Face masks mandatory indoors and meetings limited to halt ‘coronavirus crisis’

Face coverings will become mandatory in indoor public places and the number of people who can meet inside will be limited to six in Wales to prevent a “new coronavirus crisis”, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said 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 told a press conference in Cardiff that people would continue to be encouraged to work from home where possible to limit person-to-person contact.

Local authorities will be given new powers to shut down premises and events on public health grounds, Mr Drakeford announced.

“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,” he 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.”

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

They 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 said.

HEALTH Coronavirus Wales
(PA Graphics)

Also from Monday, people will be limited to gathering indoors in groups of up to six but only if they have formed an exclusive extended household or bubble.

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, but not at weddings or funerals.

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

“We have no evidence at all in Wales that coronavirus is being spread by people meeting outdoors,” Mr Drakeford said.

“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.

“We were able to allow people to meet outdoors in Wales well before we were able to allow people to meet indoors, where the risks are far more significant.”

The six-person limit will not apply in Caerphilly county borough, where a local lockdown imposed on Tuesday banned people from meeting indoors.

Mr Drakeford said the changes were “proportionate to the position here in Wales”.

“We have, I believe, a short window to get us ahead of a gathering storm,” he warned.

He told the press conference there were a number of “hotspot areas” in Wales such as Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taf.

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

Enhanced public health action is being taken in Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr Tydfil local authority areas to limit the spread of Coronavirus following an increase in cases.

More information here:https://t.co/Lw2mK8DfvEpic.twitter.com/ibV5sg7IDP

— Public Health Wales (@PublicHealthW) September 10, 2020

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.

Young people out in Cardiff on Thursday night
Young people out in Cardiff on Thursday night (Ben Birchall/PA)

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 Thursday, Public Health Wales said a further 102 people had tested positive for coronavirus, taking the total of confirmed cases in the country to 18,931.

Of the new cases, 34 were in Caerphilly, while nine were in Cardiff and nine in Rhondda Cynon Taf.

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

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