Wales poised for announcement on two-week national lockdown

19 October 2020, 06:25 | Updated: 19 October 2020, 07:34

Wales is facing a two-week national lockdown
Wales is facing a two-week national lockdown. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A final decision is going to be made later on whether to bring in a two week national lockdown in Wales.

First Minister Mark Drakeford is expected to announce "circuit-breaker" measures, which will close pubs and restaurants.

Mark Drakeford has admitted local restrictions which affect 17 areas haven't slowed the spread of coronavirus enough.

Sir Jeremy Farrar, who's on the government's scientific advisory committee SAGE, has said action needs to be taken now.

"The best time to do this would have been around the 20th September," he said.

Read more: Manchester hospitals 'running out of beds'

"The second best time to do this is now."

A leaked document that emerged last week said the two-week circuit-breaker could begin at 6pm on October 23 and last until November 9. All but essential retail outlets would be told to close.

"Why do we have to, effectively, pay off Manchester?"

The details of the plan were contained in a letter from a regional director of the Confederation of Passenger Transport to its members in Wales, which was posted on Twitter.

In the letter, dated October 16, John Pockett writes: "The Welsh Government will announce on Monday a 'circuit break' lockdown to begin at 1800 on Friday 23 October and continue in force until 0001 on Monday 9 November.

"We have met with officials this morning, but as this is a very fast moving situation with decisions still to be made by ministers, much of the detail has not yet been agreed by the Government.

"Nevertheless I wanted to let you know what we know so far."

Mr Pockett said the lockdown would "take us back to the situation in March" when pubs, cafes, restaurants and hairdressers were closed.

"It covers the half-term break (Friday 23 October - Monday 2 November) but some schools will reopen on 2 November," he wrote.

"Ministers have not yet determined the details on this; it seems that primary schools will reopen, but a decision on secondary schools (or at least some or part of individual schools) will be made over the weekend."

He said public transport would be for "essential journeys only" and the Welsh Government was yet to decide what level of services would run during the lockdown.

The letter added: "I appreciate that this information is very limited and I am sure that you will have questions, but that, at the moment, this is very much as we know.

"I assure you that we will keep members fully informed as we receive more details from the Government."

On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government was looking "very carefully" at introducing a circuit-breaker lockdown with a decision due to be announced on Monday.

Local lockdowns are in force in 17 areas of Wales affecting more than 2.3 million people but had not slowed the spread of the virus enough, he said.

A travel ban preventing people from areas of the UK with high levels of coronavirus from entering Wales came into force on Friday.

"The measures we have put in place at both a local and a national level, with help from the public, have kept the spread of the virus under check," a Welsh Government spokesman said.

"However, there is a growing consensus that we now need to introduce a different set of measures and actions to respond to the virus as it is spreading across Wales more quickly through the autumn and winter.

"We are actively considering advice from Sage and our TAC Group. A 'fire break' set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the Sage papers, is under consideration in Wales.

"As the First Minister set out in his press conference on Friday, we have discussed this advice with stakeholders and partners. But no decisions have been made."

Conservative shadow health minister Andrew RT Davies said: "The First Minister knew about this yesterday, and while we all suspected this was going to happen, there was no point in delaying it being announced.

"Instead, he chose to bypass the Welsh Parliament and members not of his party, and first brief outside organisations about it.

"It shows incredible disrespect to the institution of the Welsh Parliament, the voters, and it demonstrates the downright and breath-taking arrogance we have come to expect from the First Minister and the Labour Party.

"Worse, they have actually misled the public and Members of the Welsh Parliament by saying yesterday that 'no decisions had yet been taken', when clearly they had.

"Labour's contempt for democracy and the Welsh electorate is staggering, and I have written to the Llywydd to express or grave concerns over the First Minister's actions."