New Covid strain adds ‘dangerous dimension’ to pandemic, says Mark Drakeford


Wales’s lockdown restrictions will be further strengthened in supermarkets, workplaces and schools and colleges in an effort to limit the spread of coronavirus, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

The Welsh Labour leader said the new faster spreading strain of the virus is “adding a dangerous dimension to the pandemic” and means the nationwide lockdown will continue for at least another three weeks.

Mr Drakeford said on Friday that Wales’s level four measures will need to be reinforced in three areas including in essential shops so they offer a level of protection “as in the early days of the pandemic”.

“Those who work and shop in supermarkets need the confidence of knowing that numbers are carefully and consistently controlled and that all other measures are in place to keep us safe,” he said.

“The key instruction is to stay at home. But some people are unable to work from home. So, the second area where we will look to strengthen protection is in the workplace.

“The new strain of the virus is so much more contagious that we have to look again at the defences in place to keep workplaces safe, working with employers and trade unions to do so.

“The third area is schools and colleges. We are bringing decisions about schools and colleges into line with the three-week review cycle to give parents and staff as much certainty as we can in this uncertain time.”

Mr Drakeford said pupils will be taught online until January 29 at the earliest, but “unless there is a significant reduction in cases of coronavirus by the next review, this will continue until the February half-term”.

Vulnerable learners and children of critical workers will continue to have face-to-face learning in schools, and childcare remains open.