Wales has announced new measures to limit the spread of Omicron, including the introduction of the “rule of six” in hospitality settings.
Prime Minister Mark Drakeford said the Omicron variant is now dominant in Wales.
The new rules will apply from Boxing Day, he added, saying the decentralized administration was introducing them because “the UK government is in a state of paralysis.”
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The measures include:
â¢ The rule of six in all gatherings in regulated premises, such as hotels, cinemas and theaters, which means that only six people from separate households are allowed to meet.
â¢ A social distancing requirement of two meters in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable
â¢ Face coverings must be compulsory in reception establishments at all times, except when they are seated.
â¢ All licensed establishments will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collection of contact details.
â¢ Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can meet for an indoor event will be 30 and 50 outdoors
â¢ There will be an exception for team sports, with up to 50 spectators being able to assemble, in addition to the participants. There is also an exception for events involving children.
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Last week, new measures announced for workplaces and retail, which will now come into effect on Boxing Day with the closure of nightclubs.
Drakeford said the Welsh government needs help from the UK government to put in place leave arrangements for companies that will be affected by the additional protections put in place after Christmas.
British government in “state of paralysis”
Mr Drakeford said: “When we see the evidence and are informed of the steps we can take to protect people, we will take them.
“I think there is a real contrast to the paralysis of a UK government that is simply unable to act,” added the Labor politician.
“They are crippled by their internal divisions and are unable to act on it.”
He said the Welsh and UK ministers had seen the same data “but they are not ready to act on it”.
âI think the UK government is in a state of paralysis about all of this,â he said, adding: âWe are seeing the reports of internal struggles within the Cabinet. “
“Disruption of daily life and businesses”
The Welsh government has announced Â£ 120million – up from Â£ 60million previously – to help businesses affected by the move to alert level two.
The new measures will be reviewed weekly, said Mr Drakeford, but the doubling of funds means the Welsh government is able to extend its aid to businesses until February “if this help is needed”.
The new measures in the directive come with a separate offense banning large gatherings of 30 or more people indoors, or 50 people outdoors, in private homes and gardens.
Drakeford said: “We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast and very infectious Omicron variant is heading towards us.
‘This new form of coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupt daily life and businesses and could lead to an increase in the number of people requiring hospital care in the coming weeks.
“We will do all we can to protect the health and livelihoods of people in Wales – this means taking early action to try to control its spread.
âNo one wanted to see a return to the alert levels and protections that I announced today. But we are now entering a really serious phase of the pandemic.
“Wales will reopen after Christmas, but to do so safely we must do everything to continue to protect ourselves and care for others.”
When asked if the measurements were excessive in light of reports suggesting the Omicron was less severe than the Delta variant, Mr Drakeford replied that this assumption was based on a misunderstanding.
“If Omicron were only half as severe as Delta, because of the extra speed at which it is transmitted, it would save you 48 hours before seeing that number and the number of people hospitalized climb to the very steep levels that we are. have seen.
“So the information that it’s more serious is much more disputed … The detail I’ve seen suggests that if you’ve ever been infected with the coronavirus, Omicron may not be so serious than the first time you are infected.
âIf this is your first time getting it, there is no evidence that it is less serious than any of the previous variations.
“So I’m afraid – nice as it is to think that this will solve the January problem for us – the sheer number of people who will get sick, and the more nuanced information about the severity, means the protections we announced today. hui are a necessary precaution against the impact we think we are seeing in Wales. “