Wales is facing a new set of national lockdown rules, which would take effect after a “fire-break” lockdown and last until close to Christmas.
First Minister Mark Drakeford announced in a Welsh Government briefing on Friday afternoon that the action may be necessary with Wales facing “a very serious situation” and a “real risk the NHS could be overwhelmed”.
Although it has not been finally decided, Wales is set to see a “fire-break” type lockdown within days, which would once again likely confine people to their homes and close businesses.
Mr Drakeford said: “This would be a short, sharp shock to the virus, which could turn back the clock, slowing down its spread and buy us more time – and vital capacity in the NHS.
“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.
“We’re considering a two or three-week ‘fire-break’. The shorter the period, the sharper the measures will have to be.”
However, Mr Drakeford then said there would be a “new national set of rules for the whole of Wales after the fire-break period”, saying those new rules and the fire break “would have slowed the virus down enough to get us through to Christmas”.
Coronavirus cases are rising quickly in Wales. Mr Drakeford said that at the end of August, there was hardly any coronavirus in Wales – “just a few cases in Wrexham and South Wales”.
But now there are once again cases in every part of our country. The incidence rate for Wales is now higher than 100 cases per 100,000 people. The R number for Wales is 1.4.
This means about 2,500 people are being infected every day. And the rise in that number is getting faster every week.
“All the indicators we keep a close eye on show we have reached a critical point,” he said, adding: “We are already seeing the increase in cases in the community leading to an increase in people admitted to hospital.”
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Last week in Wales, there were 500 people in hospital; earlier this week there were 700. Yesterday there were 825.
“Our critical care units are full,” Mr Drakeford said.
“This week, there has been a marked increase in the number of deaths reported by Public Health Wales. Once again, our hospital beds are filling with people with coronavirus symptoms.
“And once again, we are asking NHS staff, who have already done so much, to do more. Hard as we have all been working together to slow down the spread of the virus, it is now moving faster than the measures we have put in place locally and nationally.
“I have to tell you that we face a very serious situation in Wales. Unless we are able to get coronavirus back under control, there is a real risk the NHS will be overwhelmed. And if that happens even larger numbers of people will die as a consequence.”
“We are looking very carefully at introducing a time-limited “fire-break” – also known as a circuit breaker of the type recommended by SAGE, the UK’s expert scientific advisory group, and our own advisers here in Wales.
“A successful fire-break would re-set the virus at a lower level. 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.
“These are incredibly difficult decisions and we have not yet come to a final conclusion about whether we will have a “fire-break”. Ministers will be meeting throughout the weekend to discuss this further and we will report the outcome of those discussions to you on Monday.”