First Minister addresses the nation – new measures to be introduced to ‘prevent a fresh coronavirus crisis’
The First Minister and the Prime Minister have both made rare televised addresses this evening to talk about measures being introduced due to the pandemic.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke at 8PM followed at 8:05PM by First Minister Mark Drakeford.
Hospitality businesses in Wales will have to close at 10pm, as new measures are introduced in Wales to prevent a fresh coronavirus crisis.
Hospitality businesses will have to provide table service only from Thursday and all off-licences, including supermarkets, will have to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.
The new measures are part of a package of co-ordinated actions to control the spread of coronavirus, which are being introduced across the UK. They will come into force in Wales at 6pm on Thursday (24 September).
To help further prevent the spread of coronavirus, the First Minister also announced:
- A new £500 payment to support people on low incomes who are asked to self-isolate if they have coronavirus;
- Strengthened regulations to ensure employers support people who need to self-isolate.
- The changes follow a four-nation COBR meeting, chaired by the Prime Minister, which discussed a series of proposals for further action – many of which are already in place in Wales – to respond to rising rates of coronavirus transmission throughout the UK.
Announcing the new measures, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Once again, we are facing rising cases of coronavirus infections in different parts of Wales and once again we are seeing people being admitted to our hospitals with serious illnesses because of this virus.
“In the weeks and months ahead of us, there is a very real possibility we could see coronavirus regain a foothold in our local communities, towns and cities. None of us wants to see that happen again.
“In some parts of South Wales, where we have seen the sharpest rises in cases, there are already even stricter local restrictions in place to protect people’s health. We now need to make that difference across Wales.
“It was with the help of people across Wales that we got through the first wave in the spring – you followed all the rules and helped reduce cases of coronavirus, protecting the NHS and saving lives.
“We need everyone to follow the rules and guidance and to take the steps to protect them and their loved ones. Together, we can keep Wales safe.”
The changes come as new local restrictions have come into force for people living in Blaenau Gwent, Bridgend, Merthyr Tydfil and Newport.
A series of measures announced by the Prime Minister for England are already in force in Wales:
- In Wales, the Welsh Government asks all those who can to work from home wherever possible. This has been in force since late March;
- Face coverings are required in all indoor public places, for both customers and staff working in those indoor public areas;
- People in Wales can only meet socially indoors with people they live with (your household) and members of an exclusive extended household (known as a bubble). Meetings or gatherings indoors are limited to six people from the same extended household, not including any children under 11.
Prime Minister Johnson’s full speech tonight is copied below:
Good evening, the struggle against covid is the single biggest crisis the world has faced in my lifetime.
In less than a year this disease has killed almost a million people, and caused havoc to economies everywhere.
Here in the UK we mourn every person we have lost, and we grieve with their families.
And yet I am more certain than ever that this is a struggle that humanity will win, and we in this country will win – and to achieve what we must I want to talk to you directly tonight about the choices that we face – none of them easy – and why we must take action now.
I know that we can succeed because we have succeeded before.
When the sickness took hold in this country in March, we pulled together in a spirit of national sacrifice and community. We followed the guidance to the letter. We stayed at home, protected the NHS, and saved thousands of lives.
And for months with those disciplines of social distancing we have kept that virus at bay.
But we have to acknowledge this this is a great and freedom-loving country; and while the vast majority have complied with the rules there have been too many breaches – too many opportunities for our invisible enemy to slip through undetected.
The virus has started to spread again in an exponential way. Infections are up, hospital admissions are climbing.
We can see what is happening in France and Spain, and we know, alas, that this virus is no less fatal than it was in the spring, and that the vast majority of our people are no less susceptible, and the iron laws of geometrical progression are shouting at us from the graphs that we risk many more deaths, many more families losing loved ones before their time;
and I know that faced with that risk the British people will want their government to continue to fight to protect them, you, and that is what we are doing, night and day. And yet the single greatest weapon we bring to this fight is the common sense of the people themselves – the joint resolve of this country to work together to suppress covid now.
So today I set out a package of tougher measures in England – early closing for pubs, bars; table service only; closing businesses that are not covid secure; expanding the use of face coverings, and new fines for those that fail to comply;
and once again asking office workers to work from home if they can while enforcing the rule of six indoors and outdoors – a tougher package of national measures combined with the potential for tougher local restrictions for areas already in lockdown. I know that this approach – robust but proportionate – already carries the support of all the main parties in parliament.
After discussion with colleagues in the Devolved Administrations, I believe this broad approach is shared across the whole UK. And to those who say we don’t need this stuff, and we should leave people to take their own risks, I say these risks are not our own.
The tragic reality of having covid is that your mild cough can be someone else’s death knell.
And as for the suggestion that we should simply lock up the elderly and the vulnerable – with all the suffering that would entail – I must tell you that this is just not realistic, because if you let the virus rip through the rest of the population it would inevitably find its way through to the elderly as well, and in much greater numbers.
That’s why we need to suppress the virus now, and as for that minority who may continue to flout the rules, we will enforce those rules with tougher penalties and fines of up to £10,000. We will put more police out on the streets and use the army to backfill if necessary.
And of course I am deeply, spiritually reluctant to make any of these impositions, or infringe anyone’s freedom, but unless we take action the risk is that we will have to go for tougher measures later, when the deaths have already mounted and we have a huge caseload of infection such as we had in the spring.
If we let this virus get out of control now, it would mean that our NHS had no space – once again – to deal with cancer patients and millions of other non-covid medical needs.
And if we were forced into a new national lockdown, that would threaten not just jobs and livelihoods but the loving human contact on which we all depend.
It would mean renewed loneliness and confinement for the elderly and vulnerable, and ultimately it would threaten once again the education of our children. We must do all we can to avoid going down that road again.
But if people don’t follow the rules we have set out, then we must reserve the right to go further. We must take action now because a stitch in time saves nine; and this way we can keep people in work, we can keep our shops and our schools open, and we can keep our country moving forward while we work together to suppress the virus.
That is our strategy, and if we can follow this package together, then I know we can succeed because in so many ways we are better prepared than before.
We have the PPE, we have the beds, we have the Nightingales, we have new medicines – pioneered in this country – that can help save lives.
And though our doctors and our medical advisers are rightly worried about the data now, and the risks over winter, they are unanimous that things will be far better by the spring, when we have not only the hope of a vaccine, but one day soon – and I must stress that we are not there yet – of mass testing so efficient that people will be able to be tested in minutes so they can do more of the things they love. That’s the hope; that’s the dream. It’s hard, but it’s attainable, and we are working as hard as we can to get there.
But until we do, we must rely on our willingness to look out for each other, to protect each other. Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour.
If we follow these simple rules together, we will get through this winter together. There are unquestionably difficult months to come.
And the fight against covid is by no means over. I have no doubt, however, that there are great days ahead.
But now is the time for us all to summon the discipline, and the resolve, and the spirit of togetherness that will carry us through.
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