Wales ‘could be plunged into a circuit-breaker lockdown in the next few days’ as ‘unenforceable’ travel ban comes into effect tonight
- Wales currently has 17 areas under higher local lockdowns than the country
- But businesses have asked for more details about future direction of restrictions
- First Minister Mark Drakeford said visits from high-level Covid areas are banned
Wales could be just days away from a full ‘circuit-breaker’ lockdown in an effort to stop the growing spread of coronavirus.
The Welsh government is speaking with its health experts and considering evidence from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) as it decides on what further action it can take as the crisis enters the crucial winter months.
News of a possible circuit-breaker, which would likely see hospitality firms told to close, came as restaurants, pubs and bars pleaded for information on the plans.
It came after the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced he intends to bar entry from English regions with high levels of Covid-19 if Boris Johnson fails to impose UK-wide travel restrictions.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government is talking about circuit breaker
The circuit-breaker would see the whole of Wales put into strict lockdown measures
Deaths in Wales have begun rising since the summer months saw infections plateau
A Welsh Government spokesman said: ‘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.
‘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 own group.
‘A “fire break” set of measures to control Covid-19, similar to that described in the Sage papers, is under consideration in Wales. But no decisions have been made.’
The Welsh Government will ban people from Covid hotspots in England entering the country
What laws can be used to stop the English travelling to Wales?
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford yesterday announced an extraordinary bid to ban people from coronavirus hotspots in England entering the country.
In Wales, health protection legislation – a devolved power – falls under the Public Health (Control of Disease) Act 1984.
It was updated in 2010 to give public authorities ‘more comprehensive powers and duties to prevent and control risks to human health from infection or contamination’.
In its basic form, the act allows Welsh ministers to make laws ‘for the purpose of preventing, protecting against, controlling or providing a public health response to the incidence or spread of infection or contamination in Wales’.
The laws that can be put forward include ‘restrictions or requirements on or in relation to persons, things or premises in the event of, or in response to, a threat to public health’.
While the act does not specifically mention limitations on movements, the travel ban will likely be made law using the powers it grants.
However, the unprecedented nature of Mr Drakeford’s proposals – and the prospect of ANPR being used to catch rule-breakers – could result in a legal challenge.
It is thought any strict lockdown decision would not be announced before the weekend.
The key problem facing the Welsh government is how they would be able to support people who would no longer be able to go to work.
Minister Eluned Morgan told BBC Radio Cymru: ‘We need to think about several factors when considering this because people are worried about their jobs, and we would have to make sure there was an economic package in place’.
Yesterday the Welsh First Minister threatened to use number plate recognition cameras to fine English drivers entering his country despite police saying his ban is ‘unenforceable.’
Mr Drakeford announced on Thursday he intended to bar entry from English regions with high levels of Covid-19 if Mr Johnson fails to impose UK-wide travel restrictions.
But the Police Federation of England and Wales said ‘policing in Wales is already over-stretched due to the pandemic’ and the new measures would add ‘yet another level of complexity to policing’.
Mr Drakeford defended his proposals on Thursday morning, arguing that the police could use ANPR technology to catch visitors crossing the frontier.
The Labour Party leader also said holiday providers in Wales should not accept bookings from people in hotspot areas of the UK as he warned existing getaway plans ‘will no longer be able to be honoured’.
In Wales, there are 17 areas under higher local lockdowns, which include rules against entering or leaving the area without a reasonable excuse such as work or education.
However, currently people living in Covid-19 hotspots elsewhere in the UK are free to enter areas of Wales not under restrictions where levels of the virus are low.
Under regulations being prepared, people living in areas with high levels of coronavirus in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will not be able to travel to Wales.
The chief executive of the Welsh NHS, Dr Andrew Goodall, said he would also ‘welcome any actions that help us have a control of the levels of community transmission’ when asked if he was in favour of the travel ban.
WHAT ARE THE THREE TIERS?
TIER 1/MEDIUM: This is for areas where national restrictions continue to be in place.
- you must not socialise in groups larger than 6, indoors or outdoors
- certain businesses are required to ensure customers only consume food and drink while seated, and must close between 10pm and 5am
- businesses and venues selling food for consumption off the premises can continue to do so after 10pm as long as this is a take-out service
- places of worship remain open, subject to the rule of 6
- weddings and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on numbers of attendees
- exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors, or indoors with the rule of 6
TIER 2/HIGH: On top of restrictions in alert level medium:
- you must not socialise with anybody outside of your household or support bubble in any indoor setting
- you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 outside, including in a garden
- exercise classes and organised sport can continue to take place outdoors. These will only be permitted indoors if it is possible for people to avoid mixing with people they do not live with or share a support bubble with, or for youth or disability sport
- you can continue to travel to venues or amenities that are open, for work or to access education, but should look to reduce the number of journeys you make where possible
TIER 3/VERY HIGH: At a minimum, this means:
- you must not socialise with anybody you do not live with, or have formed a support bubble with, in any indoor setting or in any private garden
- you must not socialise in a group of more than 6 in an outdoor public space such as a park
- pubs and bars must close and can only remain open where they operate as if they were a restaurant, which means serving substantial meals
- places of worship remain open, but household mixing is not permitted
- weddings (but not receptions) and funerals can go ahead with restrictions on the number of attendees
- you should avoid staying overnight in another part of the UK if you are resident in a very-high alert level area
The government will also seek to agree additional interventions in consultation with local authorities.