Wales to move into lockdown restrictions from Christmas Day
Wales will start moving into stricter level 4 restrictions - the equivalent of a lockdown - from 6pm on Christmas Day, the First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced.
Mr Drakeford announced that all non-essential retail and gyms would close at the end of trading on Christmas Eve with hospitality having to close from 6pm on Christmas Day.
On December 28, stricter restrictions for household mixing, staying-at-home, holiday accommodation and travel will be enforced.
Only two households will be be able to form a Christmas bubble during the five-day period - a change from the three households previously announced and an apparent break from the four-nations agreement.
Mr Drakeford said: "Only two households should get together. That's how serious things are. I can't go beyond that until the results of the discussions between the four governments are published later today."
These restrictions will apply to the whole of Wales and will be reviewed after three weeks. Regional differences could be introduced if parts of Wales prove to be in a "different position in a reliable and sustainable way."
During his coronavirus press briefing, the first minister said the number of people in Welsh hospitals with coronavirus has risen to more than 2,100.
He also said there are currently 98 people in intensive care with coronavirus, the highest of the second wave.
Mr Drakeford said these stricter restrictions over the Christmas period were necessary "to save lives and protect the NHS."
He encouraged people to work from home in the lead up to Christmas.
The Welsh Retail Consortium has expressed concern at the decision to shut non-essential retail on Christmas Eve.
Sara Jones, Head of the Welsh Retail Consortium, said Welsh retailers have "taken every mitigation possible" to keep customers and staff safe.
She continued: “Lockdowns cost Welsh retailers over £100m a week in lost sales, and with continued low footfall in towns and city centres, many retailers face the stark reality of further job losses and store closures as a result of mounting rent bills and a return to full business rates liability from April.
"This forced closure will also make it more difficult for some shops to sell unsold pre-Christmas stock. Whilst we welcome the promise of support for those businesses affected, and that click and collect is permitted to stay open, the blunt reality is the offer of grant support won’t make up for those lost sales – we can only hope those shops forced to close can weather the storm ahead."
Darren Hughes, Director of the Welsh NHS Confederation welcomed the stricter restrictions and said they would help keep NHS services running.
He said: "If community infections rise and more people present in our hospitals with coronavirus, we have to make difficult decisions on the other services we would be able to safely deliver.
“It has never been the case that if you need urgent care that you would not receive it. We will continue to do everything we can for as many people as possible in Wales.
“What we need over the festive period is for people to be responsible. Please limit your social contacts as much as possible in the run-up to Christmas. Make sure you and your family have as much reassurance as possible that you can celebrate safely. By doing so, you will not just help the NHS and the dedicated staff who have been tackling the pandemic for 10 months, but you will help your loved ones too.”
What are the alert level 4 restrictions?
The level 4 restrictions look similar to what Wales was put into in the original lockdown at the start of the pandemic and the fire-break which ended in November.
People would have to stay at home and extended households would not be allowed to you can only mix with those in your household or support bubble.
Only essential travel would be allowed - unless you have a 'reasonable excuse' - and people will be encouraged to work from home if they can.
Non-essential shops, gyms, hairdressers, hospitality businesses and holiday accommodation would have to close.
Indoor and outdoor attractions would be closed but wedding ceremonies and funerals could continue with limited numbers and without a reception or wake.
Schools, childcare providers, places of worship and parks would remain open.