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Wales stops short of lockdown with new guidance but ‘Wales will reopen after Christmas’ says First Minister

The First Minister of Wales has set out Welsh Government guidance to deal with what has been described as a ‘Tsunami of cases’ of Omicron heading for Wales. 

Speaking at his press conference today, Wednesday (Dec 22) the First Minister said that by Boxing Day there would be many thousands of new cases across Wales and that we should be  prepared for the situation to worsen because the virus was so fast moving.

He said that today most countries across the world were  affected by it and that the Cabinet have meeting almost every day looking at scientific advice and data.

The First Minister concluded by saying that no one wanted to see a return but  we are now entering a really serious phase of the pandemic. Wales will reopen after Christmas.

New measures will be introduced from 6am on Boxing Day to help keep Wales safe.

The measures are a revised version of alert level 2 to respond to the new omicron variant and are designed to help keep businesses open and trading and protect customers and staff.

The regulations bring back protections in hospitality businesses, including licensed premises, and in cinemas and theatres when they re-open after the festive period.

Strengthened guidance will be issued to help people stay safe in their own homes and when meeting others.

£120 million will be available for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the move to alert level 2 – double the new £60 million package announced last week.

The Economy Minister will announce further details tomorrow (23 December).

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious omicron variant is headed our way.

This new form of coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupting daily lives and businesses and could cause an increase in the number of people who need hospital care in the coming weeks.

We will do everything we can to protect people’s health and livelihoods in Wales – this means taking early action to try and control its spread.

We are changing the rules for businesses and some public spaces, where lots of different people mix daily and issuing strong and clear advice to help people stay safe in their own private homes and when meeting others.

From Boxing Day, the alert level 2 measures will mean:

A general requirement of 2m social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable.
The rule of 6 will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
All licensed premises will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collecting contact details.
Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.
Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors.
There will be an exception for team sports, up to 50 spectators will be able to gather, in addition to those taking part. There is also an exception for events involving children.
Last week new measures were announced for workplaces and retail – these will now come into force on Boxing Day. Nightclubs will also close on Boxing Day.

The Welsh Government will not be making new rules about mixing in people’s private homes, including gardens, in holiday accommodation or meeting outdoors. Instead guidance will be issued to help people stay safe.

To help you stay safe in your own home, we strongly advise everyone follows these 5 measures:

Limit the number of people visiting your home.
If people are visiting, make sure they take a lateral flow test in the morning before the visit.
Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
Space out any visits.
And don’t forget about social distancing and washing your hands.
There will be a separate offence for large gatherings – more than 30 people indoors or 50 people outdoors – in private homes and gardens.

The First Minister added:

The most important thing we can all do to protect ourselves against omicron is to be fully vaccinated – that means also having the booster. If you are eligible for a booster then please make getting it a priority in the coming weeks.

As we enter our second winter of the pandemic, we have high vaccination coverage and tens of thousands of extra boosters are being given every day.

We also have access to the rapid lateral flow tests to help us all identify signs of infection without symptoms.

Both of these, together with everything we have learned over the last 2 years will help to keep us safe at home without the need for new rules and regulations about mixing at home.

The Welsh Liberal Democrats have responded to today’s COVID-19 update from the Welsh Government by calling for greater clarification on the financial assistance made available for the hospitality, nightlife and tourism industry stating that the announcements due by Finance Minister Vaughan Gething should have been made today while the Senedd was recalled. The Party has also called for more money to be placed into Test, Trace, Protect.

Commenting Party Leader Jane Dodds MS said:

“There remain questions over today’s announcement and the support for businesses announced. Given the difficulty many businesses have said table service only will present them, we need reassurance this support is adequate.

“I would also like to see clarification on whether any of this funding can be accessed retrospectively, allowing businesses receive support for businesses that has been lost already in the last few weeks as footfall dropped. I am also disappointed to see we will not get this clarification until tomorrow. Finance Minister Vaughan Gething should have made his statement today while the Senedd has been recalled.

“I would also urge the Government to put more money into Test, Trace, Protect to allow them to deal with the large increase in cases the Government is predicting.

“We also need to protect our NHS in the long run, making sure it is resilient enough to handle future variant outbreaks. A key part of this will be preventing staff shortages and staff leaving the profession which is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats are continuing to call for a minimum of a 6 per cent pay rise for NHS staff, instead of the Welsh Government’s below-inflation pay rise of 3 per cent.”

Welsh Government Covid-19 vaccine update:

2,484,739 people have had their first dose.
2,292,930 people have had their second dose.
1,406,629 people have had their booster dose.





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