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Wales 'fire-break' lockdown explained

Wales 'fire-break' lockdown explained

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has announced that Wales will be entering a 'fire-break' lockdown on Friday for just over two weeks, as part of attempts to bring the Coronavirus pandemic back under control in the country.

Mr Drakeford said last week that a 'fire-break' or 'circuit-breaker' lockdown would act as a 'short, sharp shock to the virus'.

COVID-19 cases have been rising rapidly across Wales in recent weeks and a further 950 cases of the virus were reported in the country in the latest 24 hour period of data. So far, a total of 1,711 people have died from the virus in Wales, according to data recorded by Public Health Wales.

In a message directly to the people of Wales while announcing the circuit breaker on Monday, Mr Drakeford said 'this is the time to come together'.

Here's a look at how the 'fire-break' lockdown will work and what it will mean for people living in Wales...

 

When will the lockdown be effective?

The lockdown will go into effect at 6pm on Friday 23 October 2020 and will end on Monday 9 November 2020. The First Minister has said that the lockdown is time-limited and will not be extended.

From 9 November, it is planned that different restrictions will be put in place to continue to tackle the virus.

 

What will the lockdown involve?

The lockdown will involve the closure of all non-essential retail, leisure, tourism and hospitality outlets (takeaway and delivery outlets can continue operating). Community centres, libraries and places of worships will also be closed. People will be required to stay at home, much like in the national lockdown in the UK earlier this year.

People will be required to work from home wherever possible.

Childcare facilities will remain open during the lockdown period. Primary and special schools will reopen following the half-term break. Secondary schools will return after the half-term break, but initially only for vulnerable pupils and pupils in Years 7 & 8 only.

University students will have to stay at home in university accommodation, but will still be able to travel to face-to-face sessions as part of a blended learning approach.

No gatherings will be allowed in any setting (including outside) with people you do not live with (exception for people living alone). Small organised events will still be able to go ahead on Remembrance Sunday. No other gatherings, such as for Haloween will be permitted.  

People can continue to exercise outdoors with their household only. Local parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.

NHS and health services will continue to operate. 

  

What financial support will be offered?

The lockdown is expected to have an adverse effect on many businesses and individuals. An extra Economic Resilience Fund with a new £300m has been created. Economic support measures will include;

  • Every business covered by the small business rates relief will automatically receive a £1,000 payment.
  • Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses, which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
  • There will also be additional discretionary grants and help for smaller businesses, which require support.
  • Businesses will also be able to access the support available through the UK Government's Job Support Scheme.

 

Why will universities keep delivering face-to-face teaching?

Many secondary school pupils will have to work home during the 'fire-break' lockdown period, however, the Welsh Government has said that universities should continue a blending learning approach which includes face-to-face teaching.

Many in the Higher Education sector have been calling for an online-only approach, with significant outbreaks of COVID-19 taking place at universities, and there being an increased risk of virus transmission indoors.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that the decision to keep face-to-face teaching was made on the basis of a 'balance of harms'.

Mr Drakeford said that the Welsh Government feared that if it said teaching had to be online only, many students may travel home and leave Wales, and then later come back to the country, potentially spreading the virus. 

 

What will the rules be for cross-border travel?

All non-essential cross-border travel will be banned for the lockdown period.

People needing to travel to Wales from England or vice-versa for work that cannot be done from home will be able to continue to do so.

 

What have scientists been saying about a 'fire-break' (or circuit-breaker) lockdown?

Scientific and medical advice has advised in favour of a short lockdown period to bring the Coronavirus pandemic back under control.

The UK Government has been advised to implement such a lockdown, however, it has so far favoured a local lockdown approach.

First Minister Drakeford said last week that a 'fire-break' lockdown could reduce the spread of the virus enough to get the country 'through to Christmas'. After announcing on Monday that a 'fire-break' lockdown would be taking place, Mr Drakeford refused to rule out further such lockdowns in the future such as in early 2021 in order to tackle the virus.

The First Minister said that Coronavirus cases in Wales may still be rising at the end of the 'fire-break' period and that it will take time for the effect of the measures to be seen. He indicated that it often takes three weeks for the effects of measures to be visible.

 

What mental health support is available?

People in Wales who are anxious about the impacts on their mental health of the new lockdown measures can phone 0800 132 737 at any time day or night if they require mental health support.