Covid: Early closures and alcohol banned in Welsh pubs as venues told to close at 6pm

  • Watch the report by ITV Wales' Political Editor Adrian Masters

Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes have been told to close at 6pm from Friday in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus in the lead up to Christmas, the First Minister has announced.

Speaking at the Welsh Government's briefing, Mark Drakeford confirmed they can only remain open after 6pm for takeaway or delivery.

They will not be able to sell any alcohol in the venues at all at any point in the day or night. 

Pubs, bars and restaurants reopened on November 9 after the 17-day Wales-wide lockdown, and close at 10 pm under current regulations.

Mr Drakeford said the evidence "is there" for new restrictions on the hospitality sector.

"When people meet together in a hospitality setting, you're not just having a glancing encounter with somebody as you do if you're going around a supermarket."

And he added: "You're sitting together with people for a significant period of time, and the evidence I'm afraid is just there."

"It's a matter of deep regret because of all the work the sector has done and the people who work in it."

The Federation of Small Businesses said the new rules are a "devastating blow".

The Welsh Conservatives called the announcement “disproportionate, and unfair”.

Paul Davies MS said it will "harm the sector to such an extent that large parts of it may not recover." 

“With the best will in the world, and especially in the run-up to Christmas, if pubs and cafes cannot sell alcohol with meals, it could encourage people to drink at home and in groups," he added.

The Welsh Government later clarified that some pubs will be able to sell alcohol as part of a takeaway if that premises has a license for off-sales.

The new restrictions are the same as the "level three" system in Scotland where only six people from up to two separate households can meet in those venues.

Meanwhile, in England, pubs and restaurants in tier three areas are closed, except for takeaway and delivery.

Mark Drakeford says the Welsh Government will provide £340m to support businesses like cinemas affected by the new restrictions Credit: PA

Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues will have to close but non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres can remain open.

There'll be no change in the household bubble arrangements, meeting indoors and outdoors. 

Mr Drakeford added: "The English lockdown will end as of Wednesday this week. In that context, we are looking at travel restrictions in and out of Wales and will make a further announcement later this week."

The new restrictions will be reviewed by the Welsh government by December 17 and then every three weeks.

Credit: PA

The First Minister announced a £340m support package for hospitality businesses affected by the new regulations.

He said smaller and medium-sized businesses can access up to £100,000, while larger businesses can access up to £150,000.

He said this was "the most generous package of financial assistance anywhere in the UK".

Ben Francis, Policy Chair at the Federation for Small Businesses said the support package is "welcome" but warned, "It will be incredibly important that this funding can be rolled out as a matter of urgency – businesses will now be in a position that means that they are entirely reliant on this financial support in order to weather the winter."

On Friday, Mr Drakeford told ITV News that the government had designed the system that would work best for Wales in the long-run.

"This will protect the areas in which the fire-break period has been positive and it will turn the tide back in other places where we have seen a rise," he said.

"The sector has worked hard to put in place measures to protect the public and I know this will be a worrying time for all working in the industry."

"All this is necessary because we need a further national effort to bring down rates in those parts of the country where they are high and to protect those areas from getting any worse, where cases are lower."

"By adding to the actions we take now, we can prepare responsibly for Christmas," the First Minister added.

More than a thousand people have tested positive with coronavirus in Wales on Sunday. Credit: PA

Public Health Wales data published on Sunday revealed there were 16 suspected covid-19 deaths and 1004 new cases.

Mr Drakeford said that scientific and medical advisers believed unless further restrictions were put in place, the number of people in hospital in Wales with Covid-19 could rise to 2,200 people by January 12.

Modelling suggested between 1,000 and 1,700 people could also lose their lives over the winter period, he said.

Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government's press briefing: "The measures we are taking are based on what the UK SAGE group of experts tells us has worked best elsewhere.

Last week, it was confirmed there will be no tier system introduced for Wales. Instead, a single set of restrictions will apply to the whole of Wales as Christmas approaches.

A five-day period has been agreed between December 23 and 27 where travel restrictions will be lifted across the UK and up to three households will be able to form a Christmas bubble.