FMQs: Strategy needed to make Wales Covid-free; Airbus still has a future in Wales despite jobs announcement

First Minister keen to learn lessons from other countries to help make Wales coronavirus-free

Pointing to successful suppression of new coronavirus cases in Scotland – which are down to single figures – Adam Price MS (Plaid, Carms. E. & Dinefwr) asked whether the aspiration in Wales was to reach zero cases too?

“Many countries have successfully suppressed the virus to near-zero new cases. New Zealand is regarded as the world leader, but it’s not alone. Greece, Slovenia, Austria, Norway have also suppressed the virus to the extent that restrictions there are now limited and new cases rare, and, like Wales, those countries are not islands….”
– Adam Price MS

The First Minister, wanting to be realistic, pointed to the “porous border” with England and any efforts to make Wales Covid-19 free will be dependent on what happens around the UK as a whole. Nonetheless, he was interested to learn lessons from those nations Adam Price mentioned which do share borders.

Moving on to the topic of local lockdowns – after the recent announcement for Leicester – the First Minister said Anglesey is already in a semi local lockdown due to the food processing plant outbreak, which has resulted in Anglesey Council deciding against reopening schools.

“We are absolutely clear that unlike in Leicester, where there seemed to be quite a lot of confusion as to whether the legal powers existed and to whom they belonged, we are very clear that in Wales Welsh Ministers have powers….to take local action to reduce, if we had to, some of the freedoms we’ve been able to reintroduce….And we would certainly be prepared to do that were the need to be there.”
– First Minister, Mark Drakeford (Lab, Cardiff West)

Bridgend Ford closure one template for Airbus support following jobs announcement

With troubling economic news over the last few days – the latest being a potential 1,700 redundancies at Airbus facilities across the UK (including several in Wales, notably Broughton) – Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS (Con, Preseli Pembs.), asked what measures the Welsh Government were willing to take to support the company and its supply chain?

“Now is the time for the Welsh Government to be having discussions with business leaders and skills providers about developing packages to help support people across Wales who may not be able to retain employment at the end of the furlough scheme because of the Covid-19 pandemic.”
– Leader of the Opposition, Paul Davies MS

The First Minister pointed to the response by Welsh, UK and local governments to the imminent closure of the Bridgend Ford engine plant as a process that could be repeated for Airbus – however, the big difference is that Ford is leaving Wales completely, while Airbus still has a future beyond the current economic crisis.

Based on comments by the deputy governor of the Bank of England, there are signs of a “V-shaped recovery”: a sharp downturn followed by a sharp rebound. According to the Office of National Statistics, 30% of businesses in Wales have benefited from either Welsh or UK Government support compared to 21% in Scotland and 14% in England.

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