Children in Wales have been urged to stay at home and keep away from their friends in order to stop the coronavirus epidemic spreading.

Education minister Kirsty Williams made a direct plea to children and young people saying they were not powerless and had an important role to play in protecting the most vulnerable from catching Covid-19.

Across the country, 12 people have died after developing coronavirus and a further 347 have tested positive for the virus.

Ms Williams spoke out as people flocked to tourist spots across Wales at the weekend, which has caused widespread condemnation for flouting guidance on social distancing and staying at home.

"My message to children is that I understand that the weather has turned after a really rotten winter and ironically we seem to have had the best weather for many, many months," she said.

"I know you want to be outside and hanging around and playing outside with your friends.

"I am really sorry but you cannot do that in these circumstances and my appeal to all children and young people is to please keep yourself safe by staying at home, playing in your garden and not mixing with your friends at this time.

"I know that is hard to do but we need you to do it to keep other people in your family and in your community well.

"You as children are not powerless in this situation, you as children have the power to help us slow the spread of this disease and you can do that by staying at home and finding different ways of communicating with your friends."

Ms Williams said this meant no socialising with friends, no sleepovers and no playdates.

Speaking at a press conference in Cardiff, the minister also refused to rule out a complete lockdown across Wales and said the Welsh Government would continue to be guided by its scientific advisers.

"This Government will take all necessary steps to ensure we get through this crisis," she said.

"People don't need to wait for the Government to actually enforce that.

"This Government has been absolutely crystal clear with people about their responsibilities at this time.

"People should stay at home wherever possible; they should practise self-isolation if that is the public health guidance for their particular set of circumstances and people need to socially distance.

"At the end of this people will need to look themselves in the mirror to know they did the right thing."

Across the country, local authorities have begun closing parks and play areas and Ms Williams said the scenes at various popular tourist spots over the weekend could not be repeated.

"It has been extremely, extremely concerning to see the large numbers of people travelling to Pen y Fan, for instance, but also in my own constituency to Ystradfellte and the waterfalls country," she said.

"I understand what we are asking of people is unprecedented and it goes against all our instincts.

"But let me be absolutely clear to everybody - this is our new reality and it will continue for a considerable amount of time.

"People need to stay at home. The Welsh Government is absolutely clear - make journeys only if it is absolutely essential.

"I can tell you that it is not essential to be in Pen y Fan this weekend or today.

"I would say to the people who are considering going out and about, you would never in normal circumstances entertain harming another citizen.

"But let's be absolutely clear, if you carry on doing these things, you are in danger of harming other people, harming yourself, harming your family and harming those NHS workers that we will all depend on."