Prime Minister Mark Druckford has laid out detailed plans to tighten coronavirus restrictions in Wales as the new strain of coronavirus grows rapidly.
Mr. Drakford was speaking at the Welsh government press conference after a first three-week review of Level 4 lockdown restrictions imposed on December 24 in Wales.
He said the Welsh government would “strengthen the fourth alert level in three main areas” – detailing plans to make stores safer, close schools and protect workplaces.
He said, “First, we will work with supermarkets and retailers to make sure people are safe when they go shopping.
“I want to see at least the same level of protection today as in the early days of the pandemic.
“Those who work and shop in supermarkets need to have confidence in knowing that the numbers are carefully and consistently controlled and that all other measures are in place to keep us safe.
“The basic instruction is to stay at home. But some people are unable to work from home.
“So, the second area in which we are looking to strengthen protection is the workplace.
“The new strain of virus is so infectious that we have to rethink the defenses in place to keep workplaces safe, and work with employers and trade unions to do so.
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“The third area is schools and colleges. We bring school and college decisions in line with the three-week review cycle to give parents and staff as much certainty as possible in this turbulent time.
“Most young people will now be taught online until January 29. Unless there is a significant reduction in coronavirus cases by the next review, this will continue until half of the February semester.
“The vulnerable learners and key worker children will continue to learn face-to-face and childcare will remain open.
“We will use the coming weeks to work with our scientists, unions and local authorities to plan for the future.
“This will not be a simple choice between closing schools and colleges now and reopening them in February.”
He said the Welsh government was studying “possibilities for a gradual and safe return of some students during this period, such as those studying for qualifications, young children who find distance learning the most difficult and vulnerable children”.
Drakford said the changes are necessary due to the danger of the new strain of the virus.
He said: “The new strain is quickly taking a firm foothold in North Wales, where we are seeing cases of the virus rising rapidly.”
“We expect the new strain to become the dominant form of the virus in South Wales as well.
“There has been a pullback from the very high levels, which we saw before Christmas and before four alarms were put in place.
“However, over the past week, this decline has stopped and rates have started to rise again.
“On Monday, there were about 440 cases per 100,000 people in Wales. Today, that’s more than 20 points higher.
“The case continues to be that about one in four tests positive for Coronavirus, which indicates that we have high levels in society.”
He said hospitals are under tremendous pressure.
“More than 2,700 coronavirus-related patients are being cared for in hospitals in Wales today, and there are now 143 people with coronavirus in critical care beds,” he said.
“Overall, the number of people in critical care has reached the highest point in the epidemic.”