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Wales announces two-week lockdown to stop virus surge

Under the new rules, everyone will be required to stay at home with only critical workers expected to go to their workplaces.

Traffic passes a COVID-19 sign displayed along the Cardiff-bound M4 motorway near Newport, in southeast Wales, as further restrictions come into force as the number of novel coronavirus COVID-19 cases rises. Picture: AFP

LONDON - Wales will impose a full "firebreak" lockdown for two weeks from Friday to try to reduce a soaring number of new coronavirus cases, First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Monday.

Under the new rules, everyone will be required to stay at home with only critical workers expected to go to their workplaces.

No gatherings with people from other households will be allowed, except for adults living alone and single parents.

Cases have surged across Wales over recent weeks, despite restrictions having been tightened in various locations, with 1,711 deaths of those who have tested positive for the virus in total.

"A fire-break period is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer and more damaging national lockdown," Drakeford said as he announced the new restrictions.

"Unless we act the NHS will not be able to look after the increasing number that are falling ill," he added, referring to the state-run health service.

The Welsh leader said the move, which will come into force at 6pm (1700 GMT) on Friday, was a "difficult decision".

"This...is the shortest we can make it," he added of its two-week duration.

Schools will be shut next week for a statutory holiday, with only primary schools, special-needs schools and younger secondary school year groups returning for in-person lessons during the second week of the lockdown.

All non-essential hospitality establishments will close, with £300 million ($390 million, 331 million euros) allocated to an "economic resilience fund" to help struggling businesses.

"There are no easy choices in front of us as the virus spreads rapidly," Drakeford said.

"If we do not act now it will continue to accelerate," he added, warning that critical care units were already full.

But the Welsh leader insisted that the "time-limited firebreak" would come to an end on 9 November, whatever the case figures at that time.

The devolved governments of Britain are responsible for deciding local rules to combat the virus, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing some calls to impose similar measures for England.

Northern Ireland announced Friday it would shut down pubs and restaurants for a month and extended the school holidays, while pubs and other licensed premises in central Scotland shut entirely earlier this month for 16 days.

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