Wales set for ‘firebreaker’ lockdown, Manchester resists govt on move to tier 3

Beyond England Health and Education

Wales’ first minister has announced the country will go into a full lockdown on Friday for a 17-day “firebreak” to stem the rise in coronavirus cases.

Mark Drakeford said the two-and-a-half weeks will provide a “short, sharp shock to turn back the clock, slow down the virus and give us more time” in order to get the country “through to Christmas”.

The lockdown comes after Drakeford earned the scorn of Jacob Rees-Mogg last week after the first minister closed Wales to visitors from other parts of the UK.

Wales’ “firebreak” replicates Northern Ireland’s “circuit breaker” introduced earlier this month. Scotland will unveil its “new strategic framework towards the end of the week”. It is expected to be similar to England’s which is set by the UK government who ignored the advice of its panel of experts, Sage who recommended a lockdown on September 21.

Schools, pubs and gyms to close and holidays banned

From 6pm on Friday (October 23) everyone in Wales is instructed to stay at home except for essential journeys and exercise.

Primary and special educational needs schools will open as scheduled after the half-term but secondary schools will stay closed for all pupils except those in years 7 and 8. Students at colleges and universities will receive both online and in-person teaching as those institutions will stay open.

The closure of the Welsh hospitality sector will see all pubs, bars, restaurants, cafes and hotels shut until after the lockdown ends on November 8. It means more than 3,000 pubs being closed which Emma McClarkin, the chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) said could “destroy many Welsh pubs, brewers and their supply chains in the country”. Unless, McClarkin added: “the financial support package is available to all businesses hit by the forced closure of all pubs.”

Travel will only be permitted for a “reasonable” cause such as buying essential items, seeking medical help, for a Covid test or for delivering care to people in need. Key workers and people who cannot work from home and have to travel for their jobs are permitted to travel.

The law also forbids anyone in Wales going on holiday during the “firebreak”.

The “firebreak” will see indoor and outdoor gatherings of mixed households banned, unless the people are in a support bubble.

All indoor leisure centres and gyms will be shut from October 23 but public parks, playgrounds and outdoor gyms will remain open.

Anyone who breaks the law will be subject to a £60 fine, rising to £120 for a second offence.

Burnham resists as Jenrick sets noon deadline for a deal

Meanwhile Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham is continuing to resist government pressure to put his region into tier 3 restrictions.

Talks between the mayor, other local leaders and government ministers broke up without agreement being reached today (Monday).

A deadline has been set by Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary said who gave the local until noon on Tuesday to reach consensus.

Responding, Greater Manchester’s mayor told the BBC: “The government could have a deal if it better protects low-paid people. It is choosing not to do that.”

Burnham is insisting the government provides a financial package equivalent to the original lockdown, arguing low-paid staff will be hardest hit from earning just 67% of their wage.

The power of the mayor of Greater Manchester differs from other metro mayors in so far as Burnham’s role gives him control of spending on health and social care. However, he can resist government only to a point as Downing Street can impose the measures against the wishes of the mayor. This has not happened yet but is being considered by the prime minster who warned on Friday (October 16) that he may “need to intervene” and impose restrictions directly.

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