People’s behaviour during and after Wales’ national firebreak lockdown will determine how successful it is in tackling the coronavirus pandemic, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The 17-day firebreak runs until 9 November and the Welsh Government will later outline what restrictions will be in place when it ends.
People have been urged to stay at home while non-essential shops have shut.
He is due to reveal the new set of “national rules” across Wales during a news conference at 12:15 GMT after his cabinet met on Sunday.
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the lifting of the restrictions must be “slow and steady”, while Conservative MS Darren Millar called for a “more targeted approach to intervention”.
image captionMark Drakeford will set out a new set of national measures at a press conference on Monday
Mr Drakeford will say the actions everyone takes during and after the firebreak are more important than the rules and regulations the government puts in place.
“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,” he is expected to say.
“We need to do the minimum – not the maximum, which the rules allow.
“The main thing I’m asking people to do in Wales is ask each time ‘is what I’m doing genuinely necessary?’ If it’s not it should be avoided.”
On Monday morning, he said the new set of Wales-wide rules will be “simpler and clearer” and would allow for “something beyond what we’ve had during the firebreak period”.
Mr Drakeford said non-essential retail, gyms, places of worship and schools – for Year 9 and above – would reopen from 9 November.
He added: “We will be asking people to work from home wherever possible, but on the 9 November the firebreak in Wales will be over and large parts of life will be able to resume as they were on 22 October.”
He also said there would be a distinction between what people were allowed to do indoors and outdoors.
image captionPeople have been urged to stay at home and many shops and businesses have been closed in Wales’ firebreak
When does lockdown end?
Mr Drakeford said it would be a “couple of weeks” before it was known if the firebreak lockdown has succeeded in suppressing the spread of the virus, but “early indications” from travel data suggested people were abiding by the rules.
“We made a bargain with the people in Wales that if they stuck to everything that we have asked them to do, and I say it’s been an extraordinary national effort for 17 days, then we would be able to return to them some of the freedoms that have been denied to them,” he said.
“I do not intend to step away from that bargain.”
image captionMost of the restrictions which were in place during the original lockdown are part of the firebreak
On Monday morning, Mr Drakeford resisted calls to follow England in going into a lockdown until early December in order to have uniformity across the UK.
He said: “When Cobra last met – which is three weeks ago – I asked then for an urgent further Cobra to discuss the advice of Sage, that a firebreak or a circuit-break period will be the most effective way of bringing the R number down.
“But Cobra hasn’t met ever since.
“While I’m absolutely signed up to better coordination, better information sharing and as I see it, better decision-making, the calling of those meetings is not in the hands of the devolved administrations, it lies in the hands of the UK government.
“Despite being asked to do so, three weeks have gone by and that meeting hasn’t happened. In those circumstances there isn’t any alternative but for the devolved governments in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales to make the decisions that we think are the right ones for our local populations.”
“By doing everything we’re doing and, provided we behave in the right way after the lockdown, we are confident we can get through to Christmas without having to go through this again.”
Wales ‘not an escape’ from England’s lockdown
image captionBetween 9 November and 2 December, England will be in lockdown and Wales will not
Mr Drakeford said he was “anxious” people may travel from England to avoid lockdown rules there.
He said: “It’s very important that Wales doesn’t become an escape for people trying to get round the new tighter restrictions being introduced in England.”
He said there were “a number of details” being discussed with colleagues in England: “Public transport is one. Many many train journeys begin in England and end in Wales and vice-versa. It’s not clear to us yet what the public transport regime in England will be.
“We are waiting to get some details on business support and whether there will be extra money for Welsh businesses.”
“Most importantly of all hospitality. We are having to meet this morning with representatives of the hospitality industry.”
“Think of Wrexham and Chester, literally a couple of miles apart. If pubs are completely closed as they will be in Chester, what impact will that have on people trying to travel into Wales to go to a pub.”
What have opposition parties said?
Conservative Mr Millar said he did not agree with the decision for Wales to enter a firebreak and called for “more clarity” on what the new rules would be.
“We’ve said all along, that we didn’t think that a Wales-wide lockdown was the right thing to do. We felt that because the infection rates were so variable in different parts of Wales.”
He said the Welsh Conservatives stood by their stance in Wales despite the decision by the UK government to lockdown England.
“The evidence that’s been shared with the Welsh Conservatives by the Welsh Government has been insufficient in our view for a Wales-wide lockdown.”
Meanwhile, Plaid Cymru leader 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.”
What’s the furlough row about?
image captionNon-essential shops have been closed in Wales, as well as pubs, restaurants and hotels
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the weekend that the furlough scheme would be extended until 2 December.
It was due to end on Saturday and be replaced with the new, less generous Job Support Scheme (JSS).
Mr Drakeford was unhappy that requests for extra funding during the firebreak were rebuffed by the Treasury, but then furlough was extended when the England lockdown was announced.
He previously asked the Treasury to extend furlough for one week to coincide with the Welsh firebreak, but his requests were turned down.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak also declined a request for the JSS – which would cover 67% of wages when it replaces furlough – to be brought forward.
Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Drakeford said: “We had asked the chancellor for some flexibility during our firebreak period, the chancellor said to me that it wasn’t possible to do that.
“It turns out that it is possible now, but mostly I just welcome any extra support that businesses in Wales will get over the next period.”
The Welsh Government said it had offered to pay the cost for the difference between furlough and the JSS, which a minister estimated was £11m.