Wales announces 'sharp and deep' two-week national lockdown as COVID-19 threat grows

Watch: Wales announces two-week national lockdown

  • ‘Sharp and deep’ 16-day national lockdown imposed in Wales

  • Circuit breaker starts on Friday, with people ordered to stay at home

  • First minister Mark Drakeford says hospitals at risk of being overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients ‘if we do not act now’

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A circuit-breaker lockdown lasting more than two weeks has been imposed on Wales.

The national lockdown will start at 6pm on Friday and finish on 9 November, first minister Mark Drakeford announced at a press conference on Monday.

Everyone in Wales has been ordered to stay at home, with the only exceptions being for critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible.

Drakeford described it as “sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus”.

CARDIFF, WALES - OCTOBER 19: First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford speaks during a press conference after the Welsh cabinet announced that Wales will go into national lockdown from Friday until 9 November, at the Welsh Government building in Cathays Park on October 19, 2020 in Cardiff, Wales. Cases of Covid-19 continue to rise in Wales even in areas that are already subject to restrictions. (Photo by Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)
Mark Drakeford announcing a 'sharp and deep' temporary lockdown for Wales at a press conference on Monday. (Matthew Horwood/Getty Images)

It comes as the number of COVID-19 hospital admissions in Wales continues to rise by the day.

“If we do not act now,” Drakeford said, “it will continue to accelerate and there is a very real risk our NHS will be overwhelmed.”

He said the temporary lockdown would be a “short, sharp shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time”.

All non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality businesses will be forced to close during the 16-day period, as well as community centres, libraries and places of worship – apart from for funerals and weddings.

The circuit breaker, also labelled a “fire break” by Drakeford, has been timed to include schools’ half-term breaks starting on Monday.

Once the one-week holiday has finished, primary and special schools will reopen. However, only Year 7 and 8 pupils will return to secondary schools, with other year groups to “continue their learning from home for that extra week”.

Meanwhile, university students have been told to stay in their accommodation.

Any household mixing indoors or outdoors has been banned, with exceptions for adults living alone or single parents, who will continue to be able to join another household.

Read more: Up to 74,000 people getting infected every day in England

Local lockdowns had previously been in force in 17 areas of Wales, affecting more than 2.3m people.

It comes after Drakeford imposed a travel ban on Friday, preventing people from areas of the UK with high levels of COVID-19 from entering Wales.

The country’s new lockdown is likely to increase the pressure on Boris Johnson to introduce a circuit breaker in England.

On Monday last week, the prime minister announced a three-tier system of local lockdowns for England.

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 16: Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a virtual press conference on the latest coronavirus data at Downing Street on October 16, 2020 in London, England. The government announced further regions going into Tier 3 Coronavirus restriction as of midnight on Friday. Government data released today indicates the R number range for the whole of the UK had increased slightly from between 1.2 and 1.5 last week to 1.3 and 1.5. (Photo by Eddie Mulholland - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson on Friday. (Eddie Mulholland/pool/Getty Images)

Just hours later, however, one of Johnson’s top coronavirus advisers, Prof Chris Whitty, said the basic Tier 3 restrictions won’t be enough to restrict the spread of the virus. Tier 3 is the most severe for areas with the highest levels of infections.

It then emerged the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) recommended a circuit-breaker lockdown last month.

The following day, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer also called for a circuit breaker lasting up to three weeks. He said Johnson had “lost control” of the virus and didn’t have a “credible plan” to deal with it.

On Wednesday, Johnson admitted he was not ruling out a national lockdown, despite saying it would be a “disaster”.

Watch: Can you catch coronavirus twice?

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