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Live Reporting

Chris Wood and Kate Rimmington

All times stated are UK

  1. Thanks for joining us

    That concludes our coverage of today's Welsh Government coronavirus briefing. Here are some of the main developments:

    • Wales' chief medical officer urges people to avoid mixing as much as possible in the 10 days before Christmas
    • Dr Frank Atherton said we are in "a very serious situation" with cases accelerating
    • There are 31 newly reported deaths of people with coronavirus, and 2,238 new cases
    • The rate for Wales is now almost 350 cases per 100,000 people, and 10 areas have rates over 400
    • Cases have increased in 21 of Wales' 22 local authority areas
    • 1,500 people were vaccinated in Wales on Tuesday, with 6,000 set to receive the jab by the end of the week
    • The coronavirus isolation period will be reduced from 14 days to 10 from Thursday
    • Welsh Conservatives leader Paul Davies called for clarity on the Welsh Government's plan to tackle the situation into the new year
  2. 31 more deaths

    There are 31 newly reported deaths of people with coronavirus, Public Health Wales has said.

    This takes the total to 2,756 since the start of the pandemic.

    There are also 2,238 new cases, taking the total in all to 94,030.

  3. Non-essential services may need rethink

    The NHS in Wales may need to "seriously think about" whether it can continue to provide non-essential services given pressures on critical care beds, the country's chief medical officer has said.

    "Although we have 77 patients with coronavirus in critical care beds, we have a lot of non-coronavirus patients," Dr Frank Atherton said.

    "We have in Wales taken the approach of trying to keep our non-essential services in the NHS moving, keep them active, and that does lead to pressures.

    "In fact, most people in critical care beds in Wales are not suffering from coronavirus, they're there for other reasons.

    "It may be that we will come to the point that we might have to change that policy of... being able to provide non-essential services in Wales. That's what we did in the lockdown, the initial lockdown, in February, March.

    "We haven't reached that point, we hope not to reach that point, we want to keep non-essential services moving if we possibly can.

    "But that may be something that we need to seriously think about."

    Dr Atherton said there was a clear process of mutual aid in Wales where one local health board area could provide support to another but said the situation was "perilous".

    "We have to reduce community transmission of coronavirus, we have to somehow get this down," Dr Atherton added.

  4. Self-isolation period cut to 10 days

    Everybody in Wales who needs to self-isolate or quarantine will only need to do so for 10 days from Thursday.

    The current period for those without the virus is 14 days, which is to be changed after medical endorsement.

    The 10-day isolation period will apply to people who have tested positive for the virus or are at risk of having it, including those returning from non-exempt countries.

    Isolation
  5. Vaccine 'a real breakthrough'

    Dr Atherton described the rollout of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as "a real breakthrough" and said almost 1,500 people were vaccinated in Wales on Tuesday.

    The same number were expected to be vaccinated on Wednesday, with a total of 6,000 people receiving the vaccine this week and the same next week.

    "We know that the vaccination will protect people from getting serious illness," Dr Atherton said.

    "What we don't know is how long the immunity from the vaccine will last and we don't know whether the vaccine will actually stop transmission from person to person.

    "That will only become apparent over time. It means that all of those measures that we've talked about so many times really have to continue to be in place here in Wales and across the UK - social distancing, respiratory hygiene, hand washing, the hands, face and space messages are really still vitally important to us all."

  6. Call for clarity on plans going forward

    The Welsh Conservatives would have adopted a much more targeted approach to tackling Coronavirus, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies said.

    He said "hyper local lockdowns" in Llanelli and Bangor seemed to work, adding: "What is Welsh Government's plan going forward? That's what we want to hear."

    The Preseli Pembrokeshire MS said everyone has a responsibility to keep to rules but the UK's four nations had agreed a joint approach for Christmas and this should remain in place.

    Paul Davies
  7. Schools decision 'must not compromise safety'

    Ministers must ensure that the decisions about the operation of schools over the Christmas period and the start of the new term do not undermine the safety and welfare of pupils and school staff, the NASUWT teachers' union said.

    General secretary Dr Patrick Roach said “There is genuine concern amongst teachers about the continued risk of virus transmission within schools and the Welsh Government will need to carefully consider what additional measures may be needed in January to protect pupils and staff if it is not going to delay the reopening of schools in January."

    The warning comes after three local authorities decided to close schools early for Christmas.

  8. Christmas rule changes 'would confuse everybody'

    The Welsh Government is not considering making any changes to the relaxation of the Covid-19 rules over Christmas, despite the rising number of infections, Dr Atherton said.

    He added: "We've made a commitment to the people of Wales, the people of the UK, that those rules will change over the Christmas the five-day period."

    But he urged people to "think within that framework about how they can keep themselves safe" and to consider how they can take "personal responsibility" in their "personal decisions".

    "So, no, we're not going to change those rules. That would just confuse everybody, for sure," he said.

    "The rules are as we agreed across the four nations, but we will really have to look very carefully, as we come out of that period over Christmas, [about] what the rates are, what the hospital activity is looking like, and how resilient we are as a nation, and we will have to decide about whether we need further restrictions beyond the Christmas period."

  9. 'Avoid mixing in 10 days before Christmas'

    People have been urged to “avoid as much mixing as we can in the 10 days running up to Christmas", Dr Atherton said.

    He said he wasn’t advising parents to take their children out of school early but “the really important thing is to make sure that children, whether they’re in school safely or back at home are encouraged not to do too much mixing themselves in the run up to Christmas”.

