A leading scientist has warned that the new strain of coronavirus has the potential of impacting education and increasing restrictions in day to day life.
In Wales, children will return to school on a staggered basis after the Christmas break.
Online learning will continue at the beginning of term, with schools expected to provide face-to-face learning for the majority of pupils by January 11.
By January 18, a full return to the classroom is expected.
Andrew Hayward, professor of infectious diseases epidemiology at University College London, said the rise in cases was “very largely driven” by the new, more infectious variant of coronavirus, and suggested that allowing pupils to return to schools would mean stricter restrictions in other areas of society.
“We’ve had control measures that were previously controlling the old variant are not enough for this variant.”
“And so if we want to control the new variant we are going to need much tighter restrictions.”
Prof Hayward said he thought schools would have to return “maybe a little bit later” but that it would mean “we’re going to have to have increased, strict restrictions in other areas of society to pay for that”.
“We need to be more or less in a similar sort of messages of stay at home unless you really, really have to, so there’s that combined with incentivisation of testing, incentivisation of isolation – those sorts of things that will carry us through the next few months while we get as many people as possible vaccinated.”
Speaking before Christmas, Dr Chris Jones, deputy chief medical officer for Wales, said the new strain was spreading quickly across Wales.
He said: “We have seen a number of mutations since the SARS-Cov-2 virus was first identified in Wuhan just over a year ago.
“This new strain of the coronavirus is concerning.
“This new strain appears to be much more infectious than the strain which originated in Wuhan and is more easily transmitted from person to person.