Wales is to go into Alert Level 4 after Christmas, the First Minister has announced.
Mark Drakeford said the new restrictions, which will apply to the whole of Wales, were necessary because of a sustained rise on cases of coronavirus.
However, he said that the relaxation of restrictions over the Christmas period is due to go ahead, but the government will be publishing further advice.
This advice will include suggesting only two households to come together to maintain a bubble during that time. However, this is not a change in the regulations, which allows up to three.
There has been suggestions that the time frame for the relaxation would be tightened, but the First Minister said this would be maintained at five days.
According to the First Minister, who has described the situation as “extremely serious” one in five people are testing positive for the virus, and there are record levels of people in hospital with it.
Currently there are 2,100 people in hospital with Covid-19, and this includes 98 people who are intensive care. There is the equivalent of 5 full general hospitals dealing with only coronavirus.
All close contact services, including all non-essential retail, leisure and fitness centres will close when the new restrictions come into force at the end of trading on Christmas Eve. All hospitality premises will close from 6pm on Christmas Day. On December 28 at the end of the five-day Christmas period, tighter restrictions for household mixing, staying at home, holiday accommodation and travel will come into force.
According to Mr Drakeford this is necessary to “control the spread of coronavirus and save lives.”
He said: “We are seeing levels of coronavirus in some parts of the country that we haven’t experienced at any point before in this pandemic. This pandemic is putting our NHS under intense and sustained strain.
“There are more than 2,100 people with coronavirus symptoms in our hospitals – equivalent to five general hospitals fully occupied by people with coronavirus.
“This has been such a long and difficult year. We need to take this action to save lives and control the spread of this awful virus.”
The four UK governments met today to confirm the common arrangements for the five-day Christmas period. Joint advice will be published later today.
In Wales, the position will be that only two households should come together to form an exclusive Christmas bubble during that period.
The First Minister added: “A smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas and a shorter Christmas is a safer Christmas.
“The fewer people we mix with in our homes, the less chance we have of catching or spreading the virus.
“None of us wants to be ill this Christmas. And we don’t want to give coronavirus to our close family or friends.”
Yesterday the UK Government briefed to the press that it wouldn’t be changing plans for Christmas because of a surge in Covid-19 – before a meeting with devolved governments to talk about the matter.
According to reports in the Telegraph and Daily Mail Boris Johnson remains determined to push ahead with plans to allow families to meet this Christmas, and will not change the rules that say three households can meet for five days from Dec 23 to 27.
However, he will urge people to self-isolate before joining up with other households and will issue stronger guidance about what people should do over the festive period.
A government source told the Telegraph: “We’ve set out the rules. People know what they are; it would be wrong to change them this close to Christmas when they have made plans.”
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford had earlier said he would “not lightly put aside” the “hard-won” four nations agreement over household mixing at Christmas.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had said they were “considering whether any additional precautions are necessary in light of what we know so far”.
Earlier the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and Health Service Journal (HSJ) called for the governments of the UK to scrap plans to allow households to mix this Christmas.
Wales has jointly agreed a five-day relaxation in the Covid-19 rules over Christmas in order to allow people to travel and see extended family.