Wales is delaying further easing of lockdown restrictions for four weeks after seeing a spike in cases of the Delta coronavirus variant, as the nation again faces a “serious public health situation”.
First Minister Mark 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 southeast 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.”
Cases of the Delta variant are spreading across Wales. In the space a few weeks, cases have been confirmed in all parts of the country.
We have reviewed all the evidence and will pause changes to the rules for 4 weeks.
More info in the thread below⬇️
— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) June 17, 2021
There are nearly 490 cases of the Delta (India) variant in Wales, while more than four out five new COVID-19 cases are Delta, according to the Welsh government, citing the latest figures.
Two-thirds of these are not linked to travel or contact with another case, it added.
On Friday, Mr Drakeford is expected to encourage people to have their second jabs – and the nation is aiming to roll out more than half a million vaccine doses over the next four weeks.
It was previously thought there could have been an announcement on a relaxation of the rules around meeting people indoors.
But on Twitter, he wrote: “We have reviewed all the evidence and will pause changes to the rules for four weeks.”
He said the government will use that time to “vaccinate even more people”, pointing out the nation has the highest vaccination rates and the lowest coronavirus rates in the UK.
At the previous lockdown review earlier this month, when Wales started to move into alert level one, Mr Drakeford said he hoped to announce up to six people would be able to meet inside private homes from 21 June.
Other changes would have seen increased numbers attending indoor events and re-opening ice skating rinks.
Rules in Wales were last relaxed on 7 June when outdoor events with up to 10,000 people were allowed to resume, and other events, such as concerts, football matches and sporting activities, could recommence for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people sitting.
The regulations will be reviewed again on 15 July.
Meanwhile, some technical amendments are being made to the rules now to make them easier for people to understand.
These include 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, which will be determined by the venue’s size.
And small grassroots music and comedy venues will be able to operate on the same basis as hospitality venues.
The pause on lifting more restrictions in Wales comes after the prime minister announced on Monday the final stage of England’s lockdown roadmap would be delayed.
Boris Johnson had planned to lift all restrictions on 21 June but that has now been put back until 19 July due to a spike in infections.