Wales' lockdown restrictions are to be tightened and the period they cover extended, Mark Drakeford will reveal today.

The First Minister will also tell the country that schools are now unlikely to return to face-to-face learning for all pupils until the February half term, after the initial set of new restrictions failed to put a lid on the spread of the coronavirus.

Mr Drakeford will warn that the new strain of Covid, which experts say is up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original virus, has now taken a firm foothold in Wales – citing North Wales in particular.

Wales will remain at Alert Level Four following the announcement, which is due to take place this lunchtime (Friday, January 8).

And unless there is a significant reduction in cases by 29 January – the date of the next three-week review of the regulations – school and college students will continue to learn online until the February half term.

All the existing measures will remain in place, including the ongoing closure of non-essential retail, hospitality venues, licensed premises and leisure facilities.

The additional measures

However, the measures will be strengthened to close all showrooms. They will still be able to operate click and collect arrangements.

The Welsh Government is also reviewing whether major supermarkets and retailers need to put additional measures in place to protect people in store and what else employers need to do to protect people in the workplace and support people to work from home.

What did the First Minister say?

Mr Drakeford said: “The coronavirus pandemic has reached a significant point. Cases in Wales remain very high and our NHS is under real and sustained pressure.

“The alert level four restrictions we introduced before Christmas must remain in place to keep us all safe. To slow the spread of the virus, we all must stay at home to protect the NHS and save lives.

“These feel like dark times but the new Covid-19 vaccines are being rolled out across Wales, giving us a path out of this pandemic.

“It will take a huge effort to vaccinate everyone and, despite the end of this pandemic being in sight, it is more important than ever that we follow the rules and stay at home. We have made so many sacrifices together and we mustn’t stop now.”

The First Minister is reminding people that in the current lockdown people must:

• Stay at home.

• Work from home if you can.

• Keep a 2m distance from others.

• Wear a face covering in all indoor public places.

• Not meet anyone outside your immediate household or support bubble.

The First Minister added: “This new strain adds a new and unwelcome dimension to the pandemic.

“Wherever there’s mixing; wherever people come together, the new strain is spreading – it is highly transmissible and spreads very quickly from person to person.

“We all must stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives. Together, we will keep Wales safe.”