Wales’ school and college students will continue to learn online until the February half term unless there is a significant reduction in cases of coronavirus before 29 January, the First Minister has said.
He also said the lockdown restrictions will be strengthened in some key areas to prevent the new, highly-infectious strain of the virus spreading from person to person. That included closing all showrooms.
The new variant strain of the virus – first identified in England before Christmas – now has a firm foothold in the north of Wales.
“The coronavirus pandemic has reached a significant point,” Mark Drakeford said. “Cases in Wales remain very high and our NHS is under real and sustained pressure.
“The alert level four restrictions we introduced before Christmas must remain in place to keep us all safe. To slow the spread of the virus, we all must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.
“These feel like dark times but the new Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out across Wales, giving us a path out of this pandemic.
“It will take a huge effort to vaccinate everyone and, despite the end of this pandemic being in sight, it is more important than ever that we follow the rules and stay at home. We have made so many sacrifices together and we mustn’t stop now.”
The Welsh Government said it was also reviewing whether major supermarkets and retailers need to put additional measures in place to protect people in store and what else employers need to do to protect people in the workplace and support people to work from home.
The First Minister is reminding people that in the current lockdown people must:
- Stay at home.
- Work from home if you can.
- Keep a 2m distance from others.
- Wear a face covering in all indoor public places.
- Not meet anyone outside your immediate household or support bubble.
The First Minister added: “This new strain adds a new and unwelcome dimension to the pandemic.
“Wherever there’s mixing; wherever people come together, the new strain is spreading – it is highly transmissible and spreads very quickly from person to person.
“We all must stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives. Together, we will keep Wales safe.”