Welsh Government has confirmed that new pandemic rules will be in place from 6pm on Friday 4 December 2020 across Wales along with a £340m package of business support.
Designed to stop the spread of coronavirus following a recent increase in positive cases, the new measures will require pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes to stop serving alcohol entirely. They must also close by 6pm, although they can still provide takeaway services.
With indoor entertainment and visitor attractions such as cinemas, bingo halls, soft play centres and amusement arcades also set to close until further notice, £340m is being made available to support businesses affected by the new changes.
This will be divided between 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.
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.
The sector-specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme will support hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses that meet the criteria could receive varying packages of support, with the maximum level being set as up to £100,000. Similarly, larger Welsh-based businesses could receive funding support up to a maximum limit of £150,000.
Commenting on the new arrangements, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “Unfortunately, the virus is moving incredibly quickly across Wales, 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.”
The Leader, Cllr Huw David, said: “Across Wales, it is estimated that around 60,000 businesses with a rateable value of under £150,000 will benefit from the restrictions fund, and that the resilience fund will support up to 8,000 businesses and a further 2,000 within related supply chains.
“More information about the funding and how it can be accessed will be published on the Business Wales and council websites in coming days.
“The council is currently awaiting instructions on how the grants should be processed. Once this is known, we will implement them and ensure that businesses can receive this support as quickly and as efficiently as possible.”
“It is also essential for us to help fight the spread of the virus by thinking twice about our own actions, and to take basic precautions to help limit the chance of exposure.
“Maintain social distancing and hand hygiene procedures, and wear a mask where required. If you develop a high temperature, a new persistent cough or a loss or change in your sense of taste or smell, arrange to have a test and start self-isolating.
“A drive-through mobile testing facility remains available seven days a week between 9am-5pm in the Bowls Hall car park of Bridgend Life Centre until further notice.
“To use this facility, you will need to book an appointment in advance by visiting the Welsh Government website, and you can also find out more about the alternative ways in which you can obtain a Covid-19 test at the coronavirus page of the Welsh Government website or by calling 119.
“We are at a crucial stage of the pandemic, and how we behave now will determine whether further restrictions are required, so please, do all that you can to keep yourself, your friends and your family safe.”
New financial package announced for businesses
A new package of financial assistance has been announced by Welsh Government for businesses affected by further restrictions being placed on the hospitality and leisure sectors.
It includes funding for tourism, leisure and hospitality businesses.
It follows new restrictions announced by Welsh Government that from 6pm on Friday, pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to serve alcohol. After 6pm they will only be able to provide takeaway services.
From the same date, indoor entertainment venues, including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, soft play centres, casinos, skating rinks and amusement arcades, must close.
Indoor visitor attractions, such as museums, galleries and heritage sites will also have to close. Outdoor visitor attractions will remain open.
The new Welsh Government 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 be delivered by local authorities. As part of the new package:
- Businesses with a rateable value of £12,000 or less and materially impacted as a result of the restrictions will receive a payment of £3,000.
- Tourism, leisure and hospitality businesses and their supply chains with a rateable value of between £12,001 and £150,000 and materially impacted by the restrictions will receive a payment of £5,000.
- Discretionary grants of up to £2,000 will continue to be available for those not on the non-domestic rating list.
- Discretionary grants of up to £2,000 will continue to be available for those not on the rates database and below the VAT threshold.
Further details on the grant application process and fund launch dates will be publicised on the Bridgend County Borough Council website and social media accounts as soon as they become available.
In addition, a sector specific Economic Resilience Fund grant scheme will be targeted at hospitality, tourism and leisure businesses and will provide varying-sized grants of up to a maximum level of £100,000 for SMEs and £150,000 for larger businesses.
These grants will be linked to the number of people employed and their operating costs. It will be delivered through Business Wales. More information about the funding and how it can be accessed will be published on the Business Wales website in the coming days.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said the new restrictions were needed to focus on the places “where we meet and where coronavirus thrives, drawing on the recent evidence from the UK SAGE group of experts about what interventions have the biggest impact on the virus”.
Economy Minister Ken Skates said: “These are incredibly difficult days for businesses and these decisions have not been taken lightly.
“We expect today’s £340m announcement to support tens of thousands of businesses and help protect many more jobs and livelihoods. It must also be remembered that UK Government support is also available to businesses.
“We will continue to do everything we can to support our firms and our people through these challenging times.”
The Leader, Cllr Huw David, said: “We are acutely aware of the pressure that businesses in the hospitality and leisure sector are under, and all the efforts they have gone to over the last few months as they continue to adapt to new regulations brought in to help keep people safe.
“We are currently waiting for details of how the grants will be administered, so please be assured we will do our best to get them out to businesses before Christmas.”
Welsh Government said it will formally review the restrictions by December 17 and then every three weeks.