Wales Will Begin A Two-Week 'Firebreak' Lockdown From Friday, The First Minister Has Announced
Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford (Credit: PA)
Wales will enter a two-week "firebreak" lockdown from 6pm on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced.
The Welsh Labour leader said he had been forced to take the decision to prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed, with many critical care units in the country already full.
"There are no easy choices in front of us as the virus spreads in every part of Wales," he told a press conference on Monday, adding that any action would have to be "sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus".
Between October 26 and November 9, people will be told to stay at home, not to mix with other households and to work from home if they can.
All non-essential shops, leisure and tourism facilties will be closed. Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will also be forced to shut their doors, along with places of worship, which will be open for funerals or weddings only.
Mr Drakeford made the announcement after a cabinet meeting was held to discuss the advice of Wales' Technical Advisory Cell to implement nationwide lockdown measures to halt the spread of the virus.
Nearly 1,000 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Wales on Sunday. The R number is currently between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning continued exponential growth in the number of cases and the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales stands at more than 130 cases per 100,000 population.
“This is the same as during the March lockdown," the First Minister said.
“We all want to see an end to this pandemic and our lives returned to us. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a vaccine, which will allow us to do that.
"So this is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much-longer – and damaging – national lockdown."
Halloween and Bonfire Night gatherings will not be allowed, but "special exceptions" will be made for Remembrance Sunday on November 8.
The Welsh government will also put in place an extra economic resilience fund of "almost £300m", Mr Drakeford said, including automatic one-off payments of up to £5,000 for small and medium-sized businesses forced to close.
"We know that businesses will need this support quickly," he added. "The fund will open in the first week of the firebreak."
The move, along with national restrictions imposed in both Scotland and Northern Ireland, has added to pressure on Boris Johnson to implement his own England-wide lockdown.
Downing Street is continuing to wrangle with leaders in Greater Manchester over imposing stricter Tier 3 restrictions locally, as Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove dismissed suggestions of implementing nationwide measures.
"It would seem an error to try and impose on every part of the country the same level of restriction when we know that the disease is spreading more intensively and quicker in some parts of the country," he said on Sunday.
"The nature of the spread of the disease is different in this wave than it was earlier this year.
"It seems to be wrong to impose restrictions on economic and personal lives in parts of the country where the disease is not spreading intensely."