Mark Drakeford to discuss restriction changes Today
FIRST Minister Mark Drakeford will meet with his cabinet Today to discuss potential further restrictions across the country.
The next announcement was due to be held on Friday, December 24.
An earlier announcement is expected by The First Minister either later today or tomorrow Morning, on what further restrictions may be coming into force and whether these will be implemented from December 27 as planned or before the Christmas period.
It was confirmed on Friday, December 17, that new restrictions will be brought in from Monday, December 27. Under these new restrictions, nightclubs will be forced to close, while additional safety measures will be put in place across other industries.
Offices will have a two-metre distancing rule, as well as one-way systems, and physical barriers. Currently, there have been no decisions made about the hospitality industry.
Mark Drakeford has said that it was a possibility that limits could be placed on the number of people who can meet, as well as a return to customers wearing masks inside establishments.
On Monday, it is thought that the potential reintroduction of the “rule of six” type restriction will be discussed in the Government’s meeting, as well as limits on how many people can meet in venues.
Large sporting events could also be affected by new measures.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, the First Minister said: “We are moving in terms of alert levels and those measures that will be put in place in shops, in offices, and so on, look like level two measures.
“It is inevitable that we will have to throw on things that are higher up that hierarchy, but it is not a wholesale move to level two. We will learn an awful lot more over the next 10 days. For some of those things (like restricting household meetings), we didn’t feel we had all the information we would need to be able to make those determinations at this point.”
Talking about sporting events that would be held over Christmas, Mr Drakeford said: “There are major sporting events planned immediately after Christmas. We’re getting further advice on Omicron and how it operates in the open air. When you have large crowds of people coming together, we have to weigh that up against the safeguards that are already there and will come to decisions on those matters on Monday and into next week.
“The cabinet decided that we needed some extra information about the way that the variant operates in the outdoors, particularly in places where there are already safeguards like the coronavirus pass in place. That information will develop and we will talk to the organisers of those big rugby derbies (on Boxing Day), the Welsh Grand National, and the football matches that are planned, and then we’ll come to some decisions on Monday as to how they can best go ahead.”
Previously, the Welsh Government has occasionally followed the lead of the UK Government in Westminster, who announced on Sunday that new Covid measures could be introduced before Christmas.
UK Health Secretary, Sajid Javid, said there are “no guarantees” after scientific advisers made a stark warning about the threat from Omicron.
“There are no guarantees in this pandemic, I don’t think,” Mr Javid told the BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday. “At this point we just have to keep everything under review.”
Following the latest advice the UK Government has received from experts, he added: “It’s a very sobering analysis. We take it very seriously. We do have to challenge data and underlying assumptions, I think that is appropriate, and take into account a broader set of facts.”
A Cobra meeting was to be held on Sunday with the devolved nations, before Mr Drakeford meets with his own cabinet in Cardiff on Monday.
An official announcement on further restrictions could be made by the First Minister later in the day.
As of December 19, the latest coronavirus infection rate in Wales is 503.4 per 100,000 people. As of new cases, there were 3,462 confirmed in the latest 24-hour period.
In comparison with a year ago, the infection rate in Wales on December 19, 2020 was 592.3, while on that day there were 3,065 new cases.
The rates and new case numbers are similar when viewed side-by-side. However, in the Afternoon of December 19, 2020, the Welsh Government announced a lockdown that saw non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms and leisure centres close at the end of the day, along with pubs and restaurants.
Fortunately, a large difference between the end of 2020 and the one we’re currently facing is that the vast majority of people in Wales now have some protection from coronavirus having received at least one dose of the vaccine.
The latest figures show that more than 2.4 million people in Wales have had a first dose, while almost 2.3 million have received a second. In addition to this, more than a million people have now received their booster vaccine.
On December 16, there were 267 patients in Welsh hospitals with confirmed coronavirus, the lowest number since August and a fraction of the number seen last December (more than 1,500 as of December 22, 2020).
However, when the Welsh Government adviser Dr Giri Shankar, of Public Health Wales was asked about these improved figures, he said: “We appear to be a week or two behind what London, most parts of England, and Scotland are seeing.”
He said if case numbers climbed considerably it was inevitable that a percentage of those affected would need hospital treatment, adding: “Even that small proportion, in terms of its absolute number, is enough to tip the balance in the health and care system.”
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