First Minister Mark Drakeford led the Welsh Government briefing on the coronavirus outbreak in Wales today (June 5).
Here is a summary of what he had to say:
- The Welsh Government is discussing potential changes to face masks guidance after England announced it will become mandatory on public transport.
- Returning to school on June 29 was said by the First Minister to be no less safe than returning in August, despite it not being the “preferred choice” of the chief medical officer.
- A one-off carers payment of £500 will be extended to included ancillary staff.
- The Treasury has not agreed to waive tax and national insurance on this payment.
Face mask guidance to be reviewed in Wales
Speaking at the Welsh Government daily coronavirus briefing in Cathays Park on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said a decision would be made next week on whether to change the country’s guidance on face masks.
It follows the UK Government announcement on Thursday that all passengers on public transport in England must wear a face covering from June 15.
Mr Drakeford said he had no “advance notice” from the Department of Transport that this was going to happen, adding that he was concerned for how the change would affect people living on the border in Wales.
He said trains crossed back and forth over the border frequently on journeys and the Welsh Government would have to “think through whether having separate regimes is a possibility”.
This would be discussed over the next 48 hours, he said, and the Welsh Government will speak to colleagues in England about how they intend for it to work.
Schools are no less safe if pupils return before August
In Thursday’s coronavirus briefing, Wales’ chief medical officer said the decision to reopen schools in late June was not his “preferred choice”.
Asked today why the Welsh Government went ahead with the second choice option, Mr Drakeford said it was necessary they worked in partnership with the teaching union.
The chief medical officer has “endorsed and signed off” on the proposal that is now going ahead, he said.
“This is not a choice between doing a safe thing and an unsafe thing, he said.
“There is no safety difference between schools going back in June and schools going back in August.”
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Treasury has not agreed to waive tax on one-off carers payments
Kitchen and domestic staff working in care homes will receive the £500 extra payment promised to social care staff, the First Minister confirmed today.
Mr Drakeford said on Friday that the payment would also be extended to agency staff and nursing staff employed in care homes, as well as personal assistants and domiciliary care workers providing care to people in their own homes.
Arrangements are now being put in place to start making the extra payment to tens of thousands of workers.
But Mr Drakeford said he was upset that recipients may have to pay tax on the money after all.
Against his request, he said the Treasury had not agreed to waive tax or national insurance on the payment, though discussions were ongoing.
He said the “right answer” is for the Treasury to recognise that this is a payment “made in recognition of the vital contribution social workers have made”, adding that they deserve “every penny of it”.