LONDON – Wales will introduce more restrictions, including social distancing and mandatory table service in bars and restaurants, from Dec. 26 to stem the spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Wednesday.
The new measures follow similar restrictions announced by Scotland on Tuesday and go beyond anything announced for England so far.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday he would not be introducing new COVID-19 restrictions in England before Christmas, but the situation remained extremely difficult and the government might need to act afterwards.
“The UK government is in a state of paralysis,” Drakeford told reporters. “Omicron has a doubling time of around two days and on that basis by Boxing Day we can expect to see many thousands of new cases across Wales every day.” he said.
New “Alert Level Two” measures in Wales will require two metres (6.6 feet) social distancing in all premises open to the public and in workplaces, while the “rule of six” will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.
All licensed premises will be table service only and customer contact details will have to be collected. Face coverings will also be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.
Large events will be prohibited, both indoor and outside.
Drakeford said the maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be set at 30, while 50 people will be able to gather outdoors.
However, the Welsh government has decided against making new legal rules on how people mix in each others’ homes and private gardens. It would instead issue updated guidance.
Wales had already decided to introduce new measures for retail and for workplaces when they reopened after Christmas, that nightclubs would close and that sporting fixtures would have to be behind closed doors.
Drakeford said 120 million pounds ($160 million) would be made available for businesses affected by the new restrictions.
($1 = 0.7513 pounds)