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Wales to begin two-week 'firebreak' lockdown to limit spread of Covid-19

The “sharp and deep” lockdown will begin at 6pm on 23 October.

First Minister Mark Drakeford speaking at a press conference today
First Minister Mark Drakeford speaking at a press conference today
Image: PA

WALES HAS ANNOUNCED it will introduce a two-week “firebreak” lockdown from 6pm on Friday.

First Minister Mark Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff that the measure was necessary to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

The “sharp and deep” lockdown will begin at 6pm on 23 October and last until 9 November, with everyone in Wales “required to stay at home” while it is in place.

“The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible,” Drakeford said.

He also said the lockdown would be a “short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time”.

Under the “firebreak” lockdown, all non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close “just as they had to during the March lockdown”.

Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will also close, while places of worship will also be shut, other than for funerals or wedding ceremonies.

Childcare facilities will stay open, with primary and specialist schools reopening after the half-term break.

Secondary schools will also reopen after half-term for children in years seven and eight, as well as the most vulnerable students.

Pupils will be able to go in to take exams but others will learn from home for an additional week.

Universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning but students will be required to stay at their accommodation.

People will not be able to meet indoors or outdoors with anyone they do not live with, with exceptions for those living alone.

They must stay at home, except for limited purposes such as exercise, and must work from home wherever possible.

Gatherings are banned, including Halloween and fireworks or Bonfire Night celebrations.

There were 4,127 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 recorded by Public Health Wales between 9 October and 15 October, though the level of infections is believed to be higher.

The R number – the average number of people each case infects – across Wales is currently between 1.1 and 1.4, while the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales is more than 130 cases per 100,000 people.

“There are no easy choices in front of us, as the virus spreads rapidly in every part of Wales,” Drakeford said.

“We know that if we do not act now, it will continue to accelerate and there is a very real risk that our NHS would be overwhelmed.

“The number of people being taken to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing every day, our critical care units are already full.

“We are asking our healthcare and social care staff, who have already done so much, to work even harder.

“Unless we act, the NHS will not be able to look after the increasing number of people who are falling seriously ill.”

Drakeford said that “even more extreme measures”, such as an open-ended lockdown, would have to be implemented if action was not taken now.

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Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, called on the Welsh Government to provide the evidence behind the “firebreak” and to go to the Welsh Parliament to answer questions.

“This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic, it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year,” he said.

“The Welsh Government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people’s lives and livelihoods.”

Davies said the lockdown was “not proportionate” and would heavily impact businesses in areas with low levels of Covid-19, such as Powys, Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion.

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