What is a fire-break lockdown?

A NATIONAL “fire-break” lockdown has been announced in Wales to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the out-of-control bug has "woken up for winter", says the Welsh Government.

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What is a fire-break lockdown?

Wales's full – but temporary – national fire-break lockdown is essentially the same as a 'circuit breaker' measure.

Both terms describe a short, sharp mini nationwide lockdown for a period of about two weeks.

Aimed at helping to regain control of Covid, the Welsh government says that action is needed to save lives and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.

The BBC was told that critical care beds are full in Wales.

When was the fire-break lockdown announced in Wales?

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford announced the mini-lockdown on October 19.

He said the aim was to get Wales through the pandemic until Christmas, without further lockdowns.

But Paul Davies, Tory leader in Wales, warned: "This is not a two-week break to solve the pandemic – it is likely that we will see regular lockdowns across the rest of the year.

"The Welsh government must be clear what actions they are taking during the lockdown to prevent further Wales-wide lockdowns which will have a significant impact on people's lives and livelihoods."

The government said that the full lockdown was needed as "cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales as the virus has woken up for winter.

"While the national and local measures put in place across Wales have helped to keep that spread under check, there is a growing consensus that additional action is now needed.

"Between October 10 and 16, there were 3,870 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results but the real level of infections will be much higher."

The R number is at 1.4 and the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales stands at more than 120 cases per 100,000 population.

When is the Welsh fire-break lockdown being introduced?

Wales will be plunged into a full national lockdown from 6pm Friday October 23.

Restrictive measures will be in place until the start of Monday November 9 2020.

All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close for two weeks.

It means people in Wales will have to:

  • Follow strict stay-at-home orders
  • Pubs, restaurants and all non-essential retail will be closed
  • No meeting with anyone outside your household
  • No alcohol sales after 10pm
  • Leisure centres and services, including gyms, will have to close
  • Professional sports will be able to continue
  • Hairdressers and beauty services will have to close
  • No gatherings will be allowed outdoors including Halloween and fireworks on Bonfire night

Those flouting these new laws could be fined £60 – rising to £120 for the second breach.

Strict shielding measures haven't been repeated as the government says the regulations will help reduce the circulation of the virus "and by sticking strictly to the rules, people who are vulnerable will reduce their risk of exposure".

Are Wales's travel restrictions still in place?

Wales introduced travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which came into effect from 6pm October 16.

Aimed at stopping millions of Brits from going across the border, people from Covid hotspots in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will face £50 fines if they are caught crossing into Wales.

Ministers were accused of pursuing an anti-English agenda as a result of the measure – which is still in place.

And the Police Federation of England and Wales said it would be "unenforceable", adding "policing in Wales is already over-stretched due to the pandemic" and the new measures would add "yet another level of complexity to policing".

But Mr Drakeford defended the plans and said he will instruct police to issue fixed-penalty notices and urged residents to snitch on visitors.

He told Times Radio: “It is absolutely possible to enforce it.

“The Welsh population is very nervous and wary. Your difficulties aren’t over if you evade the police.”

Where else has used a fire-breaker lockdown?

Wales has become the second nation in the UK to lock down large swathes of its economy to combat rising coronavirus infections.

Schools in Northern Ireland have shut as a two-week circuit break closure began on Monday October 19.

Northern Ireland has also banned most social gatherings and shut down many businesses including bars and restaurants for a month.

Restaurants and cafes are now limited to takeaway and delivery services for four weeks.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon said on October 19 that there are no plans to follow Wales and bring in a full lockdown.

She said: "We continue to keep all options under review in Scotland… [but] we are not starting right now from the same position as Wales.

"We have had, over the period when our schools have been closed, significant restrictions in place that have not been in place in Wales."

However, the First Minister revealed that a blanket ban on Scots meeting each other indoors is likely to be enforced for the "foreseeable future".

Elsewhere, circuit-breaker style measures have also been imposed in New Zealand, parts of Australia and Israel – but all were extended to last significantly longer than originally intended.

Singapore was placed into a quick lockdown of a month, which was then extended to two months.

The Welsh fire-break lockdown decision came as officials in Greater Manchester continue to reject efforts by Boris Johnson to move the region into the highest level of restrictions in the three-tier system the PM unveiled for England a week ago.

Under the UK's system of devolved government, the regional administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales control health policy in their areas and the UK government makes the rules for England.


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