Wales could face 'short, sharp fire-breaker' lockdown within days

16 October 2020, 13:56

Mark Drakeford said a circuit breaker could be necessary
Mark Drakeford said a circuit breaker could be necessary. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Wales could face a two-week national lockdown, dubbed a "fire-breaker", in a bid to control coronavirus cases.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the "short, sharp" restrictions would last for a minimum of a fortnight.

He said any decision will likely be made on Monday as discussions between health officials, scientific advisors and politicians continue into the weekend.

"Doing nothing is not an option," Mr Drakeford said on Friday.

"A 'fire-break would also mean a short, sharp shock to all our lives.

"We would all have to stay at home to once again save lives. But this time it would be for weeks not months."

It comes just days after the Welsh government announced a travel ban on anyone entering the country from Tier 2 or 3 areas of the UK.

Read more: Wales First Minister says "having no help from PM" forced him to impose travel ban

Wales travel ban: What are the restrictions and where is classed as a Covid hot spot?

Wales currently has a travel ban in place
Wales currently has a travel ban in place. Picture: PA

Mr Drakeford warned that 2,500 people are being infected with coronavirus every day in Wales and said that critical care units in hospitals full.

"A successful fire-break would re-set the virus at a lower level," he explained.

"Together with a new national set of rules for the whole of Wales after the fire-break period we would have slowed the virus down enough to get us through to Christmas."

The British Medical Association in Wales said it would welcome a circuit-breaker lockdown.

"Cases are climbing fast across Wales with the latest figures showing that the number of Covid-related patients in the Welsh NHS has risen by 49% in a week," said Dr David Bailey, from BMA Wales.

"It's clear that the current restrictions are not strong enough to suppress the spread of the virus.

"Doctors in Wales support, and are calling for as a matter of urgency, a circuit-breaker lockdown for a number of weeks.

"It is imperative that robust action is taken now without delay, to protect the citizens of Wales, and the Welsh NHS."

Speaking in a briefing to the nation on Friday, the first minister warned that the fire break lockdown would not be "a magic wand" and would instead be used to "buy time".

"I can't offer a guarantee… that it would not be necessary to take further measures later in the winter," he added.

"But I'm focused on the immediate situation, the immediate difficulties faced by our national health service by the continuing spread of the virus in all parts of Wales, and we have to act to deal with that now in this planned and pre-emptive way."

Mr Drakeford also said a new business support package would be looked at before a final decision is taken.

His comments were echoed by the country's counsel general, who said Wales could face "serious restrictions" in the coming days.

Jeremy Miles said a decision on introducing a potential circuit-breaker lockdown has still not been made, but is one of the options the Welsh Government is currently discussing with local authorities.

He said: "Further restrictions are going to be required. There have obviously been discussions within the Government about whether a circuit-breaker is the right response to that.

"There's been planning around a range of scenarios, and we've been talking to our partners in local government and elsewhere about various options to get their perspectives on that as well."

He added: "There's a range of ways of doing those things, if they are done. And some of them involve quite serious restrictions."

Mr Miles said any announcement, expected next week, would come alongside "support and time to prepare".

He said no decision has been made on the the length of time any restrictions would last.