and sunlight provides us with opportunities to allow some lifting of restrictions on outdoor activity provided social distancing measures can be maintained. However, the corollary is that the virus is likely to thrive in cooler, indoor environments particularly where people gather closely together; this raises the real prospect of a resurgence in viral transmission in the autumn and winter. On the basis of this understanding:
- I recommend that Welsh Government uses the next review period to develop proposals for further increasing opportunities for the public to safely use a wider range of outdoor spaces.
- I recommend that public messaging highlights the potential need to re-impose more restrictive measures in the winter if viral activity increases.
I note the view of SAGE and TAC that modifications to lockdown measures can have a cumulative effect, should be incremental, and should be carefully monitored. I agree with the view of TAC that the current set of easements proposed in advice to the First Minister are unlikely to lead to significant increase in the community transmission of COVID-19 and that they could be put in place during the next 21 day review period, and I support implementation of these measures. I continue to recommend that any such easements should be complemented by continued strong messaging around: personal hygiene, social distancing, and expected behaviour when individuals develop symptoms of possible coronavirus infection.
Chief Medical Officer
28 May 2020