Covid: Christmas tier rules being considered for Wales

Media caption,
Mark Drakeford: Governments could not persuade people "this wasn’t the year to get together over Christmas"

Tougher restrictions in Wales are being considered for the run up to Christmas, the first minister has confirmed.

Mark Drakeford said he is "looking carefully" at similar coronavirus rules to those that will be in place in areas in the upper end of the tier systems of England and Scotland.

However he said they would "most likely" be imposed on a Wales-wide basis, rather than a tier system.

The Welsh Government cabinet is due to discuss the matter on Thursday.

Mr Drakeford told BBC Wales Live he believes, unless further action is taken, "we could end up at Christmas with a virus really heading very fast in the wrong direction".

He said: "We're looking carefully at the tier system that they've got now in Scotland and in England, looking at what further restrictions they have at that point in the tier system where it begins to be effective, seeing if there's anything more we can take from that for Wales.

"Let me be clear I'm not talking about using a tiered system.

"I'm looking to see what measures are in place at, say, tier three in Scotland and England.

"Are there things that they do there that we're not doing here in Wales, that we would do, most likely, on a Wales-wide basis… in the run up to Christmas. We've got four weeks left."

England's new tier system comes into force when its lockdown ends next week, with Tier 3 being the highest level of restrictions.

Under Tier 3, people must not meet indoors or in most outdoor places with people they do not live with or who are not in their support bubble, pubs and restaurants are closed except for takeaway and hotels and indoor entertainment venues must close.

Scotland has a five-level system that runs from 0 to four. At Level 3 alcohol sales are not allowed and cafes and restaurants can only serve food and non-alcoholic drinks and must close at 18:00.

Mr Drakeford said preventing people getting together would have helped moves to control the spread of coronavirus.

However he admitted that Christmas was "too important" to people to ask them to not celebrate.

"If we could have persuaded people that this wasn't the year to get together over Christmas that would have been better from the virus's perspective, but we were never going to be able to do that," he said.

"In an incredibly difficult year we weren't going to be able to persuade people that they could just act as though Christmas wasn't happening."

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Wales could see tough restrictions like in England and Scotland in the run-up to Christmas

Vaccine hopes

Asked whether Wales was ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine, Mr Drakeford said: "We have everything in place once a vaccine gets regulatory approval."

He added: "Even the most promising vaccine is yet to have approval by the regulator. Once it gets it, within a week we are ready to start vaccinating people in Wales."

If Wales were to use the Pfizer vaccine, which has to be stored at -70 degrees, he said the plan is to use equipment from the Welsh Blood Service.

"We can use the equipment the Wales Blood service already has to store material at that temperature and we can make it available for this vaccine," he said.

"The vaccine will have limitations, it will be difficult to transport but we will find ways of doing it. Whatever vaccine comes our way, we will want to use here in Wales."