Wales announces two-week coronavirus ‘firebreak’ lockdown

LONDON — Wales will enter a two-week “firebreak” lockdown on Friday evening, First Minister Mark Drakeford said Monday.

Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, Drakeford the “sharp and deep” lockdown will start on October 23, at 6pm, and end on November 9. However, its effect won’t be seen until a few weeks later, he said. 

During that period, everyone in Wales will be “required to stay at home,” with the exception of critical workers and jobs where working from home is not possible. There will be an exception for some small, already organized local events marking Remembrance Sunday on November 8.

“A firebreak period is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer and much more damaging national lockdown,” Drakeford said. “The window we have in which to act is only a small one. To be successful, we need everybody’s help. Here in Wales, this is the moment to come together.”

The move increases the pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson whose own scientific advisers recommended three weeks ago that the U.K. government consider a temporary national lockdown, warning of “a very large epidemic with catastrophic consequences” if new restrictions were not brought in. The opposition Labour Party has also pushed for a so-called “circuit-breaker” lockdown, arguing that Johnson has “lost control” of the virus.

The prime minister’s spokesman told journalists Monday that the U.K. government wants to avoid lockdowns as much as possible. “Our position is, wherever possible, we want to introduce targeted local action rather than a general lockdown allowing the economy to remain open where transmission is low and avoiding the impact on people’s lives and livelihoods,” he said.

A further 950 coronavirus cases were confirmed in Wales Sunday, bringing the total number in the nation to 35,628. A total of 1,711 people have died because of coronavirus in Wales since the start of the pandemic, three of them on Sunday.

Non-essential retail, leisure and hospitality businesses will close, as will places of worship except for weddings and funerals. Primary schools will open after the half-term break, but secondary schools will open only to the youngest pupils. 

People will not be allowed to meet individuals from other households, either indoors or outdoors, but social bubbles will still be able to meet.

This article has been updated with a response from Downing Street.

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