Serving alcohol banned in Wales as pubs and restaurants told to shut at 6pm

Elliot Chappell

Labour’s Mark Drakeford has announced new coronavirus restrictions that will require all cafes, pubs, bars and restaurants in Wales to close their doors at 6pm and will ban them from selling alcohol at any time.

Addressing the public in a Covid briefing this afternoon, the Welsh First Minister said the new rules, which come into force on Friday, are “based on what the UK SAGE group of experts tells us has worked best elsewhere”.

Drakeford said: “From 6pm on Friday, our national measures will be amended to introduce new restrictions for hospitality and indoor entertainment attractions.

“Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm, they will only be able to provide takeaway services.

“From the same date, indoor entertainment venues, including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, soft play centres, casinos, skating rinks and amusement arcades, must close.

“Indoor visitor attractions, such as museums, galleries and heritage sites will also have to close. Outdoor visitor attractions will remain open.”

The devolved nation entered a two-week ‘firebreak’ lockdown in October, ahead of the lockdown implemented in England, with Drakeford warning at the time that “there is a very real risk our NHS will be overwhelmed”.

The lockdown in Wales ended on November 9th. Pubs, restaurants and bars were allowed to reopen with a 10pm closing time following the lifting of the restrictions. The new measures unveiled today will come into force on December 2nd.

The First Minister described the firebreak lockdown as a “success”, but warned today: “Over the last seven days we have seen coronavirus beginning to rise again and we are beginning to see some of those advantages fade…

“We saw a very steep fall in cases after the 23rd October – that was a result of the firebreak period. As you will see how, in the last few days, those figures have started to rise again.

“Yesterday, 16 of the 22 local authorities in Wales recorded rises in the seven day rolling case rate. The overall case rate for Wales is now 187 cases per 100,000 of the population and is rising. Last week when I spoke, it was 116 and falling.”

On hospitality, he added: “I am very grateful for everything the sector has done. I know these new restrictions will be difficult as they come at the one of the busiest times of the year for the sector.

“Unfortunately, we continue to face a virus which is moving incredibly quickly across Wales and will exploit every opportunity where we come together to spend time with one other.”

But the Welsh Labour leader explained that the devolved government would “provide the most generous package of financial assistance anywhere in the UK” to those affected by the new rules.

The package will include £180m specifically for tourism, leisure and hospitality businesses, which is in addition to coronavirus business support schemes made available by the UK government.

The First Minister said the measures would be reviewed on December 17th, then every three weeks after that. He also said his government will consider introducing travel restrictions when England lifts its lockdown.

Below is the full statement delivered by Drakeford today.

Prynhawn da. On Friday I explained coronavirus was again accelerating across Wales, eroding the gains we had achieved together during the fire-break period. Throughout the pandemic all the actions we have taken here in Wales have been designed to protect our NHS and to save lives. That remains unchanged today.

The facts are stark. Unless we respond now to the growing number of people infected with the virus the advice we have from our scientific and medical expertss is that by January 12 the total number of people with coronavirus in hospital in Wales could rise to 2,200. And our modelling suggests that unless we act between 1,000 and 1,7000 preventable deaths coukd take place over the winter period.

On Friday the all-Wales seven-day incidence rate was 187 cases per 100,000 people. Today that has risen to almost 210 cases per 100,000 people. We have also seen further rises among the under-25 age group in 17 of the 22 local authority areas in Wales. More worryingly still cases of coronavirus are beginning to rise in the over-60 age group in most parts of Wales.

Coronavirus thrives on human contacts – in our homes or when we come together. That is why, over the weekend, the cabinet met to consider the detail of a set of new, targeted restrictions in the hospitality and leisure sectors and a new financial package to support affected businesses. The measures we are taking are based on what the UK Sage group tells us has worked best elsewhere.

That is why from 6pm on Friday new national measures will be introduced for hospitality and indoor entertainment attractions. Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services.

From the same date indoor entertainment venues, including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, soft play centres, casinos, skating rinks and amusement arcades, must close. Indoor visitor attractions such as museums, galleries, and heritage sites will also have to close but outdoor visitor attractions will be able to remain open.

The rest of the national measures will remain the same – there will be no changes to extended households, how many people can meet in public indoor or outdoor places, or restrictions on other businesses. The English lockdown will end on Wednesday this week. In that context we are looking at travel restrictions in and out of Wales and will make a further announcement later this week.

We will formally review these restrictions by December 17 and then every three weeks. The hospitality and visitor sectors have worked hard to comply with the many regulations to make their businesses compliant and to protect customers from the threat of coronavirus.

I am very grateful for everything the sector has done. I know these new restrictions will be difficult as they come at the one of the busiest times of the year for the sector. Unfortunately we continue to face a virus which is moving incredibly quickly across Wales and will exploit every opportunity when we spend time with one other.

To support businesses affected by these new restrictions into the New Year we will provide the most generous package of financial assistance anywhere in the UK. This will include £180m of help specifically for tourism, leisure, and hospitality businesses. This is in addition to the various support schemes available from the UK government.

There will also be a package element of £160m which will support up to 60,000 businesses on the non-domestic rating list across Wales. Businesses, including those in retail, tourism, leisure and hospitality, and their supply chains, which are materially affected by the restrictions will receive payments of between £3,000 and £5,000. Discretionary grants of up to £2,000 will continue to be available for those not on the non-domestic rating list. This fund will be delivered by local authorities. I am very grateful for their ongoing support and help to deliver this part of the package.

The second element is a £180m fund targeted at hospitality, tourism, and leisure businesses. It will provide grants of up to £100,000 for SMEs and £150,000 for larger businesses. These grants will be linked to the number of people employed in those businesses and their operating costs. Up to 10,000 businesses will be supported by this new fund.

It’s the first time we have introduced such a sector-specific fund and it will be delivered through Business Wales. We will work with our partners to ensure that, where we can, we will make payments to affected businesses as quickly as possible before Christmas. Further information on the detail of all of this will be provided on the Business Wales website shortly.

The weeks ahead will be difficult and demanding for all of us. As we look further ahead, there are signs of how life will get better. Last week the NHS in Wales carried out a large and successful test of all the practical things that will need to be in place once a vaccine is given the go-ahead. Now that go-ahead could be as early as this week and once it comes we will be ready for it.

Last week we saw the first mass testing programme start in Merthyr Tydfil. More than 10,000 people have been tested in the first eight days. The strong sense of community responsibility has been very evident in that terrific response. I thank everyone who has come forward and encourage more to do so over the next seven days.

This week we will begin using the rapid-result lateral flow tests in some care homes to help reunite families who have been separated for many months. And today we publish new advice about visiting in hospitals offering hope that, in the right circumstances, both parents can be more involved in their baby’s antenatal care.

So, even as we face real challenges in the here and now there are possibilities that if we continue to pull together and make the difference we need to see today then as far as coronavirus is concerned 2021 could be a better year for us all. I ask again today for your help to make that a reality in our lives. Together we will keep Wales safe. Diolch yn fawr iawn i chi gyd.

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