The lockdown in Wales has been extended by three weeks, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed in a video message.
Despite some positive signs, Mr Drakeford said it was “still too early to change course”.
He said ministers from all four UK nations had agreed the do the same – pushing the restrictions into May.
Welsh ministers had already announced the lockdown would be extended last week, but not by how long.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab made the same announcement for England in a press conference at Downing Street.
Under the restrictions you may only leave home for a limited set of reasons, which include:
- to obtain essentials, such as food and medicine
- for exercise, once a day
- for work, if you cannot work from home
Breaches of the lockdown can be fined by the police. In Wales they range between £60 for a first offence and £120 for subsequent offences. Third and further fines do not double in value, as in England.
Senior ministers from Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the UK government discussed the lockdown at a meeting of Cobra on Thursday.
In his video message, Mr Drakeford said each of the ministers “confirmed our decisions that the current restrictions on movement to protect the NHS and so to save lives, should continue for another three weeks”.
He said this was based on expert scientific analysis of the latest data on the coronavirus outbreak.
‘Many lives are still at stake’
The first minister said he knew the last three weeks had been difficult for many people.
But he said: “While there are some positive signs in the data, it is still too early to change course.”
“Many lives are still at stake and too many families have already lost loved ones.”
Mr Drakeford added: “I am clear that we cannot risk throwing away all the sacrifices we have made here in Wales over the last few weeks by lifting the restrictions too soon.”
While the UK government and the three devolved governments are working together on the lockdown measures, the rules are run on a per-country basis.
The Welsh Government has its own lockdown legislation, which is broadly the same as elsewhere but has small differences, including measures on social distancing in the workplace.
Welsh Conservative leader Paul Davies said: “The governments’ scientific and health advisors have been faced with some enormously difficult decisions to make.
“But based on the scientific data available, and the number of cases of coronavirus, this really is the only sensible and safe approach to take at the moment.”
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Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the lockdown restrictions across the UK “will only be lifted when all home nations agree to it”.
“The lockdown should not be lifted if Wales has not yet seen its peak,” he said.
Foreign secretary Mr Raab told the daily No 10 briefing that a review had concluded relaxing the measures now would risk harming public health and the economy.
“We still don’t have the infection rate down as far as we need to,” he said.
The announcement came as a former consultant at Public Health Wales warned of “dramatic” long-term effects on people’s health from the economic impact of the lockdown.
Prior to Thursday’s announcement, Dr Roland Salmon, a retired medical epidemiologist, said: “I don’t think it’s clear that the lockdown has worked.”
“If we see the press conferences in 10 Downing Street every afternoon, we see people looking at the graph and telling us that there are green shoots – but the green shoots never seem to quite turn into flowers.”
He said when life expectancy, health inequalities and well-being are weighed up, “the health price that we’ll have to pay in the future may well be more than the benefit that we are getting now.”