Masks and limit on indoor meetings to tackle ‘gathering storm’ in Wales


Face coverings will become mandatory in shops in Wales from Monday to get ahead of a "gathering storm" of coronavirus, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford warned Covid-19 was "on the rise again" in Wales after weeks of being in decline, with 20 people in 100,000 in the country having the virus.

He said restrictions across Wales would have to be "tightened" to prevent cases from spreading and avoid more "draconian measures".

From Monday, indoor meetings of more than six people from an extended household will become illegal.

The rule, which does not count children under 11 as part of the six, applies in pubs and restaurants as well as in people's homes.

Face coverings must be worn in public indoor spaces by everyone over the age of 11, apart from those with health or medical-related exemptions.

People will be encouraged to work from home where possible to limit person-to-person contact, and local authorities will be given new powers to shut down premises and events on public health grounds.

"Once again we are having to focus on tightening restrictions across Wales to prevent cases from rising even higher and prevent the problem from worsening – as we have seen elsewhere in the UK," Mr Drakeford said.

"The new measures we are announcing today are designed to prevent a new coronavirus crisis here in Wales, not respond to one.

"Wales is not immune to the spread of coronavirus elsewhere in the UK, and as difficulties deepen elsewhere, we must expect that to have an impact here, too."

Mr Drakeford insisted the changes were "proportionate to the position here in Wales".

"We have, I believe, a short window to get ahead of a gathering storm and to help us avoid more draconian measures," he warned.

Face coverings will not be required in pubs or restaurants but a rapid review is being conducted into whether they should be extended to the hospitality sector, the Welsh Government confirmed.

HEALTH Coronavirus Wales
HEALTH Coronavirus Wales

Mr Drakeford said those who "knowingly and deliberately flout the law" will face fines of up to £1,920 for repeat offences.

Up to six people gathering indoors from Monday must be from the same exclusive extended household, also known as a bubble.

In Wales, up to four households are allowed to form an extended household.

The six person limit will not apply to weddings, funerals or outside.

Groups of up to 30 people can still meet in outdoor spaces.

Mr Drakeford said there was "no evidence at all" that Covid-19 was being spread by people meeting outdoors in Wales.

"We've long known that coronavirus doesn't thrive in the outdoors.

"It doesn't last on surfaces, it is not fond of the sunlight and the fresh air," he told the press conference.

A local lockdown was imposed in Caerphilly county borough on Tuesday evening, which banned people from different households, including those part of an extended household, from meeting indoors.

Mr Drakeford said "hotspot areas" of coronavirus in Wales, such as Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf, were being closely monitored to see if further action was required.

On Thursday evening, people living in those areas were asked only to use public transport for essential reasons, to work from home where possible and to wear face coverings in public indoor spaces and workplaces.

They were also told not to visit care homes, unless for end-of-life visits.

Visits to care homes in Ceredigion were also suspended on Friday, after staff tested positive for Covid-19 in two independent care homes in the Aberystwyth area.

Other measures that could be taken to reduce the spread of coronavirus include curfews and limiting the sale of alcohol, Mr Drakeford said.

Shadow health minister Andrew RT Davies, of the Welsh Conservatives, said all measures taken to combat the spread of Covid-19 had to be "proportional to the risk, and with time limits".

"Safeguarding lives as well as livelihoods must remain a priority," he said.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson previously said that a limit of six people for social gatherings would come into force in England on Monday.

In Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon also confirmed that a maximum of six people from two households would be allowed to meet together.

Children under the age of 12 will not count towards the limit of six people, Ms Sturgeon said.

There are some exemptions to the new rules announced in both England and Scotland.

On Friday, Public Health Wales said a further 133 people had tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total of confirmed cases in the country to 19,064.

Of these new cases, 30 were in Caerphilly, 23 were in Rhondda Cynon Taf and 10 were in Newport.

No further deaths were reported, with the total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remaining at 1,597.