Wales announces ‘firebreak’ lockdown

The Welsh government has announced a two-week “firebreak” national lockdown, which will force business closures across the country from 23 October at 6pm until Monday 9 November. 

According to BBC News, first minister Mark Drakeford said the “time-limited firebreak” will be “a short, sharp, shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and buy us more time”.

Pubs, hotels, hairdressers, cafes, restaurants and non-essential shops will be among the businesses forced to close their doors, while the public will be told to stay at home.

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Non-essential travel in and out of the country will “have to end”, according to Drakeford.

The Welsh Government has confirmed a support package of almost £300m to support businesses through the lockdown.

The announcement follows the rise in cases across Wales and increased hospital admissions. Figures reportedly stand at 130 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people. 

Halloween and Bonfire Night gatherings will also not be allowed under the new restrictions, there will however, be an exception for Remembrance Sunday on 8 November.

Reacting to the news, the executive director for UKHospitality Wales, David Chapman, said that while the lockdown is a “severe blow” he was pleased to see the minister “single out” the hospitality sector for support.

He said: “Another lockdown, even a short one such as this, is a severe blow to Welsh hospitality and tourism. If it has to happen, though, it is very encouraging to see the first minister single out hospitality for support. 

“The package announced today is welcome, positive and shows that the Welsh Government is listening to us.”

He added: “It is vital now that we get some further advice on how the Economic Resilience Fund will be applied, how businesses over £51,000 rateable value will be additionally helped and how the support announced by the First Minister is applied without delay to keep businesses alive and avoid further job losses. 

“Once the firebreak is complete, we then need to see some really innovative thinking around how Welsh Government continues to support the sector and that must include a second look at current restrictions around opening hours. Hospitality is part of the solution, not the problem, to keeping COVID-19 at bay.”

It follows the British government’s move last week to place London and other UK cities into tighter levels of restriction.  

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