WALES is to bring in strict new Covid rules after seeing Omicron cases “rise sharply” in the last week.

Speaking on Wednesday afternoon, First Minister Mark Drakeford told a Welsh Government briefing that a new alert level two for hospitality businesses, cinemas theatres and public gatherings is being introduced.

The rules from Boxing Day will see:

  • Two-metre social distancing in all premises open to the public + workplaces
  • Rule of six in hospitality, cinemas and theatres
  • Table service and contact detail requirement in licensed premises
  • Maximum number of people at indoor events = 30
  • Maximum number of people at outdoor events = 50
  • Nightclubs to be closed

Drakeford told viewers: “All alert level two measures, including for retail and workplaces and the closure of nightclubs, will come into force from 6am on Boxing Day.

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“A general requirement of two-metre social distancing in all premises open to the public and workplaces, where reasonable.

“The rule of six will apply to gatherings in regulated premises, such as hospitality, cinemas and theatres.

“All licensed premises will need to take additional measures to protect customers and staff, including table service and collecting contact details.

“Face coverings will be required in hospitality settings at all times apart from when seated.

“Large events will not be allowed indoors or outdoors. The maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event will be 30 and 50 people outdoors.

“There will be an exception for team sports, up to 50 spectators will be able to gather, in addition to those taking part. There is also an exception for events involving children.”

Drakeford added that for weddings, civil partnerships, funerals and wakes, the numbers of people attending would be determined by the ability of the venue to manage social distancing.

“The cabinet has decided not to make new legal rules about mixing in people’s private homes and gardens,” Drakeford said.

“We will issue updated and strengthened guidance to help keep people safe.

“We’re doing this because some circumstances have changed – the population is largely vaccinated; the booster is being rolled out rapidly and lateral flow tests are easily available.

“And, nearly two years since the pandemic started, we have all learned a great deal about how we can best protect ourselves.”

Drakeford said he was urging people to limit the number of visitors to their homes and ensure visitors take lateral flow tests before they come.

“We will reinstate a specific offence for large gatherings in private homes. This is because Omicron particularly likes large gatherings and enclosed spaces,” he said.

“We want these measures to be in place for the shortest possible time and they will be kept under review.”

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Drakeford said £120 million would be available for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the move to alert level two – double the £60m package announced last week.

The Senedd has been recalled and Drakeford will make a virtual statement from 1.30pm. Members will then have the opportunity to ask questions.

It comes as the number of identified Omicron cases in Wales grew by 204 on Tuesday to 640.

Meanwhile, workers in Wales could be fined £60 for going to their office under new coronavirus laws if they are able to work from home.

The Welsh Government has amended legislation to make attending a workplace unnecessarily a criminal offence, amid the spread of the Omicron variant.