What are the rules of Wales’s circuit breaker coronavirus lockdown? | UK news

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The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, has announced a two-week national lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus.

When does the ‘circuit breaker’ lockdown begin in Wales?

The “stay at home” circuit breaker comes into force at 6pm on Friday 23 October and will remain in place until the start of Monday 9 November. The Welsh government says it definitely will not be extended after this but cannot rule out more restrictions later this year or next.

Why have the measures been brought in?

The Labour-led government says a “strict and deep” circuit breaker is needed to prevent the NHS in Wales from being overwhelmed. The R number is at 1.4 and the seven-day rolling incidence rate stands at more than 120 cases per 100,000 population. The government argues that if it does not bring in the circuit breaker now even more extreme measures such as an open-ended lockdown could be needed. It says the time will be used to improve the test-and-trace system and prepare field hospitals.

Are the restrictions the strictest in the UK?

England has so far resisted a national circuit breaker, preferring its three-tiered system of restrictions. Northern Ireland has brought in a form of circuit breaker that covers the whole country but people there have more freedom to meet, shop and play sports than they will in Wales. Scotland has brought in strict restrictions for the central belt but, again, they are not as severe as the Welsh moves.

What has the reaction been to the Welsh circuit breaker?

The Tories in Wales are very critical. They claim this will be the first in a series of “rolling lockdowns” and argue it is not proportionate because some areas of Wales – such as parts of the west – have low levels of coronavirus. Plaid Cymru backs the move and has called for the nation to come together. Hospitality and tourism chiefs have expressed concern that it could lead to businesses collapsing and jobs being lost.

What will the restrictions be?

People must stay at home, except for very limited purposes. They must not visit other households or meet people they do not live with. Bars, pubs, restaurants, hotels and non-essential shops must close. Hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists and sports and massage therapists are required to shut. Libraries, golf and tennis clubs and refuse tips must close. Driving lessons and tests must be postponed. Places of worship will not be open to the public, other than for wedding or civil partnership ceremonies or funerals.

How will the circuit breaker be enforced?

People who breach the rules could face fixed penalty notices or fines but the government has said it expects the measures to be self-policed. It wants the country to act collectively in a “concerted national effort”.

Who will be able to leave home?

Key workers and people whose jobs mean they cannot operate from home can go to work. Others can only leave for very limited reasons including food shopping, picking up medicine, exercising – though this should start and finish from home whenever possible – hospital visits or to provide care.

Are people allowed to cross the border?

People can cross the border to work if they cannot do their job from home. But people are not allowed to travel around or into Wales for a holiday, nor can they visit second homes.

What about schools?

The Welsh government has repeatedly said it will do everything to keep children in education, but it has not quite been able to keep all schools open. Primary schools and childcare settings will be allowed to open but secondary schools will provide learning online only for the week after half-term, other than for children in years 7 and 8. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams.

What will happen in universities and colleges?

Universities are to be allowed to continue to provide a combination of in-person teaching and blended learning. All students living in Wales, and all Welsh students living elsewhere, are being asked not to travel between university and home unless absolutely necessary. Colleges will move to online-only provision for the week following half-term.

What support will be made available for businesses and people affected?

Businesses will be supported with a fund of almost £300m, which will open next week. Drakeford has written to the UK chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to ask for Welsh businesses to be given early access to the job support scheme from Friday.

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Source: The Guardian
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