THE First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has today announced a short sharp national lockdown for Wales, which will come into effect at 6pm on Friday.
Speaking at his daily briefing today, Monday (Oct 19) the First Minister said that it was ‘no easy choice’ and that it had to be made in order to ‘save lives’ and ‘protect the NHS’, which he said would struggle to cope even with the additional beds.
This is the moment to come together; to play our part in a common endeavour to protect the NHS and save lives. This will not be easy, but we will do it together.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“It is with a heavy heart that I once again ask everyone to stay at home and businesses to shut.
We are all tired of coronavirus and the many rules and regulations we all have to live with. 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.
This fire-break is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much-longer – and damaging – national lockdown. We have a small window of opportunity to act.
To be successful, we need everyone’s help. Wales has shown throughout this pandemic that we can come together and take the actions to keep our families and our communities safe.
We must come together once again to stay ahead of this virus and to save lives.
Mr Drakeford said that the new measures would not reap immediate benefits at the end of the lockdown period, rather they would have to wait until some time afterwards to measure the impact. He said that the firebreak period was the shortest the Welsh Government could make it having taken advice.
People will be required to stay at home and work from home. Non essential retail, libraries, recycling centres and places of worship would close with the exception of vital ceremonies at places of worship.
The First Minister said that children were the priority and that education must and will continue. There would he said be no gatherings for Halloween or bonfire night allowed but the pre organised Remembrance Day services would go ahead.
He acknowledged the impact this would have on businesses and announced a £300 mil resilience fund, payments to small and medium sized businesses and a discretionary grant for small businesses, which were struggling.
The First Minister acknowledged the challenges to businesses especially those in the hospitality industry and said that the UK Government also had funds to help with wage costs.
He said he was aware of the demands he was making of the people of Wales and said that he understood that we were all tired of the rules and regulations and that we want to see an end to the virus.
He said that the Firebreak was the only choice and that the window of opportunity was a small one. We need everyone in Wales to come together to play our part
He thanked the people of Wales for all they have done so far and for all they can do. The firebreak will end on November 9th,
He said that if we had to rely on the police and enforcement officers to ensure people adhered to the rules we would not succeed. The question you should ask is what part can I play in making this work for Wales?
The fire-break will start at 6pm on Friday 23 October and end on Monday 9 November. It will apply to everyone living in Wales and will replace the local restrictions which are in force in some parts of the country.
The Welsh Government will provide a package of almost £300 million to support businesses, which will complement wage-support schemes available from the UK government.
Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the virus has woken up for winter. While the national and local measures put in place across Wales have helped to keep the spread of the virus in check, there is a growing consensus that additional action is now needed.
Between October 9 and 15, there were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results but the real level of infections will be much higher. The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing daily and sadly so too are the number of people dying with coronavirus.
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.
The fire-break will be short but sharp to have a maximum impact on the virus.
People must stay at home, except for very limited purposes, such as for exercise.
People must work from home wherever possible;
People must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with either indoors and outdoors
No gatherings will be allowed outdoors, such as Halloween or fireworks/Bonfire night or other organised activities
All non-food retail, hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants and pubs (unless they provide take-away or delivery services), close contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, and events and tourism businesses, such as hotels must close
Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will be required to close
Face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces, which remain open, including on public transport and in taxis.
During this time:
Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support
Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half-term
Secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in years seven and eight and most vulnerable children. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams but other pupils will continue their learning from home for an extra week.
Universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning
NHS and health services will continue to operate
Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.
Following the end of the fire-break, a new set of national rules will be introduced, covering how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses operate.
Businesses affected by the firebreak will be supported with a new £300 million fund, which will open next week:
Every business covered by the small business rates relief will receive a £1,000 payment.
Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses, which are struggling.
The £80 million fund announced last week to help businesses develop in the longer term, will be increased to £100 million, which includes £20 million ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality.
Businesses will also be able to access the support available through the existing Job Retention Scheme or the new expanded Job Support Scheme.
The First Minister has written to the Chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday. The Welsh Government has offered to pay the extra costs to the UK government scheme to ensure businesses can retain staff.