Wales Covid rules: Rule of six, table service and ban on large gatherings announced

More Covid restrictions will be introduced in Wales after Christmas, the Welsh Government has announced.

The new measures, which will come into force on Boxing Day, include a return to the rule of six in regulated premises such as bars, restaurants, cinemas and theatres.

Face coverings will have to be worn at all times except for when seated.

There will also be a return to table service in premises such as bars and restaurants, with staff once again required to take customers' contact details for contact tracing purposes.

Nightclubs will now have to close on Boxing Day, a day earlier than had been previously announced.

The 'rule of six' will return for cinemas, theatres, bars and restaurants Credit: PA Images

Large events, both indoors and outdoors, will now also be banned. Indoor events will be capped at 30 people while up to 50 people will be allowed to attend outdoor events.

However, there will be an exception for team sports with up to 50 people able to gather in addition to those taking part.

There will also be an exception for events involving children.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales faces a serious few weeks as the Omicron variant spreads.

He said: "We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious omicron variant is headed our way.

"This new form of coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupting daily lives and businesses and could cause an increase in the number of people who need hospital care in the coming weeks.

"We will do everything we can to protect people’s health and livelihoods in Wales – this means taking early action to try and control its spread.

"We are changing the rules for businesses and some public spaces, where lots of differentpeople mix daily and issuing strong and clear advice to help people stay safein their own private homes and when meeting others."

The Welsh Government said it will make available £120m for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the new restrictions.

In response to the announcement, the Welsh Liberal Democrats called for greater clarity around the financial assistance being offered to affected businesses and said more money had to be invested into contact tracing.

Party leader Jane Dodds said: "There remain questions over today's announcement and the support for businesses announced.

"Given the difficulty many businesses have said table service only will present them, we need reassurance this support is adequate.

The new restrictions will come into force at 6am on Boxing Day Credit: PA Images

"I would also like to see clarification on whether any of this funding can be accessed retrospectively, allowing businesses receive support for businesses that has been lost already in the last few weeks as footfall dropped.

"I am also disappointed to see we will not get this clarification until tomorrow. Finance Minister Vaughan Gething should have made his statement today while the Senedd has been recalled."I would also urge the Government to put more money into Test, Trace, Protect to allow them to deal with the large increase in cases the Government is predicting."We also need to protect our NHS in the long run, making sure it is resilient enough to handle future variant outbreaks.

"A key part of this will be preventing staff shortages and staff leaving the profession which is why the Welsh Liberal Democrats are continuing to call for a minimum of a 6 per cent pay rise for NHS staff, instead of the Welsh Government's below-inflation pay rise of 3 per cent."

Public Health Wales data published on Wednesday (December 22) revealed there have been a further three coronavirus-related deaths and 4,662 new confirmed cases in Wales.

Earlier in the week, it was announced that sporting events in Wales will be conducted behind closed doors from Boxing Day.

Economy Minister Vaughan Gething said a £3m Spectator Sports Fund will be made available for those clubs and venues affected by the decision.

The Welsh Government also said this week that, from Monday, it will become a legal requirement for people to work from home instead of the workplace "without good reason".

Employees found in breach of the new regulation could face a £60 fine and employers could face fines of up to £10,000 for repeated breaches.

That move drew criticism from opposition parties, with the Welsh Conservatives accusing the Government of "sneaking new Covid rules in under the radar".

Meanwhile the Welsh Liberal Democrats called on the Government to immediately scrap the rule, with party leader Jane Dodds saying: "This policy is not a solution to the problems we face and the Welsh Labour Government should amend it immediately.

"Employees should not be punished for potentially following the direction of a bad boss or employer who is not complying with instructions."

The Welsh Government said the measure was designed to limit the spread of coronavirus and protect public health.

BMA Cymru Wales Media Statement, immediate release, 22 December 2021

 Responding to the First Minister’s announcement of further measures to stop the spread of coronavirus, Dr David Bailey, Chair of the BMA’s Welsh Council said:

“We recognise the need to combat the rapid spread of Omicron and we fully support the Welsh First Minister’s actions to bring in more restrictions at this time.

“No one wants to introduce further measures limiting what people are able to do – particularly at this time of year - however we feel this is the best course of action to protect the public and prevent the NHS from becoming overwhelmed."

Latest Covid rules in rest of UK

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said no more restrictions will be introduced in England this side of Christmas Credit: PA Images

Meanwhile in England, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said no additional restrictions will be introduced before Christmas, although he did stress the Government stood ready to "take action" after December 25 if the situation required.

It has been confirmed that the self-isolation period in England is to be reduced from ten to seven days, provided the person completes a negative lateral flow test on day six and day seven of the isolation period.

Face coverings are currently compulsory in the majority of indoor public settings in England and on public transport.

People attending nightclubs and certain venues also have to show either proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test or display that they are exempt or participating in a clinical trial.

There is also advice to work from home wherever practically possible.

The Hogmanay New Year celebrations in Edinburgh have been cancelled this year amid rising coronavirus infections Credit: PA Images

In Scotland the traditional Hogmanay New Year celebrations in Edinburgh have been cancelled.

Similarly to Wales, the Scottish Government has also announced more restrictions for sporting events with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon saying they will be "effectively spectator free".

From Boxing Day, all outdoor events in Scotland will be limited to 500 people and indoor events will have up to 200 people seated.

The measures are in place for up to three weeks, Ms Sturgeon said.

In Northern Ireland, the Stormont Executive is meeting to decide what "level of asks" to put on the public as it seeks to curb the latest surge in coronavirus cases.