COVID-19: Wales enforces stricter rules for supermarkets to curb spread of new variant

·2-min read

Wales is enforcing stricter rules for supermarkets in a bid to curb the spread of the new coronavirus variant.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said retailers will now have to offer sanitisers for hands and trolleys, as well as limit the numbers of people inside stores, and ensure they keep their distance from others.

The new rules were announced on Friday as part of a package of harsher measures, which were introduced following concerns that a faster-spreading variant of coronavirus is behind a surge in infections across the country.

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Specific COVID-19 risk assessments will now have to be carried out by any business employing five or more people to help prevent the spread of the new variant, which was first identified in Kent at the end of last year.

The risk assessments include making sure there is adequate ventilation and that people are physically distancing and using PPE, as well as considering whether their employees can work from home.

Mr Drakeford said they must be reviewed and updated regularly by law, even when Wales moves down from its current Alert Level 4.

He said ministers had met with key retailers to discuss their vital role during the pandemic.

"They set out the actions they are taking from providing sanitisers for hands and trolleys on entry, limiting the numbers in store at any one time; and making regular announcements reminding people to keep their distance from others," he said.

"We will strengthen regulations to ensure retailers take these steps so that their premises are as safe as possible for shoppers and their employees alike. Many are already operating high standards and we need to raise the bar for those who could and should improve."

He added that people had a "personal responsibility to help make shops as safe as possible".

New travel rules are also being introduced in Wales, as passengers planning on entering from abroad will have to provide a negative test before their departure.

The requirement will come into effect from 4am on 18 January and will help protect against new strains of COVID-19 circulating internationally, health minister Vaughan Gething said.

Variants causing concern include one first identified in South Africa, and one in Brazil.

Tests must be taken up to 72 hours before departing the country they are in, with proof of a negative result presented to carriers as well as a passenger locator form.

"We are doing everything we can to slow down the spread of the virus," Mr Gething said.

"These new measures will help ensure we prevent new strains of the virus developing internationally from being imported into Wales."

Travel for a holiday into Wales is not permitted as the country remains in its top lockdown restrictions, and people must stay at home unless travelling for essential reasons.

The current measures across the board will be reviewed by 29 January, Mr Drakeford has said, although the first changes will likely be only "marginal easements".