“Firebreak” Lockdown to start in Wales on Friday

“Firebreak” Lockdown to start in Wales on Friday

Key Contact: Claire Knowles

Author: Rebecca Mahon

Mark Drakeford has announced that from 23 October to 9 November, Wales will go into a full lockdown. During his announcement, the First Minister was keen to emphasise that in return for a short lockdown (just over 2 weeks), the most severe level of lockdown will be required in order for the lockdown to have the desired “firebreak” effect.

The key restrictions are:

  • people must stay at home, except for very limited purposes;
  • people must not visit other households or meet other people they do not live with;
  • certain businesses and venues, including bars, restaurants and most shops must close;
  • secondary schools will provide learning online only for the week after half-term, other than for children in years seven and eight. Primary schools and childcare settings will remain open;
  • face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), including on public transport and in taxis.

Further information is expected to be made available, particularly regarding which businesses will need to close and the financial support to be made available to them, over the coming days. However, here is what we know so far:

Can I meet up with other people?

The short answer is, no. People in Wales should only spend time with members of their own household during the firebreak, both indoors and outdoors. You cannot form an extended household or “bubble” unless you are an adult living alone or are a single parent household. In such circumstances, you can be in a temporary extended household with one other household.

Can I go to work?

You must work from home if you can. However, people who are not able to work from home, but are able to work safely in their workplaces, can do so, provided their workplace remains open.

Work carried out inside other people’s homes can only take place if it is urgent or to repair a fault which poses a direct risk to people’s safety – for example, emergency plumbing or carry out an adaptation to allow that household to remain in their property, or the property is vacant.

Anyone who is in Wales, whether resident or travelling here, is bound by these rules. However, travelling to a workplace in Wales is a reasonable excuse to leave home. Similarly, people living in Wales can travel to England for work purposes where this is necessary and they cannot work from home.

Will my business be told to close?

Welsh Government have promised to publish a list of businesses that will be required to close “shortly”. However, we do know that all leisure and non-essential retail will be closed. This includes clothes shops, furniture shops and car dealerships among many others. Hotels will close. All close contact services including hairdressers, barbers, beauticians, tattooists, and sports and massage therapists are required to close. Driving instructors will not be able to operate and driving tests will be rescheduled. Property viewings will not be able to take place and high-street estate agents will need to close. Supermarkets and other food retailers, pharmacies, banks and post offices can remain open. You can still get an MOT done.

What support will I get if my business is told to close?

The First Minister suggested that, in addition to the support with paying wages that is being made available to businesses via Westminster if a business is ordered to close (see here for more information), businesses will be able to access an enhanced Economic Resilience Fund which includes:

  • an extra £150m into phase three of the ERF to support to businesses affected by the firebreak;
  • every operating business covered by the small business rates relief scheme receiving a £1,000 grant payment;
  • retail, leisure and hospitality businesses which have to close and occupy premises with a rateable value below £50k receiving a one-off grant payment of up to £5,000; and
  • additional discretionary grants and support for smaller businesses which are struggling.

We await further information from Welsh Government regarding access to this support.

Can I go on holiday?

No, you cannot go on holiday (outside of Wales) during the firebreak. Travel abroad is only permitted for people with a reasonable excuse. You also cannot travel to Wales for a holiday during the firebreak.

What happens if I break the rules?

The restrictions are being enforced by local authority environmental health officers and the police. They can issue fixed penalty notices (£60 for a first offence, doubling for each repeated offence) or recommend prosecution in a magistrates’ court. In addition, they have wide-ranging powers to take practical steps to disperse gatherings, require people to go home and enter property. If a business doesn’t comply with the rules, its premises may be shut down.

Further information regarding the firebreak will be published on our website and social media channels as and when it becomes available. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact our employment team if your business is affected.

Claire Knowles – Partner

Mark Alaszewski – Associate

Rebecca Mahon – Solicitor

Adam McGlynn – Solicitor

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