Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford also said another wave of the pandemic is “inevitable” and branded Boris Johnson’s hope of all Covid-19 rules being lifted on June 21 as “fanciful”. Wales Online reports
Instead, the 66-year-old politician, who represents the Labour Party, believes people will have to “think carefully” about how much they mix with other people into the summer and beyond.
The Welsh Government cabinet is meeting on Thursday to discuss the next review of the lockdown restrictions that have been in place since December 20
And, talking to the i news website, Mr Drakeford said: “I think coronavirus is with us for the rest of this year.
“Another wave is baked into things now – it’s how we deal with that and have [another] wave that is as suppressed as we can make it so that we don’t have to take the sort of drastic action we’ve had to in the last 12 months.
“But that does mean that things like social distancing, handwashing, and respect in the way we deal with other people, thinking carefully about the number of people we mix with – I think that’s with us for the whole of this calendar year.”
Shops and hairdressers in Wales could reopen as soon as Monday if Thursday’s meeting gives the green light to end restrictions in Wales.
But latest Public Health Wales figures issued on Thursday show that the infection rate across Wales is now 43 cases per 100,000 of population based on the seven days up to March 6, a slight increase on a figure of 42 reported on Wednesday.
These are still well below the 50 cases figure the Welsh Government had previously highlighted as a key benchmark in its lockdown planning though.
And former Welsh Secretary Alun Cairns claimed the First Minister’s “alarming” comments “could undermine the economic recovery in Wales and detract from our efforts to win new investment projects”.
He told the i: “It seems that he is content to put Wales at a disadvantage – and from experience he will then blame others for the relative poverty and under-investment.”
It remains unclear if travel to and from Wales across the English border will be allowed, even when restrictions in either nation are eased. During the last national lockdown, this was strictly forbidden.
Schools, meanwhile, remain closed in Wales. Data in a report published by Swansea University shows 3,500 more people could die with coronavirus in Wales by the end of June if schools welcome back pupils too quickly, vaccine efficacy is low, and people fail to stick to lockdown rules.
The Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) – a group of scientists and researchers who offer guidance to ministers – conducted research for the university’s project.