First minister Mark Drakeford is expected to announce a four week delay to further easing of coronavirus restrictions after seeing a spike in cases of the Delta variant.

In a bid to help boost protection against the Delta variant, Wales will also speed up the rate of second vaccine doses over the next four weeks.

The Government plans to deploy more than half a million doses in a bid to prevent a fresh wave of serious illness as cases begin to rise across the country.

The latest figures show there are almost 490 cases of the Delta variant in Wales.

More than four in five new cases in Wales are the Delta variant, making it the dominant strain of the virus. 

Two-thirds of these are not linked to travel or contact with another case, suggesting community spread is taking place.

Early studies suggest the Delta variant is almost twice as infectious as the Kent variant which became the dominant variant across the UK over Christmas. 

Wales’ Covid case rate has risen steadily since the end of May with the positivity rate more than doubling, however rates here are still the lowest in the UK.

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Ahead of making an announcement at the Government's Covid press brieifing, Mr Drakeford said: “In the space of just a few short weeks, the delta variant has entered Wales and quickly spread throughout the country.

"There is sustained and accelerating transmission, not just in North and South East Wales but in all parts of Wales.

“It is now the most dominant variant in new cases in Wales. We are once again facing a serious public health situation.

“We have the lowest coronavirus rates in the UK and the highest vaccination rates for first doses.

"A four-week delay in relaxing restrictions could help to reduce the peak number of daily hospital admissions by up to half, at a time when the NHS is very busy supporting all our healthcare needs – not just treating coronavirus.” 

Although there will be no major changes to the rules for a four-week period, some small technical amendments have been made.

Technical changes:

  • The number of people who can attend a wedding or civil partnership reception or wake, organised by a business in an indoors regulated premise, such as a hotel, will be determined by the size of the venue and a risk assessment.
  • Clarifying small grassroots music and comedy venues will be able to operate on the same basis as hospitality venues, like pubs and cafes.
  • Primary school children in the same school contact group or bubble will be able to stay overnight in a residential outdoor education centre.

Pilot events in theatre, sport and other sectors are also expected to continue throughout June and July.

The First Minister added: “This week, we reached the target of offering all eligible adults their first dose vaccine six weeks ahead of schedule.

“But those offers won’t help protect people, unless everyone turns up for their first and second dose appointments.

“I would urge everyone to take up their invitation for a vaccine and to complete the full two-dose course. It’s the best way we can protect ourselves against this virus.”

What are opposition parties saying?

Opposition parties have been largely understanding of the Welsh Government's hesitancy when it comes to further lifting restrictions. 

However, both the Tories and Plaid have raised concerns about clarity and support for the hospitality sector.

Plaid’s spokesperson for Health, Rhun ap Iorwerth, said: “We must remain hopeful that evidence will soon show that the vaccination programme is providing protection against the new Delta variant, but until sufficient information is gathered, caution must be taken.

“Many in hospitality are still feeling the pinch from the unexplained gap in funding in April of this year. Set against a backdrop of the Delta variant, and talk of further lockdowns, this is giving genuine worry for a whole industry.

“Hospitality – indeed all businesses in Wales – will be looking to the Welsh Government to provide leadership and support at a time when many have genuine fears for the future.

“That leadership and support is also required by the health sector, who are all too aware of the enormous backlog now facing them.

"Welsh Government must do everything possible to help health boards seed up vaccination, especially in areas where the Delta variant is spreading fastest.”

Commenting ahead of the announcement, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies, said: “After various briefings to the media, this announcement comes as no surprise.  

“I’m pleased Labour ministers have listened to Welsh Conservative calls and given greater clarity and flexibility for major life events such as weddings, which will provide some welcome relief to couples planning their big day.

“In light of the ongoing restrictions, Welsh businesses will require more financial support and I hope the First Minister make clear what additional funding his government will provide to protect Welsh jobs.

“And given the continued impact on livelihoods, such announcements shouldn’t bypass the Senedd. Earlier this week, the Commons speaker, Lindsay Hoyle, summoned ministers to Parliament so the lockdown announcement could be scrutinised and he was right to do so.

“Sadly, in Wales, this Labour Government continues to enjoy free rein. For the Senedd to do its job effectively and be relevant, these announcements should be scrutinised in a timely fashion, not days after implementation.”

Mark Drakeford will deliver the Welsh Government's Covid briefing at 12:15 this afternoon. 

The regulations will be reviewed again on July 15.

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