Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rupert Evelyn
The Welsh Government is looking "very carefully" at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown in an attempt to control the spread of coronavirus, the First Minister has announced.
A time-limited “fire-break” – also known as a circuit-breaker, would be following the latest scientific advice for Wales, Mark Drakeford said.
It would be a "short, sharp shock to the virus", he said, "which could turn back the clock, slowing down its spread and buy us more time – and vital capacity in the NHS."
But the Welsh Government has not yet come to a final decision, and will discuss the possibility over the weekend before making an announcement on Monday.
The announcement comes as Northern Ireland prepares for a four-week period of intensified restrictions that will see the closures of schools, pubs and restaurants.
Some experts have warned that repeated circuit-breakers may be needed until a vaccine is found.
Mr Drakeford confirmed the circuit-breaker would be introduced for a defined period of time, rather than having an unconfirmed end-date like the first national lockdown. He also guaranteed the lockdown would not be extended.
During a press conference on Friday, he said: "We’re considering a two or three-week 'fire-break'. The shorter the period, the sharper the measures will have to be.
"A successful fire-break would re-set the virus at a lower level. Together with a new national set of rules for the whole of Wales after the fire-break period we would have slowed the virus down enough to get us through to Christmas.
"These are incredibly difficult decisions and we have not yet come to a final conclusion about whether we will have a 'fire-break'."
The First Minister refused to speculate on what the fire-break would look like in practice ahead of conversations this weekend and a final decision.
He did say however that essential travel and key workers would be "accommodated this time as we were able to back in" March and April.
He added that if a circuit-breaker was set to go ahead "people will find it pretty familiar from what they faced" near the beginning of the pandemic albeit, for a shorter and defined period of time.
What we plan to do is replicate as closely as possible, the situation that people faced [in March and April]...it won't be identical because there are other things we have to think of seven months on.
Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government would still do "everything it can" to keep schools open, but said this would also be discussed over the weekend.
He rejected concerns that current lockdown measures have failed to stop the spread of the virus.
"If people had not made the contributions they have over the past few weeks we would be in a far worse position today.
"Because we acted early, we are in a better position than any other part of the UK - and that's a tribute to everything that people in local areas have done."
Analysis by ITV Wales Health Correspondent James Crichton-Smith
This was perhaps one of the gloomiest updates from the First Minister since March.
It was a press conference that started with what many knew; that ‘we are facing a very serious situation’ but it didn’t stop there. Wales is again at a ‘critical point,’ he said.
The ‘R’ rate in Wales is at 1.4, 2,500 people are being infected every day and that number is rising.
If you were looking for a big glimmer of hope, you would struggle to find it.
He repeated what the CEO of NHS Wales said earlier in the week, that critical care units are full, deaths are increasing and that number, too, is on the rise in Wales.
It was clear that yet more restrictions are coming.
The First Minister told us that the virus is moving faster than the measures that have been put in place can contain it.
He warned, too, that unless we get the virus back under control there is a real risk the NHS will be overwhelmed.
If you wanted that glimmer, it might be in his bid to get everyone to rally once again to get through a tough few weeks and months.
He said that Wales is in a better place now than it might have been had his Government not acted how it has up until now.
Ultimately, though, the First Minister’s words felt very March 2020. If it was designed to shock people into appreciating the severity of the situation, it likely worked.
The First Minister talked of a ‘fire-break’ to help reset the system and bring the virus levels down. He talked about getting through to Christmas.
The new year feels a very long way away...
Watch the full press conference: