Draconian laws are being introduced in Wales, presided over by Mark Drakeford (pictured)

Draconian laws in Wales are currently being implemented, overseen by Mark Drakeford. (pictured)

We British like to think of ourselves as freedom-loving people who don’t take kindly to the sort of coercive rules applied in some continental countries.

Many of us may have thought that Covid-19 is not a common problem in Austria, which recently declared compulsory vaccinations. There may have been a similar reaction to Greece’s decision to fine people over 60 who refuse a jab.

Thank God it couldn’t happen here! Well, maybe it couldn’t. But draconian laws are being introduced west of Offa’s Dyke in the socialist republic of Wales, which is presided over by Corbyn-supporter Mark Drakeford. It was part of Britain when I last looked.

People in Wales could be fined £60 for going to their office under new coronavirus laws if they are able to work from home. Cardiff’s government has changed legislation to criminalize going to work.

Employers face fines of £1,000 if their staff travel to work needlessly, rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders. This is the first instance in British history that it has been illegal to go to work.

Drakeford is the First Minister. He claimed yesterday that no one had been fined for violating similar legislation during earlier outbreaks of the pandemic. Its purpose, he claims, is to safeguard workers against being forced to work by their bosses.

It’s still in force, regardless of whether the authorities can or will not enforce it. You can be fined for working! You wouldn’t believe it!

Yet we still don’t know how serious the wave of Omicron sweeping the country will be. Some experts believe it may have reached its peak in London.

Omicron’s hospitalization rate is 50% lower according to the UK Health Security Agency. These numbers confirm what South African scientists had been saying over the last three weeks.

Wouldn’t it be sensible to wait and see, rather than rushing out repressive measures that will hobble the economy, besides ruining Christmas and the New Year for millions of people?

That — I hope — is the sensible approach of the Government in London as regards England. This isn’t the approach of the Scottish and Welsh devolved governments, who are still relying on coercive (and often ineffective) restrictions.

Wales' First Ministers Mark Drakeford (pictured with Jeremy Corbyn) says the purpose of the law is to protect workers who may be compelled by bosses to go to work against their will

Mark Drakeford, Wales’ First Minister, (pictured together with Jeremy Corbyn), stated that the law’s purpose is to protect workers from being forced by their bosses to do work against their will.

On Tuesday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that from December 27 mandatory table service and social distancing will be reintroduced in Scotland’s pubs and restaurants. In effect, spectators will be barred from sporting events. Owners of hospitality businesses that are already in financial trouble have no choice but to revolt.

In Wales, hard on the heels of his £60 fine for those who have the temerity to want to go to work, Mr Drakeford yesterday unveiled a panoply of new regulations which will take effect on Boxing Day.

Public settings will be subject to the two-metre rule for social dancing. The only service allowed in hospitality venues is table service. Customers are required to wear masks when they sit down. Large gatherings may be subject to curbs. A maximum 30 person is allowed indoors and 50 outside.

There are many contradictions in the rules. You won’t be allowed to watch football or rugby in a stadium, where you would have sat outside and been at less risk from the virus. You will still be allowed to watch the match in a pub.

Why are the bossy Ms Sturgeon and the doleful Mr Drakeford jumping the gun by introducing these restrictions before it is clear how lethal — or comparatively harmless to a largely vaccinated and increasingly boostered population — Omicron really is?

One explanation is that both of them are Left-wing, Mr Drakeford spectacularly so — a tinpot Jeremy Corbyn. In general, the Left-leaning politicians in Britain and Europe have been more willing to support anti-Covid policies than those on the Right.

There is another explanation. They love to show off their independence from Westminster and are especially happy when they can make Boris Johnson follow suit.

Nicola Sturgeon repeatedly slapped the Prime Minister during this epidemic with her own pronouncements. To wrongfoot him, she hopes that she will be regarded as more credible and plausible by the Scottish people.

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic Mr Drakeford has consistently applied stricter measures than Mr Johnson. Yet according to official figures, Wales has the worst fatalities for Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. Pictured: Shoppers in Cardiff, Wales, earlier today

Since the outbreak of coronavirus in 2003, Mr Drakeford has used stricter controls than Mr Johnson. Official figures show that Covid-19 has been fatally infected most often in Wales since the outbreak of the pandemic. Pictured earlier today: Cardiff-based shoppers

Yesterday was the same game as Mr Drakeford. Although he doesn’t want to be completely independent, Drakeford loves the idea of being a competent and pragmatic statesman. He declared superciliously that ‘the UK Government is in a state of paralysis’. He said he expected they read the data, but they weren’t ‘prepared to act on it’.

The First Minister of Wales shouldn’t be so cocky. He has always applied more strict measures to combat the pandemic than Johnson. Official figures show that Covid-19 has been killed in Wales since the outbreak of the pandemic.

A rate of 285 Covid death per 100,000 people has been recorded by the principality. England is next with 257 deaths and Scotland, with 224. Northern Ireland, with 207, follows. I wouldn’t have thought that Nicola Sturgeon has much to crow about either.

We shouldn’t forget Northern Ireland, whose ministers as I write are contemplating tougher measures, reportedly including the closure of nightclubs from December 27.

These new rules may not be wise before Omicron becomes a real threat, but I don’t think the Northern Ireland Executive is determined to undermine Boris Johnson, as it is controlled by the Democratic Unionists.

It is unquestionable that Mark Drakeford, Nicola Sturgeon, and Mark Drakeford repeatedly used the pandemic as a way to humiliate the UK Government. The UK Government obliges them by paying them money.

Only three days ago, Chancellor Rishi Sunak bunged the Scottish government a further £440 million and the Welsh government £270 million, while the Northern Ireland Executive scooped up another £150 million. Regardless of how rude Boris is, they still get more cash.

Also, keep in mind that Scotland’s and Wales’s public expenditures are higher per capita than England. No matter how much damage devolved government may cause to their economies they will still be supported by Westminster.

This is how our devolution settlement has been set up. In an increasingly hostile environment, governments in Cardiff and Edinburgh act like independent states, while being disrespectful to the UK Government. All in the hope that it will foot the bill.

Maybe, just maybe the game is shifting. Boris Johnson will hold the line if Omicron proves to be less fatal than claimed by the Scottish and Welsh governments. Then, all the ruses of Nicola Sturgeon, Mark Drakeford, and Mark Drakeford’s manoeuvrings will come out.

The people of Scotland and Wales won’t thank their leaders for another round of painful restrictions if they see the good citizens of England faring perfectly well without them.