Easing of lockdown rules 'may be possible' if rates continue to fall

The whole of Wales has been under tight restrictions since 20 December Credit: PA

There may be "marginal easements" to coronavirus rules in Wales if rates continue to fall, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

Mr Drakeford said the incidence rate was "well above" 400 cases per 100,000 people a week ago but had now dropped to 365 cases per 100,000 people.

Wales moved to alert level 4 - the highest level of restrictions under its coronavirus control plan - on 20 December. All non-essential retail, close contact services and leisure and fitness centres have been shut since that date and people must not mix indoors with anyone they do not live with.

Mr Drakeford announced on January 8 that the restrictions would remain in place - and unless there was a "significant reduction" in cases before January 29 school and college students will continue to learn online until the February half term.

He said if things over the next two weeks continue to head in the right direction, then the cabinet will decide "if theres any headroom" to begin lessening the current level of restrictions.

During Friday's press conference, he said, "We are definitely seeing progress being made but some of those figures will not move as quickly".

"We certainly won't see reductions in hospital occupation moving as fast as the community falls because we know there's always a delay.

"The other thing I think it's important to remember is that even within levels, it is possible to make some adjustments."

"So even if you're not able to go from Level 4 to Level 3, within Level 4 it may be possible - and it's a may, I really want to stress that it's a may - to have some marginal easements and that would demonstrate to people that the efforts they are making are making a difference."

His comments come as the death toll rose by 54 in the last 24 hours, taking the total to 4,171.

A further 1,808 cases were confirmed meaning there have been 177,864 cases in Wales since the start of the pandemic.

The impact of the new variant is being felt in North Wales as Wrexham currently has the highest rate per 100,000 at 867 in the week leading up to January 10. This is followed by Flintshire and Bridgend.