'The Welsh Government must look again at these unfair and very damaging restrictions'

Back in October, when announcing Wales would enter a two-week firebreak lockdown, the First Minister said: “This firebreak is our best chance of regaining control of the virus and avoiding a much longer, and damaging, national lockdown.”

By his own standard, it is clear the firebreak failed to deliver the anticipated results.

So the First Minister’s announcement of further draconian lockdown measures in the run up the Christmas have been met with disappointment and dismay.

Once again, it is the hospitality sector that bears the brunt of the Welsh Government’s attempt to control the spread of the virus.

Pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve meals but will not be allowed to serve alcohol. They also have to close at 6pm except for takeaway services.

I totally understand the need to get the infection rate down in south east Wales.

Gwent recorded the highest number of coronavirus cases in Wales recently, according to data published by Public Health Wales.

The incidence rate in Blaenau Gwent is higher than anywhere else in the country, with Torfaen and Newport not far behind.

However, I fail to see how banning the sale of alcohol in pubs and restaurants where people can have a meal together is going to be an effective weapon against the spread of the virus.

Pubs and restaurants have made great efforts to keep customers safe by enforcing social distancing, using hand sanitisers and keeping contact details for track and trace.

Now they are being penalised as people will buy their alcohol in supermarkets, and drink at home.

This leads to the possibility that they will do so in social gatherings that exceed Welsh Government guidelines with the risk of spreading the virus.

If this happens, then it will result in a further spike in cases. The very outcome the Welsh Government is so keen to avoid.

These regulations are devastating for the pub and restaurant industry and past experience of Welsh Government funding support does not inspire much confidence in their efficiency or effectiveness.

I have been contacted by numerous businesses in my region who were angry and frustrated at the inadequate time allowed for firms to complete the paperwork to enable them to make an application for financial support when their firms were impacted by the firebreak.

The Welsh Government must look again at these unfair and very damaging restrictions.

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