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7 Dec, 2020 15:21

Brexit disruption could hurt COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans, Welsh Health Minister warns

Brexit disruption could hurt COVID-19 vaccine rollout plans, Welsh Health Minister warns

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething warned citizens and the UK government that Brexit disruptions could hamper the distribution of Covid-19 vaccines, as final crunch trade talks between London and the EU appeared to falter.

Discussing the matter at a press briefing on Monday, Gething declared that “there is no getting away from the fact that disruption at our ports could disrupt supplies”, fearing that delays will result in key medicines, including Covid vaccines, losing their effectiveness.

The UK government has sought to issue reassurances that there are measures in place to fly the vaccine into the country if Brexit snags cause delays at ports. British junior minister James Cleverly told Sky News on Monday that the cabinet has “extensive plans in place to ensure the protection of our vaccines, that is absolutely the priority product.” 

However, Gething was critical of the UK government for ignoring the potential issue of disruptions in the supply chain due to unaddressed longer term arrangements which are still being worked out. 

Wales is the only area of the UK where Covid infection rates were not falling at the end of November, despite a series of harsh restrictions aimed at limiting the spread of the virus. The seven-day new infection rate in Wales overtook England on November 23 and the nation had a higher COVID death rate in the week to December 1. 

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Gething revealed that authorities in Wales are considering whether new restrictions will be needed in the New Year, after the seasonal relaxation of rules is over.  

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen are set to speak on Monday afternoon, as talks between the two parties remain in a stalemate over a number of issues regarding their post-Brexit relationship, such as fisheries.  

Ahead of their meeting, the EU’s Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs that post-Brexit talks could continue until Wednesday, but no further. Johnson has insisted that London will not seek an extension to the current withdrawal period, which ends on December 31. 

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