Pubs, bars, restaurants, and cafés in Wales will have to close by 6pm on Friday, in an attempt to cut coronavirus transmission, it has been announced.

Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford

The new measures are being introduced as cases accelerate in Wales once again, eroding the gains achieved during the recent firebreak period, says the Welsh government.

It has, however, announced a further £340m of funding, 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.

First minister, Mark Drakeford, said: “Unfortunately, the virus is moving incredibly quickly across Wales and is eroding the gains we made during the firebreak period. We now need to take further steps together as a nation to protect people’s health and slow the spread of coronavirus.

“This virus — and this pandemic — continues to be full of unpleasant surprises. It thrives on our normal human behaviour and all those places and opportunities where we come together.

“It underlines why we need to take further, targeted action now. We will focus these changes on places where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on recent evidence from the UK Sage group of experts about what interventions have had the biggest impact on the virus.”

The financial 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-ized businesses meeting the criteria could receive up to £100,000. Larger Welsh-based businesses could receive up to a maximum of £150,000.

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.

Comment: Society of Independent Brewers

James Calder, chief executive of SIBA, said: “The decision to ban the sale of alcohol in hospitality from Friday will be the final blow for small breweries and pubs in Wales who rely on the Christmas trading period for a substantial percentage of their annual income. There is no evidence to justify these new targeted restrictions.

“Pubs represent more than 80% of all sales for Welsh small breweries and we have seen throughout the Covid crisis that these small businesses have been left out in the cold and not had access to the level of financial support they need. Without real, targeted support many small breweries will not survive the winter period.”

Comment: British Beer & Pub Association

Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the British Beer & Pub Association, said: “Make no mistake, the 6pm curfew and ban on serving alcohol on all 3,227 pubs in Wales will destroy the sector. Evenings are the key trading period for pubs and enjoying a beer, with or without a meal, is one of life’s simple pleasures — forcing pubs to close at 6pm and banning alcohol sales all but closes them down in reality. 

“When you factor in that December, with the festive season, is the most important time of the year for pub-goers and our sector, this really couldn’t come at a worse time. Thankfully, the Welsh government is looking at significantly increasing the financial support on offer to pubs in Wales in recognition that these restrictions will devastate many businesses. 

“Such support is an absolute necessity if Welsh pubs and breweries are to survive this Christmas and be there to re-open and help lead the economic recovery in the future. It is vital, too, that this support gets through current state sid restrictions so that all pubs who need it have access to it.  

“The prime pinister needs to now deliver significantly enhanced financial support to pubs and the wider supply chain in England, if they are going to survive the dire impact of the new tighter tiering restrictions coming into place this week.” 

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