WALES is likely to remain in a strict lockdown until the second half of February at least, with the room for any easing of restrictions before then "really quite limited", according to the Chief Medical Officer.

Case numbers and rates have fallen significantly across Wales during January, but remain too high - and the death rate, the numbers of people in hospital in Wales with coronavirus, and the potential effects of new, more infectious variants, are major causes for concern.

And CMO Dr Frank Atherton has said that getting children back to some form of face to face learning will be a key priority come the time when restrictions can begin to be reined in.

Asked when it might be that restrictions can start to be eased, and to what extent, Dr Atherton - speaking at the Welsh Government's coronavirus briefing - said First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce the findings of the next lockdown review this Friday, January 29.

Dr Atherton said he did not want to "pre-empt" what Mr Drakeford will say, but it is clear that Wales is set to retain the strict lockdown conditions that have been in force, Christmas Day aside, since December 20.

"The headroom [for easing restrictions] is really quite limited at the moment," he said.


After this week's review, the next will be in mid-February, with its findings due to be made public on February 19.

That will be after the target for completing first dose vaccinations of the top four priority groups in Wales and the rest of the UK, and at the end of the half term school break.

Dr Atherton said that as always, factors such as community transmission, NHS capacity, and the progress of the vaccination programme, will be among those considered at that review.

And he added that whenever a move can be made towards easing restrictions, moving children from blended and online learning to some form of face to face learning, will be a priority.