Pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes in Wales will have to close by 6pm and will not be allowed to sell alcohol, the Welsh government has said, under restrictions to come into place from 6pm on Friday.
Indoor entertainments such as cinemas, bingo halls, soft play areas and casinos will also have to close.
The Welsh first minister, Mark Drakeford, said the facts behind the new regime were “stark”. He said that unless the government responded now it had been advised that by 12 January there would be 2,200 people in hospital in Wales with Covid and between 1,000 and 1,700 preventable deaths could take place this winter.
The decision to put stricter restrictions on hospitality across the country has been criticised by the Conservatives in Wales and is causing huge concern to owners of bars, pubs and restaurants.
Sam Rowlands, the Tory leader of Conwy council in north Wales, said it was “draconian” to impose the same restrictions in areas like his with one of the lowest rates of the virus in the UK as in places in south Wales, which have much higher levels.
In a letter to the first minister, Rowlands said: “I’m very disappointed to hear that you’re not looking to take into account any regional variance of the risk of the virus with restrictions you are considering in the lead-up to Christmas.
“There is not any significant concern with this sector as any spread of the virus we are currently seeing is through household transmission.”
Andrew RT Davies, the Conservative health spokesman in the Senedd, described a “blanket” nationwide approach as “unnecessary and unfair”.
Cinemas, bowling alleys and other indoor entertainment venues are also to close again under the new rules.
Drakeford has previously conceded it may have been better to have imposed stricter curbs following the country’s 17-day “firebreak” lockdown, which began in October.
He argued the firebreak reduced Covid infection rates but said that since it was lifted there had been a steady rise in the number of cases, especially among under-25s.
At the end of last week, the “R” number was believed to be as high as 1.4 and the NHS in Wales was described by the government as being under “sustained pressure” with more than 1,700 people with coronavirus in hospital.
Drakeford has said he cannot rule out further measures before and after Christmas but that for now non-essential shops, hairdressers, gyms and leisure centres would be allowed to remain open.
Pubs, bars and restaurants in the country had only reopened on 9 November after the firebreak and have been closing at 10pm.