The Welsh Government say the fortnight-long action is needed to save lives and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed. The fire-break will start at 6pm on Friday 23 October and end on Monday 9 November. It will apply to everyone living in Wales and will replace the local restrictions which are in force in some parts of the country.
The Welsh Government will provide a package of almost £300 million to support businesses, which will complement wage-support schemes available from the UK government.
Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the virus has woken up for winter. While the national and local measures put in place across Wales have helped to keep the spread of the virus in check, there is a growing consensus that additional action is now needed.
Between October 9 and 15, there were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results but the real level of infections will be much higher. The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing daily and sadly so too are the number of people dying with coronavirus.
The R number is currently between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning continued exponential growth in the number of cases and the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales stands at more than 130 cases per 100,000 population.
The firebreak will be short but sharp to have a maximum impact on the virus.
During this time:
Following the end of the firebreak, a new set of national rules will be introduced, covering how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses operate.
Businesses affected by the firebreak will be supported with a new £300 million fund, which will open next week:
Businesses will also be able to access the support available through the existing Job Retention Scheme or the new expanded Job Support Scheme.
The First Minister has written to the Chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday. The Welsh Government has offered to pay the extra costs to the UK government scheme to ensure businesses can retain staff.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“It is with a heavy heart that I once again ask everyone to stay at home and businesses to shut.
“We are all tired of coronavirus and the many rules and regulations we all have to live with. We all want to see an end to this pandemic and our lives returned to us. Unfortunately, we do not yet have a vaccine, which will allow us to do that.
“This fire-break is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer – and damaging – national lockdown. We have a small window of opportunity to act.
“To be successful, we need everyone’s help. Wales has shown throughout this pandemic that we can come together and take the actions to keep our families and our communities safe.
“We must come together once again to stay ahead of this virus and to save lives.”
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 3) (Wales) Regulations 2020 have subsequently been published.