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Boris Johnson largely absent at start of Covid crisis, Welsh leader tells inquiry | Covid investigation

Boris Johnson largely absent at start of Covid crisis, Welsh leader tells inquiry |  Covid investigation


Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford has launched a scathing attack on the UK government's handling of the Covid crisis, but admitted his own administration should have taken tougher action sooner as the pandemic swept the world.

Appearing during the Welsh phase of the Covid inquiry, Drakeford compared Boris Johnson to a football manager who was absent at the start of the pandemic. He also claimed that it was Johnson's senior adviser Dominic Cummings who at one point blocked a ban on mass gatherings such as sporting events and concerts.

He criticized former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock, accusing him of not having control over delegated powers, and attacked former Welsh Secretary Simon Hart for focusing his energy on scrutinizing the Labour-led Welsh administration rather than on representing the people of Wales.

Drakeford, who is set to leave his post, acknowledged that with Wales having an older, poorer and sicker population he should have reacted more quickly.

Bereaved families accused Drakeford of trying to distract from his government's failures, while Welsh Conservatives claimed he was playing politics instead of giving the country clear answers.

Asked about relations with the UK government at the start of the pandemic, Drakeford described Michael Gove, who was a point of contact between the UK and Welsh administrations, as a centre-forward with no team lined up behind him, and where the manager was in largely absent.

Drakeford said Johnson was absent from crucial meetings. He told the inquiry that when the then prime minister attended a crucial meeting where the possibility of banning mass gatherings was discussed, Johnson spoke out against the move, saying: Dom [Cummings] said no.

The Prime Minister said he believed Johnson was avoiding speaking to leaders of the devolved countries. He did not want to give the impression that the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom was somehow on an equal footing with the prime ministers of other countries, he said.

Drakeford highlighted what he described as an extraordinary statement from Hancock when he said public health was not devolved. The Prime Minister said: So here is England's Secretary of State for Health who is completely wrong about the most fundamental thing.

A key theme of the Welsh part of the inquiry was whether the Welsh Labor government realized the scale of the threat early enough. The Welsh cabinet had its first formal discussion on Covid on February 25, 2020, a month after Wales' chief medical officer, Frank Atherton, told Drakeford that there was a significant risk of the disease arriving in Wales. Wales.

Drakeford said that in January and February 2020, the Welsh Government's priorities included a no-deal Brexit, flooding and winter pressure on the NHS.

He said discussions had taken place between ministers before the February 25 cabinet meeting, but when asked whether more should have been done to prepare for infection control, he said: There is a case very plausible that the signal should have been read earlier and we should have acted. what we were doing a few weeks earlier.

Earlier this week, Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said the government probably should have acted more quickly. When asked about this, Drakeford replied: There are very plausible arguments for saying that.

In his witness statement to the inquest, Drakeford said: Tougher action could and should have been taken sooner.

Speaking outside the audience, Anna-Louise Marsh-Rees, who directs Families bereaved by Covid-19 in Wales, said: I think Drakeford focuses too much on politics, talking about the British government and Boris Johnson. We know the Welsh Government has not prepared. We know they sat on their hands from January to March.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said: Mark Drakeford clearly went into this with the aim of making it a political show. We desperately need a Wales-specific inquiry to get the answers the people of Wales deserve.




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