What is a firebreak lockdown and will gyms and schools close in Wales today?

Olivia Petter
·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

On Monday 19 October, the Welsh government announced it would be implementing a 17-day “firebreak” lockdown for Wales to combat the rising number of coronavirus infections in the country.

The short-term lockdown will begin at 6pm on Friday 23 October and end on Monday 9 November, said Mark Drakeford, first minister of Wales.

Mr Drakeford explained that the short-term lockdown is a “short, sharp shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time”.

"The aim of the firebreak period is to get us through to Christmas," he added. "Beyond that, it simply wouldn't be sensible, given the speed at which things change... to be offering people guarantees of how the future may unfold."

Mr Drakeford insisted that the lockdown will end on 9 November, as promised, even though the benefits it would bring would not show up in the figures by that date.

“That is not the test to set. We know now that we will not see the benefit within the two weeks of the fire breaker period,” he told a press conference.

What is a firebreak lockdown and what does it mean?

The term “firebreak” has not been given an official explanation but is being used in the same way as “circuit breaker” to mean a short lockdown.

A firebreak in the natural world is defined as a "strip of land in a wood or forest from which trees are removed to prevent a fire from spreading".

The Welsh lockdown will put further pressure on Boris Johnson to take tougher action in England.

Northern Ireland has also already implemented a “circuit breaker” lockdown.

The prime minister’s spokesman rejected a similar crackdown in England, saying he “continues to believe that targeted local action in areas of high prevalence of the virus is the correct course”.

Read on to find out what the new firebreak lockdown in Wales means for schools, gyms, travel and restaurants.

Will schools in Wales close?

Drakeford has said that children are the Welsh government’s “top priority”.

With that in mind, primary schools and special educational needs schools will reopen as normal after half term, which ends on Friday 30 October.

However, secondary schools will remain shut for all but those in years seven and eight. Older children will be asked to study at home.

Universities and colleges will stay open and continue to provide a mix of in-person and online teaching to students.

Will gyms, pubs and restaurants in Wales close?

All indoor leisure centres and gyms will close for 17 days from Friday 23 October as part of the firebreak lockdown.

However, local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.

The hospitality industry will also be forced to close for the duration of the firebreak lockdown.

This means that pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will not reopen until after the lockdown is over.

In total, more than 3,000 pubs will have to close.

The British Beer & Pub Association, the leading trade association representing brewers and pubs, has responded to the news by claiming that the lockdown could “destroy” Welsh pubs.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “This ‘firebreak’ in Wales will destroy many pubs, brewers and their supply chains in the country unless the financial support package is available to all businesses hit by the forced closure of all pubs."

Can I meet up with people outside of my household?

All indoor and outdoor gatherings with people you do not live with are banned under the new lockdown rules.

The only exception is for people who live alone, who can continue to join one other household and socialise with them in a bid to combat loneliness, in a support bubble structure.

Can I travel?

You can travel during the firebreak lockdown but only for a "reasonable" cause.

This could be anything from buying essential items, like food or medication, seeking medical help, getting tested for Covid-19, or delivering care to someone in need.

You may also travel for work purposes if you are a key worker, or if you have a job that means you cannot work from home.

It is against the law to travel for holiday purposes.

What are the penalties for breaking the rules?

Those who break the rules could face a fine of £60.

This fee will rise to £120 for a second offence.

Read more

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