Posted: Mon 19th Oct 2020

Updated: Mon 19th Oct

Updated: Wales to enter a two week “fire break” lockdown in bid to tackle pandemic

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Monday, Oct 19th, 2020

The Welsh Government has today confirmed that a ‘fire break’ or ‘circuit break’ lockdown will be introduced in Wales in a bid to slow transmission of coronavirus.

It will last for two weeks, starting at 6pm on Friday this week. It will include the half term and cover the week ending Monday 9th November.

People will be required to stay home, working from home wherever possible. This will not include critical workers or anyone who can’t work from home.

All non-essential retail, hospitality and tourism will close – similar to March.

Primary schools will remain open after the half term, however secondary schools will only reopen for years seven and eight during that time.

Other measures include:-

– People must stay at home, except for very limited purposes, such as for exercise.
– People must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with either indoors and outdoors;
– No gatherings will be allowed outdoors, such as Halloween or fireworks/Bonfire night or other organised activities;
– All non-food retail, hospitality businesses, including cafes, restaurants and pubs (unless they provide take-away or delivery services), close contact services, such as hairdressers and beauticians, and events and tourism businesses, such as hotels must close;
– Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will be required to close;
– Face coverings must be worn in indoor public spaces, which remain open, including on public transport and in taxis

During this time:-

– Adults living alone or single parents will be able to join with one other household for support;
– Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half-term
– Secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in years seven and eight and most vulnerable children. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams but other pupils will continue their learning from home for an extra week.
– Universities will provide a blend of in-person and online learning;
– NHS and health services will continue to operate;
– Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.

Following the end of the fire-break, a new set of national rules will be introduced, covering how people can meet and how the public sector and businesses operate.

Discussions over a ‘circuit break’ or ‘firebreak’ have been ongoing over the last week with the announcement widely anticipated by residents and businesses.

On Friday the First Minster trailed that such a measure was being formally considered, with further meetings with council leaders, health officials and other stakeholders taking place that afternoon and throughout the weekend.

Speaking today 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.”

Businesses affected by the firebreak will be supported with a new £300m fund, which will open next week:

  • Every business covered by the small business rates relief will receive a £1,000 payment.
  • Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
  • There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses, which are struggling.
  • The £80m fund announced last week to help businesses develop in the longer term, will be increased to £100m, which includes £20m ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality.

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.

Last night the Welsh Government Cabinet met with no decision made, with further discussions and consultation with local authorities this morning. This morning the First Minister tweeted the above picture of the Cabinet meeting earlier where the final decision was made, with the meeting apparently ending around 11:45am.

Early last week we were told about a call relating to a sub-sector of the hospitality industry where a ‘circuit break’ from as early as today had been mooted, with that option now rejected. Some wedding venues, like many businesses, had lobbied for a forced closure as staying open means they are limited to what governmental support is accessible, whereas a closure enables some grant funding.

Some businesses have called the interim period of lower footfall or revenue a ‘closure by stealth’, with limited or no support possible.

An FAQ on the two week firebreak and what it includes can be found here.

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