Wales has announced a ban on alcohol sales in bars, restaurants and cafes starting on Friday (December 4), while shops in England will get the go ahead to trade 24-hours-a-day in the run up to Christmas and beyond.
Wales’ first minister Mark Drakeford said the rising rate of coronavirus infection in Wales requires new rules, including a 6pm curfew on dining-out. Without them, Drakeford said Wales could see up to 1,700 preventable deaths this winter.
From Friday, takeaway services can continue to operate after 6pm and hospitality venues that have an off-licence can sell alcohol for takeaway until 10pm. Shops and outdoor visitor attractions can stay open but all Welsh cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, soft play centres, casinos, skating rinks, amusement arcades, museums and galleries will be closed.
‘Most generous package of assistance anywhere in the UK’ – Drakeford
Wales’ “firebreaker” lockdown ended on November 9 and Plaid Cymru said the failure to put in place tighter measures after the firebreak meant hospitality was now “paying the price”.
“The first minister’s announcement is devastating for a Welsh hospitality sector that’s already reeling from a damaging cycle of restrictions,” said director of CBI Wales, Ian Price who warned job losses and business closures are “all but guaranteed”.
Drakeford claims Wales has “the most generous package of assistance anywhere in the UK” and that an extra £340 million is available for businesses hit by the new restrictions.
Wales has seen a surge in coronavirus infections over the last week with rate shooting up from 187 per 100,000 people to 210.
England however, has seen its R-rate fall below 1 during its second lockdown which ends on Wednesday (December 2).
Shops get green light for 24hr opening
MPs will vote tomorrow (Tuesday) on replacing the current restrictions by moving into a controversial three tier-system in England, which has provoked furious Tory backbenchers to rebel against the government.
Today’s announcement that shops will be allowed to stay open around the clock in December and January may placate and win over some disgruntled Conservative MPs before the vote.
Robert Jenrick, the secretary of state for housing, communities and local government, said retailers can trade 24/7 to boost trade that has been hard hit by Covid and the rise of online shopping.
In a column for the Telegraph, Jenrick said the changes will ensure “more pleasant and safer shopping with less pressure on public transport”, given the continued need for social distancing.
He wrote: “How long [shops are open] will be a matter of choice for the shopkeepers and at the discretion of the council, but I suggest we offer these hard pressed entrepreneurs and businesses the greatest possible flexibility this festive season.
“Therefore as Local Government Secretary I am relaxing planning restrictions and issuing an unambiguous request to councils to allow businesses to welcome us into their glowing stores late into the evening and beyond if wish.
“And those stores and supermarkets will be able to replenish their shelves whenever they wish, with flexible deliveries to keep the streets free for the rest of us when we are out and about.”
‘The light of dawn is on the horizon’ – Hancock
Ahead of tomorrow’s vote in the Commons on England’s tiers system, health secretary Matt Hancock has warned the country to remain vigilant when lockdown ends and is replaced with tightened tiers on Wednesday.
Hancock said the lockdown has been tough but it has worked and that “we have the virus back under control.”
Hancock delivered this evening’s coronavirus briefing from Downing Street, and said: “The light of dawn is on the horizon.”