'Rule of six' to return in Wales as Covid restrictions set to be strengthened

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

'Rule of six' to return in Wales as Covid restrictions set to be strengthened

Related tags Wales Coronavirus Social Distancing rule of six

Hospitality businesses in Wales will once again be required to follow social distancing and collect customer details under tough new Covid restrictions set to come into force on Boxing Day.

The new measures, which have been described as 'devastating' by UKHospitality Cymru, will be introduced from 6am on 26 December, and are a revised version of 'Alert Level Two' that target public gatherings and intended to respond to the new Omicron Covid variant 

It will see a return of the 'rule of six', which restricts social gatherings of more than six people, in hospitality settings; and a general requirement of two metre social distancing to be followed in all premises open to the public.

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

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

The new measures follow on from last week's announcement that the country's nightclubs will be forced to close again after Christmas​. While initially it had been planned for this to happen on 27 December, it will now happen on Boxing Day, in line with the introduction of other measures.

UKHospitality Cymru warns that the restrictions will have devastating financial impacts and could preface early year closures and job losses.

“The new restrictions virtually close Wales’ events industry and take all other hospitality businesses much further into sub-viable trading,” says David Chapman, executive director for UKHospitality Cymru.

“Hundreds of millions of pounds of business have been lost in the run up to a very quiet Christmas and things will now get worse from Boxing Day.

“Our members are battered and bruised and at the end of their tether. Morale, alongside customer confidence, is low. Our customers have dwindled to a trickle and this news will only make matters worse.”

Other restrictions set to come into force include a ban on large indoor and outdoor events, with the maximum number of people who can gather at an indoor event reduced to 30, and 50 allowed outdoors.

Frustratingly for the sector, while the Welsh Government will be imposing new rules on hospitality, it will not be making new rules about mixing in people’s private homes, including gardens, in holiday accommodation or meeting outdoors. Instead guidance will be issued to 'help people stay safe'.

It means that while only groups of six will be able to meet in pubs or restaurants, groups of up to 30 will be able to congregate in private dwellings.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We are facing a very serious situation in Wales. A wave of infections caused by the new, fast-moving and very-infectious Omicron variant is headed our way.

“This new form of Coronavirus could infect large numbers of people in Wales, disrupting daily lives and businesses and could cause an increase in the number of people who need hospital care in the coming weeks.

“We will do everything we can to protect people’s health and livelihoods in Wales – this means taking early action to try and control its spread."

Alongside the announcement, the Welsh Government confirmed that £120m will be available for nightclubs, retail, hospitality, leisure and tourism businesses affected by the move to alert level two – double the new £60m package announced last week. The Economy Minister will announce further details on how the funding will be distributed tomorrow (23 December).

Chapman has noted Welsh Ministerial calls for furlough to be reinstated and says that the sort of firepower that furlough represented is vitally needed to top up Welsh Government funding help.

“The Welsh Government - like the UK Government - recognises the dismal trading conditions we have had to endure pre-Christmas and has made some more money available today to compensate for losses to date," he continues.

"Welsh Government tells us it has pushed its own financial boundaries as far as it can. The new packages amount to £120m, an additional £60m, but this falls way short of the huge scale of the business that will be lost.

“Cash reserves are long gone; loans are being repaid and costs are soaring. This news means we need the UK Government to help our businesses in Wales immediately and make more assistance available - and do it quickly. If not, there could be very serious permanent damage done to this industry in just a few weeks.”

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