PUBS, bars, restaurants and cafes in Wales will be forced to stop selling alcohol and to shut by 6pm in a new round of restrictions that begin on Friday night ahead of Christmas, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The new regulations that come into force from 6pm on December 4 will also see cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues forced to shut their doors until they are reviewed on December 17.
The announcement comes just three weeks after the end of Wales's 17-day firebreak lockdown and amid another rise in coronavirus cases particularly among under-25s in 17 of the country's 22 local authorities.
Earlier this afternoon Mr Drakeford told a press conference in Cardiff that scientific and medical advisers believed unless further restrictions were put in place, the number of people in hospital in Wales with Covid-19 could rise to 2,200 people by January 12.
Modelling suggested another 1,600 people could also lose their lives over the winter period, he said.
Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government's press briefing: "The measures we are taking are based on what the UK SAGE group of experts tells us has worked best elsewhere.
"From 6pm on Friday, our national measures will be amended to introduce new restrictions for hospitality and indoor entertainment attractions.
"Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services."
* The Welsh Government is making a further £340m available through the Economic Resilience Fund to support businesses affected by the new changes to the regulations. It will include a specific fund to support hospitality and tourism businesses.
The new Welsh Government support is split into two funds: a £160m Restrictions Business Fund and a £180m sector-specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme.
The Restrictions Business Fund will enable eligible businesses in the hospitality, tourism and leisure sectors which pay non-domestic rates (NDR) to access grants of up to £5,000.
It is estimated around 60,000 businesses, with a rateable value of under £150,000 will receive this support.
Businesses not on the NDR system, will be able to continue to apply to local authorities for the Lockdown Discretionary Grant of up to £2,000.
In addition, hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses will be able to access a sector specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme.
Small and medium sized businesses meeting the criteria could receive up to £100k. Larger Welsh-based businesses could receive up to a maximum of £150k.
This part of the package is expected to support up to 8,000 businesses in these sectors and a further 2,000 in the related supply chains.
More information about the funding and how it can be accessed will be published on the Business Wales website in the coming days.
Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “These are incredibly difficult days for businesses and these decisions have not been taken lightly.
“We expect today’s £340m announcement to support tens of thousands of businesses and help protect many more jobs and livelihoods. It must also be remembered that UK Government support is also available to businesses.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support our firms and our people through these challenging times.”