COVID-19: Wales to go into new lockdown as two-household Christmas limit to become law

·2-min read

People in Wales will be ordered to limit Christmas gatherings to two households ahead of a new lockdown starting on 28 December.

The country is tightening coronavirus rules and will move to its highest tier of restrictions - level 4 - equivalent to a lockdown.

And the Welsh government will also put new guidance for only two households to mix as part of a "Christmas bubble" during a five-day period into law.

This is despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson using a Downing Street news conference to state there had been "collective" agreement among the UK's nations to keep Christmas COVID rules - which had allowed bubbles of three households - the same in law.

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Wednesday that all non-essential retail, leisure and fitness centres in Wales will shut at close of trading on Christmas Eve.

Hospitality premises will shut from 6pm on Christmas Day as Wales tries to tackle a "sustained rise in coronavirus", Mr Drakeford said.

The level 4 rules will begin on 28 December for an initial three-week period.

Non-essential retail, hospitality businesses, close contact services and all leisure and fitness centres must stay closed.

Social contact outside households or support bubbles - whether indoors or outdoors - is not allowed.

People must also stay at home if possible and not travel without a reasonable excuse.

COVID-19 cases have increased significantly in Wales and one in five people there are now testing positive for the virus.

Mr Drakeford this week joined talks with the leaders of the other devolved nations over the festive loosening of COVID rules.

He told reporters: "The clear message from the Welsh government is that only two households should meet.

"Whether that's guidance or regulation the message is the same - only two households should get together."

Meanwhile, Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also deviated from the initial UK-wide plan.

She recommended that those people forming a Christmas bubble should only meet on one day, instead of five, and not stay overnight "unless it is unavoidable".

She said: "Firstly and unequivocally the safest way to spend Christmas this year for you and for those you love is to stay within your own household and your own home.

"My strong recommendation is this is what you should do if at all possible."