Further Covid restrictions could be introduced in Wales before Christmas

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Further measures could be introduced in Wales before the Christmas period to try to reduce the spread of coronavirus, the country's chief medical officer has said.

Dr Frank Atherton told a press conference that the question of whether new restrictions imposed last week in Wales are enough "is a really important one".

"We are at risk of getting into the Christmas period with rates much higher than we had anticipated or had hoped," he said.

"Ministers are considering what further things might be possible in the run-up to Christmas, that needs to be considered.

"We also need to think about the Christmas period of managing our risk to make it as low as possible during those five days of Christmas, and then beyond Christmas I just don't know where we will be.

"We will have to see where the virus transmission is, what the rates are, what the hospital situation looks like, but it may well be that we need to think about further restrictions beyond Christmas."

Dr Atherton said the "best present" people can give to their families is a "coronavirus-free Christmas" Credit: PA

It comes as warnings were issued around the rising rates of coronavirus across Wales.

Dr Atherton told the press conference there are increases in 21 out of Wales' 22 local authorities and some places have higher than 400 positive cases per 100,000 people.

"We have seen similar rises in the rates among both the under 25 age group and the over 60s", Dr Atherton said.

Because older people are also more likely to need hospital treatment, Dr Atherton said the rising cases is causing "serious pressures" on the NHS in south Wales and in the Valleys.

"This is seen in hospitals, in our ambulance service and particularly in our intensive care units where staff are working flat out under very difficult circumstances. We all owe our NHS a debt of gratitude for their exceptional work at the end of what has been an incredibly challenging year."

The latest figures released by Public Health Wales (PHW) show there were a further 31 deaths related to coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

It said it had recorded 2,238 new cases across the country, with the highest percentage of positive tests in Merthyr Tydfil, where mass testing has been taking place since 20 November.

Cases have also been rising across Swansea where there are almost 700 positive cases per 100,000 people in Neath Port Talbot.

The latest advice by scientists in Wales is also urging people to postpone celebrating Christmas together, despite the rules being relaxed by all four government between 23 - 27 December.

The Technical Advisory Group (TAG) said people should meet remotely to protect older family members and those most at risk. They suggest families with children should consider isolating at home for 10 days before seeing elderly relatives.

  • What are the current rules in Wales?

The current restrictions in Wales include a 6pm closure of restaurants, cafes, bars and pubs and alcohol cannot be served at any time.

Entertainment venues and indoor tourist attractions will be required to close.

These measures have been in place since 4 December until, the government says, "until such a time as the situation changes."

People you don’t live with cannot come into your home, unless you have formed an extended household, or “bubble” with them - except in very limited circumstances, such as tradespeople having to undertake work in your home.

There are no travel restrictions in place within Wales. However, people living in Wales cannot travel to areas of England in tier three, areas of Scotland in level three or above or Northern Ireland. In these circumstances, travel out of Wales is only allowed under limited circumstances, such as for work or education.

A review of the current measures is due on 17 December.