Great Britain

Wales will not return to local lockdowns once firebreaker ends

Wales will not return to a patchwork of regional lockdowns after its national “firebreak” ends, the first minister Mark Drakeford has announced.  

The country is in the middle of a two-week national lockdown, imposed in an effort to arrest the spread of coronavirus.  

But when it comes to an end on 9 November, Wales would continue with simpler national restrictions which apply everywhere, Mr Drakeford said, rather than the mixture of stricter and more relaxed measures applied area by area before.  

Speaking during the Welsh government’s Covid briefing in Cardiff, the first minister admitted the previous local lockdowns had not worked well enough to combat the second wave of the virus.  

After weeks of confusion over the rules on selling non-essential items in shops, which has seen many outlets unsure what they are allowed to sell during the lockdown, the post-firebreak measures would be “easier for everybody to understand”, Mr Drakeford pledged.  

“We will put in place a simpler set of national rules that are easier for everybody to understand, to help keep us safe and keep the virus under control,” the first minister said on Friday.  

“We've been working hard to create this new set of measures that we can all live with this winter.

"If the new measures are to work, we all have to act in ways that live up to the public health emergency we are facing together.”

He pleaded with the public not to treat the new rules “as a game” or to stretch them to the limit. Exact details of what the restrictions would be have not yet been finalised, he added.  

When asked why Wales was abandoning the local lockdown model, Mr Drakeford said it had proven inadequate to the challenge.  

“It's not that they didn't work. It's that they didn't work well enough to withstand the onslaught that we have seen from the virus over the last six weeks.

"They undoubtedly have helped, and all the efforts that people have made in those areas have kept the virus at a lower level in Wales than would otherwise have been the case."

The latest infection survey, published on Friday, reveals about one in 120 people in Wales had coronavirus in the week leading up to the start of the firebreak. This was four times higher than the proportion with the virus a month earlier.  

On Thursday, there were 1,737 new Covid cases reported and a further 11 deaths from the virus.  

The new restrictions to be brought in once the firebreak ends aim to balance “maximum protection” from coronavirus with as much freedom as was possible, Mr Drakeford added. The details would be announced in full on Monday.  

The Welsh Government’s approach is in sharp contrast to the UK government’s handling of the pandemic in England.  

Boris Johnson has resisted calls from Labour and others to return England to a full, national lockdown and is instead continuing to move regions and cities into higher tiers of lockdown one at a time.  

On Thursday, the foreign secretary Dominic Raab said the government was “striving” to avoid blanket nationwide restrictions and insisted more localised, targeted tactics were the best way to reverse the second wave of the pandemic.  

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