The Welsh Language and International Relations Minister took to the podium today to update the country on the current coronavirus issues.
Eluned Morgan MP spoke about a wide range of issues this afternoon (June 17), including on the proposed timetable for reopening retail and whether the five-mile rule for travelling during lockdown is reasonable.
The Labour MP answered questions from journalists for half an hour, on topics including the Prime Minister’s lack of communication with Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford, and Brexit.
Here is what she had to say.
How the coronavirus has affected the world since it emerged
The minister began by discussing the worldwide picture for coronavirus, and how it has affected the Welsh government’s way of handling the pandemic.
“There are about 8 million confirmed cases worldwide, half of which are in the Americas,” B. Morgan said.
“A total of 216 countries have recorded cases of the virus, and sadly, almost half a million have died.
“Wales is a country that looks outwards”
“This is a virus which does not respect borders, and we have to accept that we live in an interconnected world.
“It continues to pose a real threat, even in countries which have made it through the first wave of coronavirus.
“Wales is a country that looks outwards.
“Experience from Europe has shown we need to take a cautious approach”
“Yesterday, the technical advisory cell which advises ministers here published a paper on what happens to the R rate when lockdown is released.
“Releasing the lockdown has not resulted in a rapid increase in the R rate – in most countries it remained below one.
“But the experience from Europe has shown we need to take a cautious approach.
“Netherlands and Germany reopening their schools and universities has shown us that we need to have smaller classes and take staggered breaks.
“And the United Arab Emirates has provided a sector by sector analysis on how to remove lockdown restrictions.”
Is it time to revisit the five-mile rule of thumb?
“The five-mile rule is put in place deliberately – travel further and you risk the virus spreading quicker,” the Labour MP continued
“But we understand that living rurally is much different to living in a city, and people need to understand there is some flexibility in the rules.
“That being said, the “stay local” very much still applies.”
And when will retail reopen in Wales?
“We’ve made it very clear that shops should have been preparing during this period for reopening,” said the International Relations Minister.
“We will look at this as part of the next review.
“In relation to tourism we are intensely aware of the pressure on a sector that is fundamental to the Welsh economy.
“We need to work with the local community”
“We are discussing with local authorities and key stakeholders in relation to the sector.
“They understand we need to do this carefully and see how we can avoid a second peak.
“When the lockdown was lifted in japan, they opened their borders after getting rid of the coronavirus. And when they did there was a surge in coronavirus cases.
“We will be puting guidance in place , but we need to work with the local community.”
When will the timetable for reopening be made available?
“There is no fixed date because we are following the science,” she continued.
“We need the headroom before we reopen.
“We are heading in the right direction and there will be discussions on where we are at with the sector.
“We are intensely aware that once the summer is over, it is gone”
“We need to make sure that the track and trace system is in place so that people who come to Wales will understand they have responsibility to report if they have caught the virus.
“Guidance will be ready imminently. We will do all we can to support the sector.
“We are intensely aware that once the summer is over, it is gone.
“We will make our decisions based on scientific advice to make sure we are doing everything we can to keep the people of Wales safe.”
What support is there for children to continue learning Welsh?
“We understand that parents are anxious to let their children have access to use the Welsh language,” the Labour MP told reporters.
“There is a huge amount of resources online.
“We’ve also seen The Urdd take part in a significant online event for both welsh speaking and non-Welsh speaking families and children.
“You don’t have to be in school to speak the language”
“We also encourage children to speak welsh with their friends. You don’t have to be in school to speak the language.
“The opportunity will come because they can ‘check in and catch up’ with schools.
“All of those children will be given an individual chance to work out where they are at with their Welsh language.”
“A no-deal Brexit would be extremely damaging”
“The Welsh government has been absolutely clear that there should be an extension if needed,” the minister told journalists.
“A no-deal Brexit would be extremely damaging for the Welsh economy.
“60% of our trade in goods is with european union”
“We did a huge amount of preparation before the coronavirus hit.
“60% of our trade in goods is with european union.
“There is no question: If we were heading for no deal, the pressure in terms of resourcing would be intense on the Welsh government.”
What support is available for universities in Wales?
“The Global Wales partnership have come together to make sure the offer for international students is an attractive one.
“One of the key things is to make sure we put measures in place to ensure their safety so they feel they have the confidence to come to our nation.
“It’s also important to underline the importance of our universities – in terms of the money coming in, but also in terms of the innovation they bring to our country.”
A lack of communication between the PM and the First Minister
In response to comments made on Monday’s daily briefing, where First Minister Mark Drakeford said he hadn’t spoken to Boris Johnson in over three weeks, the Labour MP had this to say.
“The First minister has written on multiple occasions to the Prime Minister for a regular routine meeting so that we can work together.
“If the UK government is not speaking with us it makes it so much more difficult to work in ‘lockstep’.
“We will always do what is right and safe for Wales.
“To tackle the coronavirus in Wales the lockdown must stay in place”
“We are following the science and evidence, and will continue to do this in Wales.”
“In an ideal world we would like to take a 4-nation approach, but we have to do what is right for Wales. We need to follow the science.
“The virus is retracting at a faster pace than elsewhere in the community.
“To tackle the coronavirus in Wales the lockdown must stay in place.”