Covid UK: Welsh lockdown is extended by three weeks

Welsh lockdown is extended by three weeks ‘to allow NHS to recover’ as Covid cases fall to lowest level since November – sparking hopes primary school children will be back in classes after February half-term

  • Mark Drakeford is set to extend lockdown restrictions in Wales by three weeks
  • First Minister will say schools may reopen after February half-term if cases fall
  • Another three weeks of Level 4 shutdown are needed to ‘allow NHS to recover’
  • Covid cases below 200 cases per 100,000 people for first time since November
  • Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price urged toughening shutdown measures 

Welsh lockdown rules 

Wales’ Alert Level 4 means that people must stay at home except for limited purposes. These include: 

  • Buying food and medicine;
  • Exercise, alone or with members of your household or support bubble;  
  • For work purposes where it is cannot reasonably be done from home; 
  • Providing care to a vulnerable person;
  • Visiting a cemetery, burial garden or garden of remembrance; 
  • Attending a place of worship;
  • Attending a wedding or funeral;
  • Attending court or voting; 
  • Helping the NHS by donating blood; 
  • Childcare and education;
  • Going to a bank;     
  • Escaping risk of illness or injury, including domestic abuse. 

Travel restrictions are in place, and hospitality businesses – pubs, restaurants, cafes and non-essential shops – are closed.

Mask mandates are in force when entering indoor public spaces and when using public transport. 

Lockdown restrictions in Wales will remain in force for at least another three weeks, First Minister Mark Drakeford will say today – after extending the national coronavirus shutdown earlier this month.  

He is also expected to say in a press conference that primary school pupils may start returning to classrooms after the February half-term if Covid-19 cases continue to fall as he sets out the results of a three-week review into the lockdown. 

The Welsh government said the Covid-19 situation is ‘improving’ but another three weeks of Level 4 restrictions are needed to ‘allow the NHS to recover’.

It added that there could be a ‘phased and flexible return to school after February 22 if the public health situation continues to improve’. 

The reproduction R value for the virus on Wednesday was said to be between 0.7 and 0.9, while figures from Public Health Wales showed that the country’s seven-day case rate stood at 204 cases per 100,000 people, down from 270 cases per 100,000 on Friday. 

A government statement said: ‘Rates of coronavirus across Wales have fallen below 200 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since early November.

‘And every day, thousands more people receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine – the latest figures show almost 11 per cent of the population have been vaccinated.’

Authorities review the situation every 21 days, and on Wednesday chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said a Wales-wide easing of lockdown restrictions is unlikely until the end of February at the earliest. 

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price urged toughening the lockdown, including recommending medical-grade mask mandates and increasing the level and flexibility of the self-isolation support.

‘Having been too slow into lockdown, we can’t be too slow in examining all possible avenues for bringing the new variant under control,’ he said.   

In other coronavirus developments: 

  • The PM flatly rejected Germany’s decision not to give the AstraZeneca jab to people over 65;
  • The EU ordered a raid on AstraZeneca’s Belgian plant in a bid to prove it was lying about vaccine production problems;
  • Brussels prepared to unveil powers that could see the shipment of millions of vaccine doses to Britain blocked;
  • The British Government warned the EU it would not share its supply until everyone aged over 50 has been vaccinated here;
  • Nicola Sturgeon was accused of undermining efforts to prevent the EU from taking British vaccines by threatening to publish details of confidential supplies;
  • French health authorities suggested they were already struggling with shortages; 
  • Figures showed cases continuing to fall across England and among all age groups;
  • It emerged the tier system could be scrapped after lockdown under plans to ease restrictions on a national basis;
  • Models and social media influencers were among thousands of British travellers facing a desperate race home to avoid being stranded in Dubai and Abu Dhabi;
  • A sensational £1.25million in a single day was raised for Mail Force to help pupils;
  • Health leaders warned social care was in danger of an imminent collapse without a government action plan;
  • It emerged children could be invited to take part in summer schools to help them catch up on months of missed education.

Lockdown in Wales will remain in force for another three weeks, Mark Drakeford will say today

An empty St. Mary Street on January 8, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales

It comes days after the UK passed the grim milestone of 100,000 Covid-related deaths

The Welsh government closed schools to the majority of pupils amid spreading fears about the Kent variant of coronavirus, which was blamed for the rise in cases seen before Christmas.

Schools remained closed except to vulnerable children, and those whose parents are key workers.

Sally Holland, the Welsh children’s commissioner, has urged ministers to set out the ‘milestones’ that would need to be reached before children returned.  

Dr Atherton said the outbreak was ‘shrinking rather than growing’, but rates were still ‘way too high’.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies called for a ‘route map out of lockdown’ which included ‘crucial targets concerning the roll-out of coronavirus jabs, falling numbers of infections and the reopening of schools and businesses’. 

Figures from Public Health Wales (PHW) figures yesterday showed 190,394 cases had been confirmed in the country and the number of people who had died with the virus was 4,666. 

A person walks down an empty St. Mary Street on January 8, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales

A woman walks past a closed Primark store on January 8, 2021 in Cardiff, Wales

A woman with a shopping trolley on Queen Street on January 8, 2021 in Cardiff

The local authority with the highest number of deaths was Cwm Taf Morgannwg with 1,344, followed by Aneurin Bevan with 875. 

The Powys health board area had the lowest number for residents in Wales with 47.  The latest data PHW showed the current case rate across the whole of Wales was 190 cases per 100,000 people.

The area with the highest seven-day rolling case rate was Wrexham, where 477.4 people per 100,000 population had the virus.

The next two highest were Wrexham’s neighbouring counties of Flintshire – 369 – and Denbighshire – 241.4. The areas with the lowest case rates were Ceredigion with 78.4, followed by Conwy with 110.9. 

Thousands more people are getting their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine every day – with the latest figures show almost 11 per cent of the population have been vaccinated.

Alert Level 4 lockdown measures came into force on December 20 across Wales.

It comes amid reports that Boris Johnson is looking at whether England should go back to a system of Covid tiers or crap the regime entirely, under plans to ease restrictions on a national basis. 

A return to a national system of restrictions would result in a slower release from lockdown, as areas with low numbers of cases would be forced to wait for others to ‘catch up’ before being allowed to open up. 

But some ministers believe that, by removing the risk of transmission from Covid hotspots to other areas, it would be likely to prove more sustainable.

Some also believe it could be less politically divisive than the tiers system, which saw ministers clash with Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham amid claims the North was being locked down to protect the South.

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