Wales lockdown: 'Stay home' order as Covid 'firebreak' to start later


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  • Coronavirus pandemic

media captionMixed views on the firebreak in Wales’ first local lockdown area

Wales’ 17-day “firebreak” lockdown will start later as people are told to stay at home and pubs, restaurants, hotels and non-essential shops will shut.

The Welsh Government’s new restrictions are aimed to “slow” the rise of Covid-19 cases and hospital admissions with a “short, sharp” lockdown.

Economists have warned the lockdown may cost the Welsh economy more than £500m.

Gatherings indoors and outdoors with people not in your household are banned from 18:00 BST until 9 November.

People can be fined £60 for a first coronavirus restrictions offence, up to a maximum fixed penalty notice of £1,920. But if prosecuted, courts can impose an unlimited fine.

  • Q&A: What can you do in Wales-wide lockdown?

  • Why has Wales chosen a national lockdown?
  • When would we know a circuit-breaker is working?

Primary schools will reopen after next week’s half-term break, but only Years 7 and 8 in secondary schools can return at that time under the new rules.

It comes as talks continue about moving Warrington into the highest level of England’s Covid-19 restrictions alongside Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region and Lancashire after a surge of Covid-19 cases – while South Yorkshire will move into tier three on Saturday.

Stoke-on-Trent, Coventry and Slough will move to tier two on Saturday amid a rise in infection rates.

media captionThe BBC’s Laura Foster explains what a circuit breaker is and how it could help tackle Covid-19

All schools in Northern Ireland have shut for two weeks in a bid to curb their rising Covid-19 cases while pubs, restaurants and cafes closed their doors to sit-in customers last Friday.

Northern Ireland’s reproduction (R) number is the highest of any the four UK nations, while Wales has the lowest, between 1.1 and 1.4.

The UK’s average is between 1.3 and 1.5.

Why is Wales going into lockdown?

Even though Wales has some of the lowest coronavirus infection rates in the UK, First Minister Mark Drakeford said that without this lockdown the Welsh NHS would not be able to cope.

The number of patients in hospital with Covid-19 in Wales “is the highest it has been since June”, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said on Wednesday.

Wales cases

He said 894 people were in Welsh hospitals with the virus, up 26% week-on-week, while 43 of them are in critical care, a rise of 72%.

That is still below the 1,400 Covid-19 patients – with 164 of them in intensive care – in Welsh hospitals with coronavirus during the height of pandemic.

Yet despite the lower number of cases, ministers said they needed to act now so the NHS can keep essential hospital services and treatments running on top of expected winter pressures and not get overwhelmed.

Public Health Wales recorded more than 1,000 daily Covid cases for the first time in the pandemic on Tuesday – and then revealed more than a thousand further cases on Thursday.

There have now been almost 40,000 positive tests in Wales and more than 810,000 cases in the UK, with a further 21,242 confirmed cases reported on Thursday.

Cardiff has the highest weekly case rate in Wales at 320 cases per 100,000 people – but that is 58th highest in UK.

Derry City and Strabane in Northern Ireland has the most with 853 cases per 100,000 people.

What shops will stay open in Wales?

Food shops, off-licences and pharmacies can stay open but supermarkets will be unable to sell items like clothes during Wales’ temporary lockdown.

Mr Drakeford said it would be “made clear” to them they are only able to open parts of their business that sell “essential goods”.

Business leaders say companies in Wales have been given just hours to finalise plans for the firebreak.

How much can you be fined?

People can be issued a fixed penalty notice “for most types of breaches” of the coronavirus regulations and fined £60 for the first offence.

image copyrightRichard Swingler

image captionOrganisers of an unlicensed rave which attracted 3,000 people in Neath Port Talbot in August were fined £10,000

That fine is increased to £120 for a second offence and continues to double for repeated offences, up to a maximum of £1,920. If prosecuted, however, a court can impose an unlimited fine.

Organisers of unlicensed music events of more than 30 people could face a conviction with an unlimited fine or a fixed penalty of £10,000.

What do the people think?

Residents of Caerphilly county were the first to go into a local lockdown on 8 September and “they’re trying to get on with their lives”.

Key worker Lois Griffiths’s son and daughter will continue to go to a childminder as she has to carry on working.

image captionLois Griffiths and daughter Amy are trying to carry on with their lives “as best they can”

“I’ve got to carry on with my life,” she said. “We can’t just stick in the house and do nothing – we’ve got to earn money.”

Her 10 year-old daughter Amy is disappointed because lockdown means she can’t go to her dance class.

“I feel really sad because I’ve got ‘Team’ coming up and I don’t want to stop doing that,” she said.

image captionHair stylist Ellen Watkins is worried about the financial impact of the Covid-19 lockdown

Unique Creations has been “chock-a-block” as people want a pre-lockdown trim before the hair salon on Blackwood High Street closes on Friday evening.

“We’re flat out,” said stylist Ellen Watkins.

“I’m hoping it will be the same when we come back but I don’t really know. There’s a lot of worry. I’m looking to buy a house.

“Financially where am I going to be if the salon can’t open back up? It’s a really scary time for me.”

How does lockdown impact business?

The timing of Wales’ “firebreak” lockdown has been called “an absolute dog’s dinner” for Welsh businesses as it straddles two UK government financial support schemes – and firms will have to apply for both separately.

Furlough ends on 31 October and the new Job Support Scheme starts on 1 November – and to be eligible for the remaining week of furlough, workers need to have already been furloughed for at least three consecutive weeks.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionNon-essential retailers will be told to close for 17 days from Friday

Mark Drakeford said he feared employees could face redundancy if the Treasury does not change its support for workers.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak declined a request for the new scheme to be brought forward in Wales as the Welsh Labour Government said it offered to pay the cost for the difference between furlough and the JSS, estimated at £11m.

But the Conservative UK government said ministers in Cardiff knew “full well” it was not possible for the Treasury, adding the timing of Wales’ lockdown was “very, very unfair” on people “caught by the time gap”.

Economic researchers say the lockdown could cost between half and three-quarters of a billion pounds.

image captionEstate agent Chris Birch says it is “so hard” trying to expand his business in a pandemic

The National Institute Of Economic and Social Research says that “up-front cost must be set against potential economic benefits after lockdown if it is successful in reducing the spread of the virus and restoring economic confidence.

More than 100,000 people in Wales work in the accommodation and food industries while nearly 200,000 work in the wholesale and retail trades and car repairs.

Estate agents have to close and house viewings and valuations have to stop, a blow for the Haus agency which is to open its new Cardiff branch on Friday – only to close for two weeks in the evening.

“It’s been such a challenging time,” said director Chris Birch.

“Everything involved in running a business, let alone moving in a global pandemic, has taken so much longer and the admin and red tape is another level.”

Will a Wales-wide lockdown work?

Public health officials and politicians have warned they will not know the full impact of the firebreak lockdown until after it ends on 9 November.

Giri Shankar, from Public Health Wales, said there was “always a lag phase of about two to three weeks” before any visible change of that intervention can be measured and detected”.

media captionMark Drakeford said without acting now the NHS would not be able to look after the increasing number of seriously ill people

But the first minister has said the lockdown end date is fixed as to avoid further harm to the economy.

Wales, though, has been warned of the possibility of another lockdown early in the new year if Covid-19 starts spreading quickly again at Christmas.

Economy Minister Ken Skates said ministers “could not rule out the possibility of introducing another firebreak if over the Christmas period transmission rates increase dramatically.”

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