Wales set to introduce six person indoor limit and facemasks in shops as cases rise
Indoor meetings of more than six people from an extended household will be made illegal in Wales from Monday, the First Minister has said.
The new restriction will apply in pubs and restaurants, as well as private homes, but children under 11 do not count towards the total. In Caerphilly, which is under local lockdown, all extended household meetings are currently banned indoors.
Facemasks in shops and other indoor public spaces are to be made compulsory in Wales.
The Welsh government said the changes followed an increase in cases of the virus linked to people meeting and socialising with others indoors without physical distancing.
Mr Drakeford said: “Today for the first time we will go to a point where 20 people in 100,000 are suffering from coronavirus in Wales.
“That is the threshold we use for people to have to quarantine coming back into the UK.
“And having reached that today, we will be making the use of face coverings mandatory in shops and in closed public spaces in Wales.
“We still have a maximum number of 30 people who can meet outdoors at any one time, but we have no evidence at all in Wales that the virus is being spread by people meeting together in the open air. I think the evidence on this has been very clear for a long time. The virus doesn’t thrive in the outdoors and in the sunlight.
“It does thrive indoors, and in the dark and the cold and we are making that distinction. We still want people to be able to meet outdoors. Indoors, it will be six people only.”
He said that it would be policed and that anyone wilfully not wearing a mask would be spoken to and would have the rules explained to them, and that fining people would be a “last resort”.
“We want to educate, to inform and to persuade,” he said. “Policing will be a last resort. People in Wales have been so willing to play their part in keeping one another safe, that I am confident we will see good levels of compliance in Wales.”
Wales’ opposition parties, the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru, have been calling for the introduction of facemasks in shops.
“It is very welcome that that First Minister has changed his mind on this,” Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price told Radio Wales.
“The evidence is never going to be 100% but the consensus internationally is that it clearly has a benefit, and it is right to be extending it at this time.”
He said there should be a mandatory rules surrounding schools and colleges too.
“The Welsh Government should now say that there should be a mandatory policy around Wales in schools and colleges,” he said. “I think there should be advice that we give on how you use mask. There are issues around workplaces.
“Workplaces should be in Covid secure. Some countries mandate the use of masks in offices and in classrooms so I think that we need to have a conversation around that, extending the use of masks and being clear with people about how to use them properly.”
Andrew RT Davies – the Conservative Shadow Health Minister – said that safeguarding lives as well as livelihoods had to remain a priority.
“All measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19, from the earlier lockdown to local lockdowns to the ‘rule of six’ and to the compulsory wearing of face coverings in shops must be proportional to the risk, and with time limits,” he said.
First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the new rule on Friday morning ahead of his press conference on lockdown easing at 12.30pm in Cathays Park.
The latest figures published on Thursday show that there have been 19.5 infections for every 100,000 people in the last week in Wales – a significant rise on the low point of just 3.7 in mid August.
There is a local lockdown in place in Caerphilly and two other areas, Merthyr and Rhondda Cynon Taf, have brought in restrictions for residents to avoid a local lockdown.
The ‘rule of six’ has also been introduced in Scotland, and will come into force on Monday, although First Minister Nicola Sturgeon advised people to follow it immediately.
Boris Johnson announced a ban on meetings of groups of more than six people from up to six households in England on Wednesday.
Pubs and restaurants in Caerphilly should check if customers come from a single household, according to the Health Minister, Vaughan Gething.
The hospitality sector has been allowed to remain open in Caerphilly despite new rules which mean people living apart are unable to meet indoors.
“All pubs and restaurants need to look at their customers coming in and ask themselves, well [is that] really a group of people from a single household,” said Mr Gething.
“If people are taking bookings from a dozen people sitting at the same table, I think people really need to be asking themselves whether those are people following the rules.”
Vaughan Gething said a big cause for a spike in Covid-19 cases was by people mixing in each other’s homes.
He also said residents booked on holidays could not travel.