Wales enters 17-day lockdown as First Minister says ‘we are in this together’

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers

Wales has entered a 17-day lockdown as the First Minister says "we are in this together" in an attempt to protect the country's NHS from being overwhelmed by coronavirus.

The Welsh Government has said the "sharp and deep" lockdown, brought in to coincide with half-term holidays, could be enough to avoid a longer and "much more damaging national lockdown" in the months ahead.

Under the measures, which will last 17 days until November 9, people have be asked to stay at home and to leave only for a limited number of reasons, including exercise, buying essential supplies, or to seek or provide care.

The First Minister used Friday's press conference to tell the public that the lockdown is about about "saving lives, not saving Christmas" as he warned that the virus will not "magic away" but instead "reset the clock."

He said he hoped measures being put in place in other parts of the UK to reduce the spread of coronavirus would succeed.

Mr Drakeford told ITV News' lunchtime news that the fire-break restrictions are "harsh" because the "choice we faced was between length and depth".

"We wanted to have a short a firebreak as possible, and that means it's got to be very severe and that's the bargain we're striking with people in Wales. We are confident it will disrupt the virus to get to us through to Christmas without needing to repeat the actions of this severity between now and then".

  • Wales' lockdown explained

The Welsh Conservative's leader in the Senedd, Paul Davies, said the Welsh Government needed to ensure the two-week period wasn't "wasted", and called for more data supporting the decision for a "disproportionate" nationwide lockdown to be published.

Mr Davies also called on the Welsh Government to "get to grips" with its testing regime, after First Minister Mark Drakeford conceded the country currently was not able to make full use out of its 15,000 tests-a-day capacity.

"Currently on average only 3,000 tests are done per day by Welsh laboratories, with the UK Government carrying out more than 6,000 tests a day in Wales", he said.

"The Welsh Government needs a plan to fully utilise the testing capacity in Wales."

What are the rules?

Under the "fire-break", people have been encouraged to work from home if possible, with the exception of essential workers.

People will not be able to meet indoors or outdoors with anyone they do not live with, with exceptions for those living alone.

All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses are closed, along with community centres, libraries and recycling centres, while places of worship will also be shut other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.

The First Minister also said any shops remaining open cannot sell non-essential items like clothes and hardware.

Childcare facilities will stay open in Wales, with primary and specialist schools reopening after the half-term break.

Secondary schools will also reopen after half-term for children in years seven and eight, as well as the most vulnerable students.

And universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning, but students will be required to stay at their accommodation.

Under the fire-break rules people are not allowed to leave or enter Wales without a reasonable excuse. Credit: PA

Shops in Wales too are set to feel the impact of the country's 17 day national "fire-break" lockdown.

Donna Williams, who owns Donna Louise children’s clothing boutique in Mumbles, Swansea,said she hopes the lockdown won’t last long.

"I’m just concerned it’ll go on longer than two weeks - or we’ll get more fire-breaks further down the line. I’m grateful for the government support now, but the money will only last for so long".

Paul Male, Manager Director at a seafood wholesaler, said his business has dropped by 75% since the fire-break announcement, describing it as "hard times".

What would normally be a busy period for the business, the morning is now a lot quieter and Mr Male finds the work is generally finished before midday.

They are remaining open during the fire-break to provide produce for retailers and takeaway but that trade is "nowhere near" the level that they will lose out on with the hospitality sector shutting.

Mr Male said the business is currently "drawing on reserves" in order to keep going but they cannot continue to do that "indefinitely".

The company had adapted and begun to recover, only having two staff still left on furlough. However Mr Male said another lockdown was always their worst fear.

Business owners in Welshpool on the Welsh border have questioned the necessity for the two-week lockdown, saying they were effectively being tarred with the same brush as places such as Cardiff and Swansea.

Terri-Ann Ratledge, landlady of The Grapes pub, said she felt "victimised" by the new lockdown.

"We're being tarred with the same brush and the same restrictions as what the big cities are. It's just not bad round here and people are considerate because it's a small community," she said.

Tammy Weaver, owner of wedding services firm TMS Events in Four Crosses, Montgomeryshire, described 2020 as a "wipe out" for her business.

"We don't really see light at the end of the tunnel because of the implications of the restrictions both in England and in Wales," she said.

Ms Weaver also criticised the decision to impose the circuit-breaker for the whole of Wales.

"We feel a bit confused and upset by the decision," she said.

"We just feel we are such a small area and Montgomeryshire is a safe area and everybody is abiding by the rules."