    He said: “As they come into contact with older family members over the Christmas period, that’s the really risky time when the virus can transmit from younger people potentially to older people.”

    Dr Atherton also suggested that families could reduce the amount of time they spend with older relatives.

    “Although there’s five days of relaxation of the rules over Christmas, it doesn’t have to be five days.

    “It may be bringing your elderly relatives around just for a couple of hours over Christmas.

    "Obviously that’s safer than an extended period of time.

    “So there are ways that people can think to manage the risk and reduce the risk even if, as many people want to, they feel the need to spend time with loved ones over Christmas.”

    Family Christmas
  10. Could there be further restrictions before Christmas?

    Welsh Government ministers are considering introducing further coronavirus restrictions in the run up to Christmas, Wales’ chief medical officer has said.

    Dr Atherton said the question as to whether current measures will be sufficient to prevent the Welsh NHS from being overwhelmed was “an important one”.

    He added that transmission levels at present were currently above what the Welsh Government had expected.

    “We are at risk of getting into the Christmas period with much higher rates than we had anticipated or had hoped,” he said.

    “Ministers are considering what further things might be possible in the run up to Christmas. That needs to be considered.

    “We also need to think about the Christmas period – managing our risks to make it as low as possible during that five days."

    Dr Atherton went on to say that it was difficult to predict what measures may have to be taken after the festive period, if case numbers continue to rise.

    “Beyond Christmas I just don’t know where we will be,” he said.

    “We will have to see where the virus transmission is, what the rates are, what the hospital situation looks like, but it may well be that we need to think about further restrictions beyond Christmas.”

  11. 'Serious pressure' on NHS

    Dr Atherton said there is "serious pressure" on the health service and its workers.

    "The other dynamic that we have to keep in mind is the impact on our NHS - there are serious pressures on our NHS across the whole of Wales, but particularly in the south and up in the valleys," he said.

    "This is seen in our hospitals, it's seen in our ambulance services, and it's particularly acute in our intensive care units where staff really are working flat out to protect people and to keep them safe and to keep them alive."

    Ambulance
  12. 'Covid thrives on human contact'

    'It doesn’t matter if it’s indoors or outdoors'

    Dr Atherton has asked people not to mix with others from outside their household in the run-up to Christmas.

    “Covid thrives on human contact," Dr Atherton said.

    “It doesn’t matter if it’s indoors or outdoors, once it gets into our homes it spreads very quickly.

    “The best present we can give our families this year is a coronavirus-free Christmas.

    “The virus is spreading through contact between people very easily."

    Dr Frank Atherton
  13. Concern over rise in under-25 and over-60 age groups

    Wales’ chief medical officer said he was concerned about the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in the under-25 age group and the over 60s.

    He said: “We look at these two age groups in particular because over the course of the pandemic – and around the world – we have seen infections start in younger people and quickly spread to older people."

    He said older people tend to be at greater risk of developing more serious illness and are more likely to need hospital treatment.

    “This is causing serious pressures on our NHS particularly in south Wales and the Welsh Valleys."

    Christmas
  14. 77 people in critical care

    At the highest point of this week, the number of people with coronavirus in critical care was 77, Dr Atherton said.

    There are also almost 1,100 people with confirmed cases of coronavirus in hospital – many of them will be there for three weeks or more.

  15. 'Don't mix with people outside your household'

    Dr Atherton said he had put on hold plans to visit his in-laws in Northern Ireland and children in Lancashire.

    He said the choices we all make over the coming days and weeks would define the course of the virus and whether we can enjoy Christmas with our families.

    He added the virus is spreading through contact between people, and said we all have to reduce the number of people we see and mix with between now and Christmas day.

    "My message on this is simple - don’t mix with people outside your household between now and Christmas."

    Previously the Welsh Government has said people should limit themselves to seeing the same "one or two friends", and four people from different households in a hospitality setting - currently allowed under the rules - should be "an absolute maximum".

    This formal "rule of four" also applies when meeting people from different households outdoors, away from your home, but meeting anyone from outside your household bubble in someone's garden is not allowed.

    Two families can form a bubble or an extended household - and they are the only people you're allowed to see inside your home.

    Up to 15 people can take part in organised activities indoors and up to 30 outdoors - providing social distancing, hand hygiene and other Covid safety measures are followed.

    People in masks
  16. 6,000 vaccinated by end of the week

    "We vaccinated around 1,500 people yesterday, and will have vaccinated around 6,000 people by the end of the week and next week we’ll vaccinate at least as many," Dr Atherton said.

    "But I don’t want anyone to think this means the pandemic is over."

  17. 'We are facing a very serious situation'

    Dr Atherton started the briefing by saying: "We are facing a very serious situation. Coronavirus is accelerating."

    He said the virus is spreading faster than "we could have anticipated", with an increase in 21 of 22 of Wales' local authority area.

    The rate for Wales is now almost 350 cases per 100,000 people, and 10 areas have rates over 400.

  18. Should schools close early?

    Parents share their views about removing children from the classroom early.

    The idea is this would leave enough time to reduce the risks posed by Covid-19 before Christmas.

    Schools in Blaenau Gwent will be the first in Wales to stop physical teaching, moving lessons online on Thursday.

    Video content

    Video caption: Covid in Wales: Should schools shut early for Christmas?
  19. Welcome to our live Covid-19 coverage

    Chief medical officer for Wales Frank Atherton is set to give updates at the Welsh Government's coronavirus briefing.

    It comes a day after the first people in Wales received vaccinations against the virus.

    Vaccines