Covid in Wales: Greater restrictions for pubs ahead of Christmas

Covid in Wales: Greater restrictions for pubs ahead of Christmas

Pubs, restaurants and bars will be subject to stricter Covid-19 restrictions in the run up to Christmas, the first minister has said.

The new restrictions, which have not yet been finalised, will come into force from Friday, 4 December.

They may be based on the system in some parts of Scotland where no alcohol can be served.

Cinemas, bowling alleys and indoor entertainment venues will also have to shut before the festive break.

A date for these to close has not yet been agreed.

Mark Drakeford said action was needed as case rates continued to rise in the run up to Christmas.

Pubs, bars and restaurants had only reopened on 9 November after the Wales-wide 17-day lockdown, and are currently made to close at 22:00 GMT.

Ahead of the announcement people working in the hospitality industry had warned any further restrictions before Christmas would be a “big blow”.

Plans for the new rules have not yet been finalised, but BBC Wales understands one option being considered is the “level three” Scottish system, where venues are banned from selling alcohol and have to close at 18:00.

The R rate – the number of people each infected person passed the virus on to – has risen again to 1.4 in Wales, with the rate needing to be below one for the number of cases to fall.

In England about 55 million people are being placed under the tightest level of lockdown rules from 2 December, when an England-wide lockdown ends and a new tiered system is introduced.

Speaking at the Welsh Government’s coronavirus briefing, Mr Drakeford said Wales had to use the “coming weeks” to reduce the spread of the virus, to “create more headroom for the Christmas period”.

“This does not mean a return to the firebreak arrangements, but the cabinet has agreed to take further specific and targeted action to reinforce the current national measures we have place,” he said.

He added: “I know this will be a worrying time for all working in the industry.

“We will be working over the weekend with partners to finalise the details of the new arrangements and to put in place a further major package of financial support to respond to those changes.

“I will give further details about the package on Monday.”

Non-essential retail, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres will stay open, Mr Drakeford confirmed.

Mr Drakeford insisted there were no plans to introduced regionalised “tiered” restrictions, similar to those coming into force in England.

He said there was no case for aligning the Welsh and English systems to ensure no-one was left out of UK-wide Treasury schemes to offer financial assistance to businesses affected by lockdown measures.

“We don’t lose out on any UK system by having a single tier for Wales, so there is no disadvantage to us in that,” he said.

He added: “The advice we have is that a single set of arrangements for Wales works best, is easiest to communicate, and delivers benefits in all parts of Wales.”

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