The Welsh Government have taken the difficult decision to introduce a two-week fire-break, starting at 6pm on Friday this week. It will include the half-term holiday and cover two weeks, ending on Monday November 9.
The fire-break is the shortest the Welsh Government can make it, but that means it will have to be sharp and deep to have the maximum impact on the virus.
Between Friday October 23 and November 9, everyone in Wales will be required to stay at home.
- This means working from home wherever possible.
- The only exceptions will be critical workers and jobs where working from home is simply not possible.
All non-essential retail, leisure, hospitality and tourism businesses will close. This is the same as during the March lockdown.
Community centres, libraries and recycling centres will close. Places of worship will be closed for normal services, except for funerals or wedding ceremonies.
As the virus has taken hold, the Welsh Government have said repeatedly that children would be our top priority if further restrictions are needed and that education must continue.
- As a result, childcare will stay open.
- Primary and special schools will re-open as normal after half-term.
- Secondary schools will re-open after the half-term for children in years seven and eight. Pupils will be able to come in to take exams but other pupils will continue their learning from home for an extra week.
Universities and colleges will continue to provide a blend of in person and online learning.
- In the same way the Government are asking everyone to stay at home, if students have reading weeks or half-term they will also need to stay at home in their university accommodation.
Coronavirus spreads when people are in close contact with each other, especially indoors.
- To help break the cycle of transmission, there will be no gatherings with people you do not live with either indoors or outdoors during the two-week period.
- There will be an exception for adults living alone and single parents who will be able to join with one other household for support.
Support for Businesses
The Welsh Government will ensure full details of support for businesses is announced this week.
The Welsh Government have created an enhanced Economic Resilience Fund of almost £300m.
- Putting an extra £150m into phase three of the ERF to support to businesses affected by the firebreak
- Every business covered by the small business rates relief will get a £1,000 payment.
- Small and medium-sized retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close will receive a one-off payment of up to £5,000.
- There will also be additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses, which are struggling.
Beyond that, the £80m fund announced last week to help businesses develop in the longer term, will be increased to £100m, which includes £20m ring-fenced for tourism and hospitality.
The funds will open in the first week of the fire-break and the Welsh Government will work to get the money allocated as quickly as possible.
All businesses required to close will also be able to access the support available from the UK Government – through the existing Job Retention Scheme or the new expanded Job Support Scheme.
The First Minister has also written to the Chancellor to ask him to give Welsh businesses early access to the new expanded Job Support Scheme from Friday.
This would remove the need for businesses to juggle the Job Retention Scheme and the Job Support Scheme during this fire-break period.
Given the urgency, the Welsh Government have offered to pay the extra costs to help businesses retain staff.