New strain of Covid-19 ‘a pandemic within a pandemic’, First Minister says
The First Minister Mark Drakeford has said that the new Covid-19 strain is a “pandemic within a pandemic” and a “dreadful surprise”.
He was speaking after revealing that Wales will go into lockdown at midnight tonight and the Christmas relaxation has dropped to just one day.
He added that the new strain is significantly more infectious and spreads more quickly than the original one.
“This new strain of the virus is another dreadful surprise in this long-running pandemic,” he said.
“We now have a pandemic within a pandemic, a crisis within a crisis. It is another challenge we must overcome. But one we will overcome together.”
The rules which allow two households to come together to form a Christmas bubble over a five-day period will apply on Christmas Day only, the First Minister said.
Non-essential retail, close contact services, gyms, leisure centres and hospitality will close at end of trading today. Stay-at-home restrictions will come into force from midnight.
It comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson put much of the south-east of England into a much stricter lockdown and banned travel over Christmas in those ‘Tier 4’ areas.
The change of plans come after it was revealed that a new Covid-19 strain is particularly virulent in the south-east of Wales and the south-east of England.
Boris Johnson earlier confirmed the 5-day bubble across England now reduced to just Christmas Day, and people couldn’t travel into Tier 4 areas in much of London and South East England at all.
Support bubbles remain unaffected as do the exemptions for separated parents and their children.
“It may be up to 70% more transmissible than the old variant,” he says, adding that it’s early data and subject to review.
In Scotland, Covid restrictions will only be relaxed on Christmas Day, with mainland Scotland being placed under the tightest restrictions from Boxing Day.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said “firm preventative action” was needed after the emergence of a faster-spreading strain of coronavirus.