NEW restrictions announced over the weekend has led to many changes for people planning their celebrations over the festive period.

Earlier this month first minister Mark Drakeford announced a set of restrictions meaning gyms, leisure centres, non-essential retail and close-contact businesses including hairdressers would have to go into lockdown from the end of business on Christmas Eve. Hospitality businesses would have joined them on 6pm Christmas Day, with a level four lockdown coming into place on Monday, December 28. The five day ‘relaxation’ period would have still been in place according to these rules, but a change from three households mixing to two.

But on Saturday, December 19, all this changed as prime minister Boris Johnson held a press conference to update the UK on the rapid spread of the new strain of coronavirus and announcing that the South East of England, including London would be moved into tier four.

Tier four means residents must stay at home with some limited exemptions – which includes work if unable to do so from home, however, working from home is strongly advised if it is possible. Non-essential services must also close. People also must not enter or leave a tier four area.

This also saw a change to England’s Christmas restrictions, with households banned from mixing, apart from single households, which would be allowed to form a bubble to avoid isolation.

Areas in the lower tiers were still allowed to continue to mix with up to three households – however, only on Christmas Day.

So, what did this announcement mean for Wales?

The announcement by the prime minister was focused specifically on England, but it was followed by Wales’ first minister making an announcement of his own the same evening. He announced that the tier four lockdown would come into place from midnight on Saturday, December 19, meaning businesses had a matter of hours to come to terms with the news and people rushed out to do some last-minute Christmas shopping before all the non-essential retail closed.

Some of the supermarkets across Wales have now taken their ‘non-essential’ items off sale.

The festive period bubble rule has also changed, with a maximum of two households allowed to mix on Christmas Day.


Mr Drakeford said in a statement on Saturday evening that the pattern of transmission in London and the South East of England, which is linked to the new variant of coronavirus, is “remarkably consistent with the rapid acceleration of transmission in Wales” in recent weeks.

Also in the statement, the first minister said that latest evidence had suggested the new strain is present throughout Wales and that it needed an “immediate response”.

After meeting with the Welsh Government’s Cabinet on Saturday and taking into consideration advice from senior medical and scientific advisors, he said: “The situation is incredibly serious. I cannot overstate this.

“We have therefore reached the difficult decision to bring forward the alert level four restrictions for Wales, in line with the action being taken in London and the South East of England.”

Dr Chris Williams, incident director for the Novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak at Public Health Wales said in a statement: “As indicated by the Welsh Government, the immediate introduction of new restrictions is related to the identification of a new more transmissible variant of Coronavirus. Public Health Wales has been working with UK partners to investigate and respond to this variant.

“It is normal for viruses to undergo mutations, and we expect this to happen. Although the variant is easier to transmit, there is currently no evidence that it is more severe.

“We are reminding people that all current guidance relating to Coronavirus continues to apply to the new variant, including advice relating to symptoms, social distancing, self-isolation, and vaccination.

“The new variant shows up as positive in Public Health Wales’ existing Coronavirus tests, and people must continue to seek a test in the usual way if they develop Coronavirus symptoms.

“If you or a member of your household develop a cough, fever or change in sense of taste or smell, you must self-isolate immediately and book a free Coronavirus test by calling 119.

“Public Health Wales urges everyone to follow the rules, to avoid transmission of Coronavirus and to protect everyone in our communities, including the most vulnerable.”