Omicron: Nightclubs to shut in Wales after Boxing Dayon December 16, 2021 at 10:56 pm

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And social distancing will be a requirement in offices again, the Welsh government announces.

NHS worker in Wales

Image source, Getty Images

Nightclubs will close in Wales after Boxing Day in response to the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

The Welsh government said it will also impose restrictions on businesses, including social distancing in offices, from 27 December.

First Minister Mark Drakeford called for people to have a smaller Christmas and avoid meeting “wider circles of friends”.

It comes as the UK recorded a record number of Covid cases for a second day.

The number of Omicron cases in Wales rose by 33 to 95 on Thursday.

Public Health Wales expects a “rapid increase over the coming days and weeks is expected”, and officials believe Wales is a few days behind other UK hotspots.

Business lobby group the CBI said the fresh restrictions on companies were a “big setback”.

Announcing a two-phased plan, the Welsh government said it was giving “strong guidance” for people to leave a day between social events and to meet outdoors over Christmas.

But from 27 December new legal restrictions will come into force.

They include a two metre rule in offices and extra rules for businesses and services to protect customers and staff, including one-way systems and physical barriers.

Businesses will also be required to allow people to work from home wherever possible.

The decision to shut nightclubs means they will be closed for New Year’s Eve.

Welsh ministers say they will make £60m available for firms impacted by the new restrictions.

The Federation of Small Businesses welcomed the cash but demanded “urgent clarity” on whether it would be available to firms that have seen a loss of bookings “at an alarming rate”.

Mr Drakeford said Omicron “poses a new threat to our health and safety”.

“It is the most serious development in the pandemic to date,” he said.

He said a smaller Christmas “is a safer Christmas”.

“Please enjoy Christmas with your nearest and dearest – and think about meeting up with wider circles of friends when the threat posed by the omicron variant has passed over,” he said.

Christmas in Cardiff

Image source, Getty Images

What is the Welsh government’s advice?

In the run-up to Christmas, the Welsh government urged people to:

  • Take a lateral flow test before going out, going Christmas shopping or visiting people
  • Meet outdoors, or if meeting indoors ensure it is well ventilated
  • Leave a day between social events
  • Socially distance, wear a face covering and wash your hands
  • Get vaccinated, and make getting a booster a priority if you have had an appointment

The guidance does not go as far as that issued by Nicola Sturgeon, who urged Scots to limit indoor social mixing to no more than three households.

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However Wales is the first UK nation to close a sector in response to the Omicron wave.

Nightclubs were reopened in the summer when Wales axed most of its coronavirus legislation.

Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach announced on Friday evening that due to concern over the rapid spread of coronavirus, it was closing early for Christmas “to ensure the safety of our staff and customers”.

‘Not going to stem the tide’

The announcement sparked concern with Professor Simon Williams, a behavioural scientist at Swansea University.

“I don’t want to sound like the Grinch but this is not going to stem the tide of Omicron cases in Wales – hospitalisations and hospital pressure will follow in weeks,” he said.

He argued that the minimum needed was what the Welsh government called “alert level one” – which would have seen a return to the rule of six indoors – with a brief break at Christmas.

But Ian Price, CBI Wales director, said: “As Omicron cases continue to rise i’ts only right the government prioritises public health, but fresh restrictions are a big setback for businesses, particularly for those in hospitality.

“Throughout the pandemic firms have been implementing a number of measures to keep their staff and customers safe.”

Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price said: “Whilst we would all hope to be able to avoid introducing significant additional restrictions it is becoming increasingly apparent that additional measures need to be considered to keep our communities safe and ultimately to keep pressure off the health and care sector.”

He said any measures that will impact businesses “must be accompanied with financial support from the Treasury”.

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