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Welsh government escapes COVID-19 scrutiny

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“Serious questions”

The Wales Online news site campaigned against this, posting a detailed list of issues a Welsh COVID investigation is expected to examine. “There are serious questions that Wales as a nation must resolve if we are to address the serious problems the pandemic has exposed,” he said.

These problems include the death rate in Wales, which was higher than in Scotland or Northern Ireland. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 189 deaths from COVID-19 per 100,000 people in Wales, compared to 162 in Scotland and just 138 in Northern Ireland. This may be due in part to social and demographic reasons, but political questions must also be asked.

Reports say the contrast became most severe during the second wave, between August 2020 and March 2021, when key decisions about the lockdowns were taken squarely by the Welsh government.

And the reviews get even more serious. A BBC investigation found guidelines issued by the Welsh government at the start of the pandemic indicated that COVID patients could be discharged from hospitals and sent to nursing homes. He also said that anyone without common COVID symptoms did not need to be tested.

The move “turned shelters into coronavirus war zones,” according to Care Forum Wales.

There is little doubt about the devastating impact this has had. In the first wave alone, 3.4% of Wales’ 23,000 nursing home residents died – over 700 people.

In Westminster, Boris Johnson’s government has rightly come under heavy criticism for doing the exact same thing in England. The investigation report described it as an “error … [that] led to thousands of deaths that could have been avoided ”.

In contrast, the Welsh government has emerged relatively unscathed from the pandemic. And yet the questions and criticisms of how he dealt with COVID-19 are too numerous to list in their entirety. They range from the late introduction of foreclosure restrictions to huge spending on hospitals that have never been used.

The truth is that – just like in Westminster – politicians in Wales do not like scrutiny. In fact, when the former Welsh Minister of Health was asked about the pandemic by a colleague, he replied: ‘What the fuck is she doing?

That’s not to say that Wales (or any of the decentralized nations) necessarily faced the crisis worse than Westminster. Indeed, it is likely that we can learn from the more successful aspects of the Welsh response, as well as from the failures. But without a proper investigation, we may never really be able to know the full picture.

It seems the Welsh government is happy to skip lessons and escape the media spotlight.

Perhaps this is what we always should have expected from decentralized governments – eager to take credit when the going is good and blame Westminster when disaster strikes. But even the most committed nationalists should recognize that they cannot have it both ways. If you want the Welsh government to deal with these critical issues, you must also recognize its failures.


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