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- First Minister of Wales (born 1954)
Wales is set to see a return to tougher Covid restrictions after Christmas following a surge in cases of the Omicron variant in the UK.
Here, the PA news agency looks at how the country’s newly announced measures compare with the other UK nations:
– What rules are being introduced in Wales?
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced a mixture of advice for the Christmas period alongside new regulations to follow as part of a “two-phase plan”.
Nightclubs will be closed from December 27 under the new rules, although the Welsh Government has announced a £60 million fund to support any businesses affected by the restrictions.
From the same date, two-metre social distancing will be mandatory in offices, and measures including one-way systems and physical barriers will be introduced in businesses to protect customers and staff.
Regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.
Until December 27, the Welsh Government is encouraging people to follow five steps: getting vaccinated; making sure to have a negative lateral flow test result before going shopping or meeting people; meeting in well-ventilated areas – preferably outdoors; spacing out socialising to allow test days in between; and adhering to social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing hands.
It is also urging people to reduce contact with others over the coming days, especially if Christmas plans include seeing older or more vulnerable people.
The rules to be introduced in 10 days are taken from the country’s Alert level 2, and include bringing back social distancing, barriers and one-way systems in businesses.
But Mr Drakeford said restricting the number of households allowed to meet remained a possibility, and hinted at the prospect of further restrictions in hospitality settings after Christmas, such as the “rule of six”.
He said he would make an announcement on Monday about whether changes would be needed to allow large sporting events, such as Boxing Day rugby derbies, football matches and the Welsh Grand National in Chepstow, to go ahead.
– What is the situation in England?
England has the most relaxed rules in the UK at the moment, with the introduction of new restrictions following a vote by MPs in Parliament.
The measures, including Covid passes for entry into nightclubs and other venues, passed the Commons with the support of Labour, which is in favour of tighter controls.
As of Wednesday, it is now mandatory for nightclubs and large venues to check the Covid status of visitors over the age of 18.
People will have to show proof of being double-vaccinated or of a negative test.
This applies to indoor events with 500 or more attendees where people are likely to stand or move around, such as music venues, outdoor events with 4,000 or more attendees, such as music festivals, and any events with 10,000 or more attendees, whether indoors or outdoors, such as sports stadiums.
Face coverings have also been made compulsory in most indoor public settings, as well as on public transport, and people have been told to work from home if they can.
Boris Johnson has also ramped up the booster jab campaign with a new target meaning people aged 18 and over will be able to get their third jabs from this week.
In order to limit the spread of Covid as Christmas approaches, England’s guidance is that people should work from home if they can. Anyone who cannot work from home should continue to go in to work – but is encouraged to consider taking lateral flow tests regularly.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden said the Government currently had “the balance right”.
– What about Scotland?
From Friday, the Scottish Government said businesses across the country are legally required to take “reasonable measures” to minimise transmission of coronavirus as Omicron cases continue to rise.
Its advice includes a return to one-way systems in premises, app-based ordering, and the use of screens at service points.
The hospitality sector has also been encouraged to return to table service where practical and to consider measures to reduce crowding.
By law in Scotland, everyone over the age of 12 must wear face coverings indoors, unless exempt, and the new guidance stresses that masks should be worn inside all businesses.
Ministers at Holyrood have found £100 million for business support, with the First Minister announcing that £66 million will go to hospitality, £8 million to businesses in the food and drink supply chain, £20 million to the culture sector, £3 million to the wedding industry and £3 million to the “worst affected parts of tourism”.
But First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she could not “give straightforward advice” on whether to advise the cancellation of large events like football matches without assurance that people could be compensated with, for example, financial mechanisms in place earlier in the pandemic.
She has also urged people across Scotland to limit their socialising to three households before and after Christmas to help combat the spread of the Omicron variant.
She stressed she is “not asking anyone to cancel Christmas”, but advised people to limit their socialising either side of the holiday.
Ms Sturgeon added that it is merely advice and not a legal requirement.
It was also announced that allowing staff to work from home where possible will again become a legal duty on employers.
Ms Sturgeon said other announcements for businesses include “a return to the kind of protections in place at the start of the pandemic” to avoid crowding, such as physical distancing and table service in bars.
Care home visits have also been limited to two households, while all over-18s can book a booster jab appointment online.
– What is Northern Ireland doing?
Stormont ministers will meet next Wednesday to consider potential new coronavirus restrictions.
Current advice is that indoor gatherings should have no more than 30 people present, while working from home is also recommended where possible.
A scheme that requires people to prove Covid-free status to gain entry to a range of hospitality venues and large-attendance events will be made mandatory.
Those wishing to access nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and other licensed premises will need to provide proof of vaccination, a negative lateral flow test result, or evidence of a previous Covid-19 infection.
The same rules will apply for entry to large indoor and outdoor events such as concerts and sporting events.