THE 'firebreak' lockdown is beginning to have an effect on the number of people in Wales needing hospital beds for coronavirus, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said rates of community transmission were already slowing down, but this needed to translate into reduced numbers of people needing hospital and critical-care treatment.

"We're seeing the first signs of the growth of people in hospital beds reducing, and bed numbers stabilising," he told BBC 4 Radio's Today programme this morning.

The news comes nearly three weeks after the Wales-wide 'firebreak' restrictions ended - at the time of that lockdown, ministers said it would be 2-3 weeks before the effects were noticeable.

“[Cases] have fallen every day for the last 10 days - so right across Wales we’ve seen the incidence rate going down, we’ve seen the positivity rate going down," he said.


In Merthyr Tydfil, Mr Drakeford said the rate of infections had fallen from 760 per 100,000 people to below 260.

The First Minister was asked about Scotland - Merthyr's infection rate is higher than areas of Scotland where new restrictions are being imposed, he was told.

"Our rates are falling, and their rates are rising - I think that's the key difference there," he said. "Up until yesterday, we'd seen a fall day-by-day, and we're hoping that will continue for a bit longer.

"It's inevitable... that when you relax restrictions, the figures will go back up again.

"Our aim is to persuade people in Wales to act responsibly and sensibly now, so we sustain the benefits of the 'fire break' as long as we can."

Mr Drakeford said the aim of the 'fire break' was to "get a path through to Christmas" that would not require further restrictions.

He was also asked about the chances of agreeing a 'four nation' approach to coronavirus rules for Christmas.

Mr Drakeford said he remained "hopeful" of an agreement and made a common approach to travel his top priority for the next round of talks with the UK government and the other devolved administrations.