Covid: Circuit-breaker lockdown 'likely for Wales'

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Covid: Circuit-breaker lockdown 'likely for Wales'
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image captionIt is not clear if pubs will need to close

A limited circuit-breaker lockdown for Wales is due to be announced in the next few days, the BBC has been told.

Restaurateurs, food businesses and unions have called for urgent clarity on the government’s plans to stop the spread of Covid-19.

Hospitality firms and council leaders were briefed this week.

The Welsh Government said there was a growing consensus a different set of measures were needed, but no decisions have been made.

No outline has been given of which sectors may have to close, but a group of businesses say there are proposals to shut hospitality.

A

circuit-breaker is a short period of time where tighter restrictions are brought in to break the trajectory of coronavirus cases rising.

It is not yet clear when the announcement will be made, or for how long a limited shutdown would last.

Welsh Government minister Eluned Morgan confirmed detailed discussions were ongoing, but there was unlikely to be a decision before the weekend.

She told BBC Radio Cymru: “We need to think about several factors when considering this because people are worried about their jobs, and we would have to make sure there was an economic package in place”.

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Welsh Secretary Simon Hart has written to First Minister Mark Drakeford asking him to give businesses time to prepare.

image captionSchools are being considered as part of the proposed lockdown

Mr Drakeford and Health Minister Vaughan Gething met councils leaders in a meeting on Thursday.

A council leader told BBC Wales “ideas were tossed around”, including the possibility of a circuit-breaker lockdown.

Many leaders were said to support the idea “but not all”.

Will schools be affected?

As part of a short lockdown in Northern Ireland, schools are closing for two weeks at half term.

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On Thursday morning, Wales’ Education Minister Kirsty Williams said the government was discussing “whether a circuit-breaker is an appropriate step”.

That included considering “what role education has to play in all of that and then we need to be able to give families advance notice if there is to be a change of circumstance”.

Laura Doel, director of school leaders union NAHT director, said any decision “needs to be communicated clearly to schools and parents”.

“It needs to be made to give everyone enough time to prepare for the impact any school closures may have”.

What is the Covid situation in Wales?

A total of 17 areas in Wales are under local lockdown because of rising infection rates – meaning people cannot travel outside of their area and indoor meetings are restricted.

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On Thursday Public Health Wales announced ten more people had died with coronavirus in Wales and 727 had tested positive.

Welsh NHS boss Dr Andrew Goodall has said the number of Covid-related patients in the NHS has risen by 49% in a week.

Caerphilly county was the first part of Wales to go into local lockdown in September, and had been working on an exit strategy.

In a letter to residents, council leader Philippa Marsden and chief executive Christina Harrhy said those discussions were now “irrelevant” because “we are now likely to see a Wales-wide approach – and this will require a completely new exit strategy going forward”.

Warning of ‘death-knell’ for pubs

image captionHospitality businesses say they believe closures are proposed

An “urgent” letter signed by the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective, Brains Brewery and food wholesalers Castell Howell called for clarity “to impose a circuit-breaker shutdown of hospitality”.

The collective, which represents over 300 cafes, pubs and restaurants, said “urgent and immediate support is now essential to their survival”.

The chief executive of Brains , Wales’ largest brewery, warned “this will be the death-knell for many in our sector if immediate support is not provided”.

First Minister urged to lockdown ‘without delay’

On Wednesday, Mr Drakeford said ministers were “planning very seriously” for a circuit-breaker lockdown.

“We’re very actively talking about and preparing for that should it be necessary,” he told Sky News.

Plaid Cymru had called for a short lockdown earlier this week and leader Adam Price said: “While it is welcome that planning is already under way, we cannot waste another day as figures rise to a record level. Regrettably, we must pull the emergency cord without delay.”

Welsh Conservative health spokesman Andrew RT Davies said that the Welsh Government should shield vulnerable people, prioritise testing and protect at-risk occupations with PPE instead of implementing another lockdown.

Neil Hamilton, UKIP Member of the Senedd, said: “Kier Starmer called for a circuit breaker yesterday and it looks like Drakeford & Co have obliged.”

What did the Welsh Government say?

A Welsh Government spokesman said: “The measures we have put in place at both a local and a national level, with help from the public, have kept the spread of the virus under check.

“However, there is a growing consensus that we now need to introduce a different set of measures and actions to respond to the virus as it is spreading across Wales more quickly through the autumn and winter.

“We are actively considering advice from Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) and our [Technical Advisory Cell] group.

“A ‘fire break’ set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the Sage papers, is under consideration in Wales. But no decisions have been made.”

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