Mark Drakeford and Vaughan Gething will be questioned about the COVID-19 scandal

Mark Drakeford during the Covid pandemic briefing

On how well Wales was prepared for Covid-19, First Minister Mark Drakeford and his health minister at the time of the pandemic will be questioned.

Both Mr. Drakeford and Vaughan Gething, who will serve as the UK public inquiry's witness in London for five years, until May 2021, will provide testimony.

Public Health Wales' pandemic expert will also be questioned.

At this point, the investigation only looks into whether the pandemic was properly planned for.

In order to identify lessons that can be learned, it will also challenge planning-related decision-making at all levels of government.

Dr. Sir Frank Atherton, the chief medical officer for Wales, and Dr. Andrew Goodall, the former director of NHS Wales, were questioned on Monday during the inquiry.

Officially, "quite significant work" was being done on preparedness, according to Sir Frank, but a pandemic other than the flu was being discounted for a number of reasons.

In response to the inquiry, he said, "With the benefit of hindsight we could and should have paid more attention to the 'what if' questions - 'what if the virus was so different?'".

"At the time, I believe it's accurate to say that those measures had been thought about but somewhat hastily rejected. ".

Sir Frank acknowledged that preparations for a no-deal Brexit had slowed down progress on pandemic flu planning in Wales.

Vaughan Gething
Until May 2021, Vaughan Gething served as minister of health.

According to Dr. Goodall, implementation of some of the recommendations made by "task and finish" groups to study the pandemic flu took too long.

The inquiry's chair, Baroness Hallett, questioned why they didn't complete the task after being given it.

He responded, "Yes, they did not complete the task.

The chief medical officer testified to the inquiry on Monday that Sir Frank's office was "drowning in a sea of information" at the beginning of the pandemic.

He acknowledged that there were insufficient resources, things happened "very, very quickly," and "we couldn't even manage emails.".

While public hearings are expected to last until summer 2026, the inquiry won't address Wales' response to the pandemic until sessions are held in Cardiff early next year.

Excess deaths figures
  • In April 2020, when the pandemic's first wave was at its worst, Covid was the primary cause of 70 deaths per day.
  • During the first wave's three months (15 March to 15 June 2020), there were more than 2,200 deaths in Wales as a result of Covid.
  • The week of April 24 saw 125 deaths of residents of care homes involving Covid, which was a peak.
  • In the first three months of the first wave, the number of excess deaths—deaths that occurred above normal levels—was 61 percent higher among residents of nursing homes.
  • Covid mortality rates across the entire pandemic, when adjusted for age and population profiles, are very similar in England and Wales, despite being higher in both countries than in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
  • There are currently very few people receiving primary hospital care for Covid, and the number of deaths from Covid each week is in the single digits.
  • Covid is anticipated to plateau in Wales, according to scientists, though there is still some uncertainty.

Several times, the two main opposition parties have demanded an independent Covid inquiry into Wales.

The Covid-19 Bereaved Families for Justice Cymru group has also called for this, and one of its members, whose mother passed away in a nursing home, has accused ministers of acting "like headless chickens" by being unprepared.

Andrew RT Davies, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, expressed his hope that Mr. Drakeford and Mr. Gething, who is now the economy minister, would provide complete answers, but he claimed that only a Welsh Covid inquiry could provide "proper scrutiny" of the Welsh government's response to the pandemic.

"It's high time bereaved families receive the answers they deserve," he said. "Labour have run our Welsh NHS into the ground for 25 years and have been responsible for our pandemic preparedness.".

Mabon ap Gwynfor, the health spokesman for Plaid Cymru, claimed that the inquiry would leave many questions unanswered because it would not sufficiently cover the decisions made in Wales during the pandemic.

The bereaved families still deserve a full Welsh Covid inquiry, he continued, "so we can really learn how to prepare ourselves for the next pandemic." The Labour Welsh government still has time to change its mind.

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