Alcohol ban enforced and pubs shut early around Wales as new Covid rules introduced

  • Watch the report by ITV Wales' Mike Griffiths

Hospitality businesses in Wales will now no longer be able to serve alcohol to customers after new rules came into force at 6pm Friday evening, in an attempt to curb the spread of coronavirus in Wales. It also means businesses will now close for dine-in service at 6pm every evening.

Indoor entertainment business have since shut and new rules on travel have also come into effect, meaning people in Wales will be able to travel to parts of England that are not in the top tier of restrictions.

Travel to tier three areas is still prohibited, as is travel to level three and four areas in Scotland and the whole of Northern Ireland - who are still in lockdown.

The Welsh First Minister said the new rules were being introduced in response to rising coronavirus cases and the promise of more social gatherings over Christmas.

Mark Drakeford told a press briefing on Friday "difficult as these decision are, the Welsh Government will do the right thing, not the thing that is easy".

"Even when the decisions are difficult, so long as I can look myself in the mirror and know that what I am doing...this government is doing is the right thing, that is what has to matter to me," he said.

"Not whether it is in a temporary way unpopular."

He added: "Nobody should have an expectation that by the 17 December all these rules are going to be lifted."

Mr Drakeford explained that restrictions would be lifted only if data shows coronavirus cases are "reliably" coming down.

However the new guidance for hospitality has left the sector reeling.

Matt Lewis, the Director of Castell Howell food wholesaler says revenue for the company over the Christmas period will be "down in excess of £7 million" which is on top of the £43 million the company says it has cost them since the start of the pandemic.

The Federation of Small Businesses have described the restrictions as a "devastating blow" while Wales' largest brewery, Brains, has said it will close all of their venues completely from Friday.

Speaking to ITV's Good Morning Britain on Friday, the Welsh health minister said these rules were "not about blaming the hospitality sector", but action was needed to do something to drive virus transmission down.

He added that the rules were necessary because of "a rising tide of coronavirus", explaining that rates of the virus rose in 20 out of 22 local authorities in Wales on Thursday.

Mr Gething acknowledged that there would be a negative impact on businesses.

Credit: PA Images

"I won't pretend this won't have a really significant effect on those business at pretty much the worst time of the year for them as well, and I really do recognise that," he said.

"But if we don't act on the evidence, then I'm afraid we won't be meeting our responsibilities to keep Wales safe and keep people alive."

A £340m support package has been announced by Welsh Government to support those businesses that will see a significant loss in custom.

During Friday's press conference, Mr Drakeford also confirmed Christmas bubbles in Wales can be joined by a single person, single parent or someone with caring responsibilities.

Christmas bubbles in Wales can be joined by a single person, single parent or someone with caring responsibilities, the FM announced

"We have agreed an important addition to the Christmas arrangements to make sure that people living alone, single parents and those with caring responsibilities are not left out," Mr Drakeford said.

"As you know, we agreed with the other governments of the United Kingdom to have a common set of arrangements between December 23 and 27 to enable three households to join together to form a single Christmas bubble.

"Now here in Wales, that Christmas bubble can be joined by a single person, a single parent or somebody with caring responsibilities to make sure that they are not left alone for that five-day period." 

The ban on serving alcohol will not apply to licensed takeaway services. Credit: PA Images
  • The new rules for hospitality

All hospitality businesses will no longer be able to serve alcohol on their premises from 6pm on Friday. They will however be able to sell alcohol via takeaway, if licensed to do so.

The First Minister, Mark Drakeford, explained: "The consumption of alcohol has been identified by health officials and policy makers internationally as increasing the risk of transmission, as social distancing can break down as people have an altered perception of risk."

The alcohol restrictions will not apply to shops and supermarkets.

Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close their doors for dine-in customers at 6pm every evening.

These rules will be reviewed on the 17 December.

The rule of four will still apply at these premises, meaning people from a maximum of four different households can meet at a hospitality venue.

A £340m support package has been announced for businesses like pubs, who may now be left with excess stock they cannot sell. Credit: PA Images
  • The new rules on travel

After Wales' firebreak ended, new travel restrictions were introduced on the 23 November that only allowed essential travel between England and Wales. However this is set to change from Friday evening.

New guidance means that people can travel between any part of Wales and ares in tiers one or two in England.

Travel to tier three areas is still banned while travel to level three and four areas in Scotland and the whole of Northern Ireland is also prohibited.

These travel restrictions are likely to remain in place until January 2021 but Welsh Government have confirmed they will remain under constant review.

Bingo halls will have to close completely as of 6pm on Friday 4 December. Credit: ITV Wales
  • The new rules for other businesses

The other new restrictions coming into effect mean indoor entertainment attractions, like cinemas, museums, bowling alleys and bingo halls, will have to close from Friday evening.

As with the new restrictions on hospitality, these rules are set to be reviewed by Welsh Government on December 17.

Outdoor visitor attractions will be able to stay open.

All other businesses that are currently open - including gyms, hairdressers and non-essential retail - can continue to operate.