Wales will enter a strict two-week national lockdown from 6pm on Friday, the Welsh Government has confirmed.
The so-called ‘circuit-breaker’ or ‘fire break’ lockdown will include the half-term holiday and is due to end on Monday 9th November.
Ministers say it is intended as a ‘short, sharp shock’ to try to halt the second wave of coronavirus ahead of the winter.
These new restrictions replace the current local lockdown measures and will look similar to the first national lockdown back in March.
Between Friday October 23 and November 9, businesses must close and everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home.
The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the decision had been “difficult”, but confirmed that it is a fixed lockdown period that will not be extended.
He added that we will not necessarily see the benefits of the lockdown by 9 November, but in the weeks that follow.
- Social gatherings
Under the new lockdown rules coming in on Friday evening, you cannot meet people you don’t live with – either indoors or outdoors.
The only exception is single parents and adults living alone, who are allowed to form a support bubble with one other household.
Under the new rules, planned gatherings for Halloween and Bonfire Night can no longer go ahead. However, Remembrance Sunday will be marked.
- Retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism
All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close. This is the same as during the March lockdown.
Cafes, pubs and restaurants must shut their doors, unless they can offer a takeaway service.
Close contact work, such as hair and beauty salons, cannot operate during the lockdown period.
Unlimited exercise is allowed whilst in lockdown, with outdoor gyms and local parks staying open. However, indoor gyms will close.
Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will be shut for the duration of the lockdown.
Tourism businesses will also close.
- Schools and universities
Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half-term, it has been confirmed.
Secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in years seven and eight. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams, but other pupils will continue their learning from home for an extra week.
Universities and colleges will continue to provide a blend of in-person and online learning. Students will need to stay at home in their university accommodation for half-term or reading weeks.
- Weddings and funerals
Places of worship will close for normal services, except for wedding ceremonies and funerals.
- Support for businesses
Extra support has been promised for businesses affected by the firebreak.
Every business covered by the small business rates relief will get a £1,000 payment.
Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses, which are struggling.
The First Minister also said he has written to the Chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday.
This would remove the need for businesses to juggle the Job Retention Scheme and the Job Support Scheme during this fire-break period.
Speaking at today’s press conference, Mark Drakeford said: “It is with a heavy heart that I once again ask everyone to stay at home and businesses to shut.
“We are all tired of coronavirus and the many rules and regulations we all have to live with.
“We all want to see an end to this pandemic and our lives returned to us.
“Unfortunately, we do not yet have a vaccine, which will allow us to do that.
“So this is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much-longer – and damaging – national lockdown.
“We have a small window of opportunity to act.
“To be successful, we need everyone’s help. Here in Wales, this is the moment to come together; to play our part in a common endeavour to once again protect the NHS and save lives.
“If we can do this, our health service will be able to care for people with coronavirus and everyone who needs emergency treatment as well as providing more routine care this winter.
“And, most importantly, it will save lives.
“This will not be easy but we will do it together.”
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