Mark Drakeford says more post-Christmas restrictions are being considered

Wales’ First Minister has warned that additional restrictions to the ones that have already been outlined may be announced next week to come in after Christmas.

Mark Drakeford announced on Thursday that Wales is set to see a return to tougher Covid restrictions from December 27 following a surge in Omicron cases in the UK.

A mixture of advice for over the Christmas period alongside new regulations to follow as part of a “two-phase plan” was revealed. He will also be giving a briefing at 12.15pm with updates here.

However the First Minister has now revealed that ministers on Monday will be considering further restrictions including a return to the “rule of six” to govern how many people can meet and capacity restrictions for larger events like sports fixtures.

Read more: Follow live updates are more news and reaction emerges to Wales’ Covid announcement

Under the current plans announced last night, nightclubs will be closed from December 27 and more restrictions will be needed in shops and supermarkets. The Welsh Government has announced a £60 million fund to support any businesses affected by the restrictions. The rules expected in supermarkets here.

Explaining the decisions on Friday, Mr Drakeford said that the measures were “drawing on” Alert Level Two, and warned that further restrictions may be needed to be introduced when new data on Omicron is received at the start of next week.

Asked on BBC Breakfast if that meant the “rule of six”, he said: “Yes, we’d go back to the repertoire of things we needed to use earlier in the pandemic, some restrictions on the number of people who can meet wearing masks when you’re moving around inside pubs and restaurants, those sort of things that people are used to and have successfully used in the past.”

Large outdoor sporting events could also be affected in an announcement that could be made as early as Monday, and he warned that there could be more restrictions on hospitality.

He told BBC Radio Wales: “We are moving in terms of alert levels and those measures that will be put in place in shops, in offices, and so on, look like level two measures.

“It is inevitable that we will have to throw on things that are higher up that hierarchy, but it is not a wholesale move to level two.

“We will learn an awful lot more over the next ten days. For some of those things (like restricting household meetings), we didn’t feel we had all the information we would need to be able to make those determinations at this point.”

He added that ministers will meet again on Monday and decisions could be taken as early as then.

“There are major sporting events planned immediately after Christmas,” he said. “We’re getting further advice on Omicron and how it operates in the open air. When you have large crowds of people coming together, we have to weigh that up against the safeguards that are already there and will come to decisions on those matters on Monday and into next week.

“Cabinet will continue to be engaged in these things, as we see the evidence emerging.

“The cabinet decided yesterday (Thursday) that we needed some extra information about the way that the variant operates in the outdoors, particularly in places where there are already safeguards like the coronavirus pass in Wales in place.

“That information will develop and we will talk to the organisers of those big rugby derbies (on Boxing Day), the Welsh Grand National, and the football matches that are planned, and then we’ll come to some decisions on Monday as to how they can best go ahead.”

At alert level 2 you must:

  • follow social distancing rules with people you don’t live with or who aren’t in your exclusive extended household
  • wear a face covering (unless you have a reasonable excuse not to wear a face covering) in all indoor public places
  • not meet with anyone in a private home other than those you live with or your exclusive extended household
  • meet no more than 5 other people indoors at a café, restaurant or other open premises (unless with your household of a larger number)
  • meet no more than 5 other people outdoors or in private gardens (unless with your household of a larger number)
  • work from home if you can

What can open at alert level 2

  • schools, colleges and childcare providers
  • higher education institutions (mix of in-person and remote learning)
  • licensed premises
  • retail
  • close contact services
  • hospitality
  • holiday accommodation
  • entertainment venues
  • visitor attractions
  • leisure and fitness facilities, including gyms and swimming pools
  • museums and Galleries
  • cinemas
  • theatres and concert halls
  • places of worship
  • community centres
  • crematoriums
  • libraries and archive services
  • sport courts, golf courses
  • playgrounds and public parks
  • organised indoor activities (up to 30 people)
  • organised outdoor activities (up to 50 people)
  • weddings (ceremony limit set by venue)
  • wedding reception or wake (30 people indoors, 50 outdoors)

What must be closed at alert level 2

  • ice skating rinks for public use
  • nightclubs and adult entertainment venues

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, he said: “I want hospitality to re-open after Christmas, but I wanted to do it in a way that gives customers confidence to return to those places.

“We’re seeing this week across the United Kingdom, people are voting with their feet because of anxiety about overcrowding. We’ll be talking with the sector, about whether we need to reopen with additional protections so that people feel confident that if they do go out to a pub or a restaurant, everything is being done to keep them safe, and what kind of restrictions could they be you talking about.”

He also talked about Wales being in the “calm before the storm”, and said they were looking at figures in London and Scotland with concern.

The latest daily figures showed almost 90,000 Covid-19 cases were recorded as of 9am on Thursday, the highest figure so far in the pandemic, and a health chief warned there could be a “major problem” as the latest wave hits NHS staff.

Mr Drakeford said: “There is very concerning evidence from London and from Scotland at a rapid speed with which Omicron is taking hold. And the rising numbers of people needing hospital treatment.

“We’re not in that position in Wales, but we have to learn the lessons from what we’re seeing elsewhere. It means I cannot rule out further restrictions. We are not looking for restrictions for the sake of restrictions, but if we find out as the weeks, as the days go on, that the plans we’ve already announced need to be further strengthened.

“Those are difficult decisions and they’re not popular decisions with some people, but we believe that they may be necessary to save people’s lives and to protect the NHS.”

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