By Zoe Kramer | Head of News
The Level 4 COVID-19 restrictions which were originally planned for the 28th of December have gone into effect today.
Wales as well as the rest of the UK have decided to enter lockdown after a new strain of COVID-19 was discovered in the south east, among other factors.
There have been a total of 3046 deaths in Wales since the beginning of the pandemic and a total of 120,432 positive cases. There is expected to be a spike in COVID-19 cases after Christmas, even with the lockdown being instated earlier than planned.
“[The NHS] would be in danger of not being able to cope if we don’t act – and there’s still a risk even now,” said Health Minister for Wales Vaughan Gething.
He said the strain was “in every part of Wales, including right across North Wales”, adding that Ministers had been shown evidence that it was “much more infectious”.
“We’ve seen cases rise significantly in the south,” he added.
While the new strain has not been shown to be more deadly than the original, there is evidence that it is up to 70% more transmissible. There was likely a further spread of the new strain after the lockdown was announced Saturday, as individuals rushed to finish Christmas shopping and see loved ones before the lockdown went into effect.
The original plan was for up to three households to be able to meet over the Christmas period. However, during the Tier 4 lockdown, it is only possible to bubble with one other household during Christmas Day.
Travel restrictions will be lifted between Wales, England, and Northern Ireland on Christmas Day. As a result, it is possible to travel to other parts of the UK on Christmas as long as it is allowed in the region you are visiting and you are able to return by the end of December 25. It is not possible to stay overnight with your Christmas bubble.
The Tier 4 lockdown requires that everyone must stay home other than for a few limited purposes. Other than on Christmas, it is not allowed to visit other households. Many businesses will be closed during the lockdown period including gyms, hairdressers, leisure centers and hospitality. Essential businesses will remain open.
“While we all want to avoid further disruption to businesses and plans for Christmas, our overriding duty is to protect lives here in Wales,” said First Minister Mark Drakeford.
“We now know that this new strain is significantly more infectious and spreads more quickly than the original one.
“Throughout the public health emergency, we have had to respond quickly to the rapid changes, which have been so typical of coronavirus.
“Today has been one of those days when new information has required an immediate response.”
The lockdown is set to last for three weeks, but could be extended further if necessary.