Wales to brace for last week of lockdown as Drakeford confirms ‘everything will reopen’

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Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, the Welsh First Minister said residents in Wales will be told to go back to society from November 9 as most businesses will reopen after a 17-day national coronavirus lockdown. He said: “We will be reopening shops, we will be reopening gyms. We will be allowing local authority services to resume.

“All students will be back in school, churches will be able to reopen.

“We will be asking people to work from home wherever possible but on November 9, a week from today, the firebreak in Wales will be over and large parts of life will be able to resume as they were on October 22.

“We went for a 17-day firebreak and explained to people that if we were going to make it short, we’d have to make it really sharp.”

Mr Drakeford said “early indications” show that travel in Wales over the firebreak has been much lower, which suggests people have been following the rules.

“As I said right at the beginning, it will be a couple of weeks beyond November 9 before we know whether this great national effort has succeeded,” he said.

Mr Drakeford is expected to stress that the public’s actions and adapting their behaviours will be more important than the rules and regulations put in place by the Welsh Government.

The Welsh Labour leader will outline the details of the new measures at the Welsh Government’s COVID-19 press briefing on Monday afternoon.

Ahead of the press conference, Mr Drakeford said: “We need to do everything we can to reduce our exposure to the virus by reducing the contacts we have with other people – at home; in work and when we go out.

“We need to do the minimum – not the maximum, which the rules allow.”

The firebreak was introduced on October 23 in an attempt to help bring virus transmissions under control, with ministers saying it could take around two weeks for the measures to begin to have an effect on daily case numbers.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said that exiting the firebreak should be “slow and steady” to avoid undoing any benefits gained and called for the ban on people entering Wales from UK COVID hotspots to continue.

Mr Price said: “We have learnt two key lessons from the response to the pandemic so far – going into lockdown too late increases the spread of the virus and coming out too early risks undoing any benefits gained.

“That is why the approach to the post-firebreak period must be slow and steady.

“There should certainly be no lifting of the travel restrictions which have rightly prevented people coming into Wales from COVID hotspots elsewhere in the UK.”

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Wales had imposed 17 local lockdowns across the country before it entered into the firebreak but Mr Drakeford said last week that it would adopt a “simpler” set of national measures after it expired.

The First Minister admitted the series of localised restrictions used during the autumn “didn’t work well enough” to curb the spread of the virus.

He told a press conference in Cardiff on Friday: “We will put in place a simpler set of national rules that are easier for everybody to understand, to help keep us safe and keep the virus under control.”

Before Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the new English lockdown on Saturday evening, Mr Drakeford confirmed that Wales’ firebreak “will end on Monday November 9”.

On Sunday, Welsh Government ministers met to discuss “any potential border issues” for Wales when England enters its lockdown on Thursday.

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