A review of the Level 4 lockdown restrictions in Wales is due to be held this week, but First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned that there is not “much headroom for change”.
The restrictions, which has seen people being told to stay at home and avoid all but essential travel, have been in place since Sunday, December 20 and are reviewed every three weeks.
All non-essential shops, gyms and hospitality were also told to close.
Ministers are to review restrictions this Thursday ahead of an announcement on Friday, January 8. It is likely that not much will change, and with the next review not for another three weeks it means the lockdown could extend to the end of January.
But Mark Drakeford said in a BBC interview that it was “very hard to see where the room for manoeuvre is at the moment” with the NHS “under huge pressure”.
Coronavirus is still spreading in Wales with the latest figures on Sunday showing another 4,011 new cases of Covid-19 along with another 56 deaths.
Mr Drakeford said there could be some tweaks “at the margins” but no wholesale changes because “it’s difficult to see what more could be done”.
He also said the Welsh Government was unlikely to tighten restrictions despite the emergence of a new more contagious variant of the virus.
“We’ll keep our plans under review but level four restrictions in Wales are very strict indeed and it’s difficult to see what more could be done to them,” he said.
“If they need to be tweaked at the margins to take account of the new variation that’s what the cabinet here will consider.”
Meanwhile, a new national lockdown looks likely to be imposed across England as the Government was accused by Labour of letting coronavirus “get out of control”.
As events developed rapidly, the Daily Mail reported the Government’s key “Covid-O” committee that oversees restrictions was expected to meet on Monday, January 4 to decide changes to the coronavirus regime.
The newspaper quoted a Government source as saying ministers were looking at putting even more areas of England into the toughest Tier 4, which already covers a total of 44 million people – or 78% of the population – after changes which came into effect on Thursday, December 31.
Plans for a return of shielding for vulnerable people in England are being drawn up by the Government, The Daily Telegraph reported.
After Prime Minister Boris Johnson signalled tougher restrictions would be brought in within weeks, pressure mounted on the Government to act far more swiftly as Labour demanded a lockdown within hours.
Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer accused the Prime Minister of presiding over a “chaotic” response to the coronavirus pandemic as he insisted on new restrictions immediately to try to regain control of the situation.
In response to the comments, a Number 10 source said: “The Prime Minister has been consistently clear that we are driven by the need to protect the NHS and save lives – unlike Labour who have spent the last ten months playing party politics.
“We have moved more areas into Tier 4 to bear down on the new variant and escalated other areas into Tier 3. This targeted approach is the right one, and is kept under review based on the latest data.”
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Mr Johnson said coronavirus restrictions in England were “probably about to get tougher” due to rising infection rates.
The Prime Minister told the BBC: “It may be that we need to do things in the next few weeks that will be tougher in many parts of the country.
“I’m fully, fully reconciled to that.
“There are obviously a range of tougher measures that we would have to consider.”
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk