Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes in Wales will be forced to stop selling alcohol and to shut by 6pm in a new round of restrictions that begin on Friday night ahead of Christmas, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The new regulations that come into force from 6pm on December 4 will also see cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues forced to shut their doors until they are reviewed on December 17.
The announcement comes just three weeks after the end of Wales’s 17-day firebreak lockdown and amid another rise in coronavirus cases particularly among under-25s in 17 of the country’s 22 local authorities.
On Monday, Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff that scientific and medical advisers believed unless further restrictions were put in place, the number of people in hospital in Wales with Covid-19 could rise to 2,200 people by January 12.
Modelling suggested another 1,600 people could also lose their lives over the winter period, he said.
Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government’s press briefing: “The measures we are taking are based on what the UK SAGE group of experts tells us has worked best elsewhere.
“From 6pm on Friday, our national measures will be amended to introduce new restrictions for hospitality and indoor entertainment attractions.
“Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services.”
Mr Drakeford said he was “grateful” for what the hospitality industry had already done to comply with measures and acknowledged that the new restrictions would be “difficult” as they come at one of the busiest times of the year.
The Welsh Government will “provide the most generous package of financial assistance anywhere in the UK” to businesses affected by the new restrictions, he said.
It will include a £160 million Restrictions Business Fund to enable an estimated 60,000 hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses which pay non-domestic rates (NDR) to access grants of up to £5,000.
A total of £180 million will also be available from the Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme to allow eligible small and medium sized businesses to receive up to £100,000, while larger Welsh-based businesses could receive up to £150,000.
Other national measures, such as household bubbles, will remain the same after Friday, as well as how many people can meet in public indoors or outdoors.
The restrictions will be formally reviewed by December 17 and then every three weeks.