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- First Minister of Wales (born 1954)
New measures are to be introduced in Wales from 6am on Boxing Day to tackle rising rates of the Omicron variant, ministers have announced.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the measures are a revised version of alert level two and are designed to help keep businesses open and trading.
The regulations bring back protections in hospitality businesses, including licensed premises, and in cinemas and theatres when they reopen after the festive period.
Strengthened guidance will be issued to help people stay safe in their own homes and when meeting others.
Mr Drakeford said £120 million would be available for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the move to alert level two – double the £60 million package announced last week.
“We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious Omicron variant is headed our way,” Mr Drakeford said.
“This new form of coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupting daily lives and businesses, and could cause an increase in the number of people who need hospital care in the coming weeks.
“We will do everything we can to protect people’s health and livelihoods in Wales – this means taking early action to try and control its spread.
“We are changing the rules for businesses and some public spaces, where lots of different people mix daily, and issuing strong and clear advice to help people stay safe in their own private homes and when meeting others.”
From Boxing Day, the alert level two measures will mean:
– A general requirement of two-metre social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable.
– The rule of six will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
– All licensed premises will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collecting contact details.
– Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.
– Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors.
– There will be an exception for team sports, up to 50 spectators will be able to gather, in addition to those taking part. There is also an exception for events involving children.
Last week, new measures were announced for workplaces and retail – these will now come into force on Boxing Day. Nightclubs will also close on Boxing Day.
The Welsh Government will not be making new rules about mixing in people’s private homes, including gardens, in holiday accommodation or meeting outdoors.
Instead, guidance will be issued to help people stay safe, which includes limiting the number of visitors, taking a lateral flow test before the visit and meet outdoors, if possible.
There will be a separate offence for large gatherings – more than 30 people indoors or 50 people outdoors – in private homes and gardens.
Mr Drakeford added: “The most important thing we can all do to protect ourselves against Omicron is to be fully vaccinated – that means also having the booster. If you are eligible for a booster then please make getting it a priority in the coming weeks.
“As we enter our second winter of the pandemic, we have high vaccination coverage and tens of thousands of extra boosters are being given every day.
“We also have access to the rapid lateral flow tests to help us all identify signs of infection without symptoms.
“Both of these, together with everything we have learned over the last two years, will help to keep us safe at home without the need for new rules and regulations about mixing at home.”
The Senedd has been recalled and Mr Drakeford will make a virtual statement from 1.30pm and members will then have the opportunity to ask questions.
It comes as the number of identified Omicron cases in Wales grew by 204 on Tuesday to 640.
Meanwhile, workers in Wales could be fined £60 for going to their office under new coronavirus laws if they are able to work from home.
The Welsh Government has amended legislation to make attending a workplace unnecessarily a criminal offence, amid the spread of the Omicron variant.