A set of new coronavirus restrictions for the hospitality and leisure sectors in Wales has been announced by First Minister Mark Drakeford.
From Friday, 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.
Indoor entertainment and visitor attractions such as cinemas, museums and gallery’s must also close.
First Minister Mark Drakeford, said: “Unfortunately, the virus is moving incredibly quickly across Wales and is eroding the gains we made during the firebreak period. We now need to take further steps together as a nation to protect people’s health and slow the spread of coronavirus.
“This virus – and this pandemic – continues to be full of unpleasant surprises. It thrives on our normal human behaviour and all those places and opportunities where we come together.
“It underlines why we need to take further, targeted action now. We will focus these changes on places where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on recent evidence from the UK SAGE group of experts about what interventions have had the biggest impact on the virus.”
The move has been criticised by Conservative, Paul Davies MS, the Leader of the Opposition.
Mr Davies said: “Today’s news will be devastating for many businesses across Wales, especially in the entertainment and hospitality industries.
“They have already been hit for six by the pandemic and thousands of jobs are at risk.
“The Welsh Labour-led Government must clarify its measures urgently to prevent further unnecessary anxiety and worry for those firms hanging by a thread and struggling to keep afloat.
“As we have always said, the Welsh Conservatives want to see targeted interventions rather than blanket restrictions across the whole of Wales.”
The Welsh Government is making a further £340m available through the Economic Resilience Fund to support businesses affected by the new changes to the regulations. It will include a specific fund to support hospitality and tourism businesses.
The new Welsh Government support is split into two funds: a £160m Restrictions Business Fund and a £180m sector-specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme.
The Restrictions Business Fund will enable eligible businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors which pay non-domestic rates (NDR) to access grants of up to £5,000.
It is estimated around 60,000 businesses, with a rateable value of under £150,000 will receive this support.
Businesses not on the NDR system, will be able to continue to apply to local authorities for the Lockdown Discretionary Grant of up to £2,000.
In addition, hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses will be able to access a sector specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme.
Small and medium sized businesses meeting the criteria could receive up to £100k. Larger Welsh-based businesses could receive up to a maximum of £150k.
This part of the package is expected to support up to 8,000 businesses in these sectors and a further 2,000 in the related supply chains.
Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “These are incredibly difficult days for businesses and these decisions have not been taken lightly.
“We expect today’s £340m announcement to support tens of thousands of businesses and help protect many more jobs and livelihoods. It must also be remembered that UK Government support is also available to businesses.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support our firms and our people through these challenging times.”
(Lead image: Little Visuals on Pexels.com)