The First Minister will today set out a two-phase plan to respond to the current delta variant and the new, fast-moving, easily-transmissible omicron variant, which is expected to be the dominant form of the virus in the UK by the end of the month.
The Welsh Government is issuing strong guidance to support people across Wales through the Christmas period.
Wales will then introduce new restrictions, including for businesses and services – from 27 December. This will include a 2m rule on social distancing in offices and putting extra measures in place to protect customers and staff, such as one-way systems and physical barriers.
Nightclubs will also close. These tougher restrictions are needed to help control the spread of omicron.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
Delta will continue to be the main cause of coronavirus infections in Wales up to Christmas. But we are seeing cases of omicron increasing rapidly every day in Wales – and across the UK.
“We need a plan to keep us safe this Christmas and we need stronger measures to protect us afterwards, as we prepare for a large wave of omicron infections.
“Omicron poses a new threat to our health and safety. It is the most serious development in the pandemic to date.
“It is one we must take seriously. We will continue to put in place proportionate measures to protect people’s lives and livelihoods.
“This is a virus which thrives on human contact. Every contact we have is an opportunity for us to spread or catch the virus.”
The First Minister will today urge everyone to follow five simple steps for a safer Christmas, as he says the more people we see in the run-up to Christmas, the more opportunities the virus has to spread.
Reducing our contact with others, especially if we are seeing older people or more vulnerable people over Christmas, will help to protect them from the virus.
To stay safe in the run up to Christmas, the Welsh Government is strongly advising everyone to follow these five measures to stay safe:
- Get vaccinated – and if you’ve had your booster appointment, please make attending your priority.
- If you’re going out, going Christmas shopping or visiting people – flow before you go. Take a lateral flow test. If it’s positive – don’t go out.
- Meeting outdoors is better than indoors. If you’re meeting indoors make sure it’s well ventilated.
- Space out your socialising – if you’ve got events arranged, please leave at least a day between them.
- And don’t forget about social distancing, wearing a face covering and washing your hands.
The regulations will also be changed to include a requirement to work from home wherever possible.
After Christmas, on 27 December new legal restrictions will come into force, to help protect against the spread of the omicron variant.
The Welsh Government has announced up to £60m will be available to support businesses affected by the new restrictions.
The First Minister added:
This year a smaller Christmas is a safer Christmas. The fewer people we see, the less chance we have of catching or passing on the virus.
“Please enjoy Christmas with your nearest and dearest – and think about meeting up with wider circles of friends when the threat posed by the omicron variant has passed over.
“I also want to thank the many thousands of people who will be working this Christmas to keep us safe – especially all those who have cancelled their plans to work in the vaccination centres across Wales to increase our protection against this awful virus.