Another fire-break in the new year 'not ruled out', says Welsh economy minister

Wales' economy minister said he "cannot not rule out" the possibility of another fire-break lockdown for Wales in the new year.

Ken Skates MS told a press conference on Tuesday that "if over the Christmas period transmission rates increased dramatically", Welsh Government could introduce another short national lockdown.

Wales will enter a 17-day lockdown on Friday 23 October at 6pm in a bid to bring down coronavirus transmission rates.

Non-essential businesses must close and everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home - with exceptions for critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible.

The decision was made by Welsh Government to introduce a fire-break in response to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and advice given by scientific advisors on the benefits of a short, sharp lockdown.

The fire-break rules are similar to those in place during the previous national lockdown, with all but essential shops allowed to stay open. Credit: PA Images

In the press conference Mr Skates reassured that the fire-break starting this Friday evening would result in a "significant decrease in the R rate" as long as "everybody acts in accordance with the regulations".

He reminded that any progress would not be reflected in coronavirus case numbers by the end of the 17-day period because of delays between catching the virus and exhibiting symptoms.

He said that the fire-break period will "buy us enough time, give us the headroom, to get through to Christmas and the new year."

However looking ahead into 2021, Mr Skates said: "Of course we could not rule out the possibility of introducing another new fire-break in the new year if over the Christmas period transmission rates increased dramatically."

He added that he hoped the work that will be done between October 23 and November 9 would suppress transmission rates throughout the winter but again, said it was impossible to rule out a second fire-break.

"But what I am determined to do is make sure that business and that people have the greatest degree of certainty in their lives", he said.

"So they know that they have a good period of time between any fire-breaks, to get the best out of business opportunities that exist."

Mr Skates made the comments while outlining the financial support that was being put in place for businesses and their employees over the circuit-break period.

Eligible businesses will be able to access support via the Job Retention Scheme until the 31 of October and will then need to access the new Enhanced Job Support Scheme from the 1 November.

Mr Skates said he realised that accessing "two different forms of support is far from ideal" but the Chancellor has "refused" their pleas to bring forward the Enhanced Job Support Scheme.

Welsh Government have also announced several other methods of financial support.

Businesses covered by the small business rates relief will get a £1,000 payment and small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.