Wales is going into a ‘coronavirus firebreak lockdown’ this week and there are a whole load of new rules you need to know about.
If you fancied popping over the border for October half-term, then we’re afraid we have some bad news for you.
Due to the new restrictions, there will be strict travelling rules coming into place in the country, which include people who live in England who want to visit.
The new restrictions will apply in Wales starting from 6pm on Friday (October 23), until the start of Monday November 9, 2020.
A firebreak lockdown is a short, sharp ‘firebreak’, which will introduced across Wales at the end of this week to help regain control of coronavirus.
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It is being done because the Welsh government believes fortnight-long action is needed to save lives and prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed.
Cases of coronavirus have been rising sharply in Wales. Between October 9 and 15, there were 4,127 new confirmed cases of coronavirus recorded by Public Health Wales, based on positive test results, but the real level of infections will be much higher.
The number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus symptoms is growing daily and sadly so too are the number of people dying with the virus.
The R number is currently between 1.1 and 1.4, meaning continued exponential growth in the number of cases and the seven-day rolling incidence rate for Wales stands at more than 130 cases per 100,000 population.
What does this mean for travelling in and around Wales?
Travel is limited to essential travel only, for example, for caring responsibilities or for work purposes where people cannot work from home.
You can’t go on holiday in Wales, nor the rest of the UK for that matter if you currently live in Wales.
The Welsh Government is advising that if you have pre-booked – and paid for a holiday – they would advise you to contact the travel agent or travel company to discuss the current situation in Wales and the restrictions which have been put in place by the Welsh Government to restrict non-essential travel.
You should also contact your travel insurer to discuss the situation – while many insurers have designed policies with coronavirus exclusion clauses, some annual policies may cover this situation.
If you live in Wales, this also means that travelling abroad is only permitted for people with a reasonable excuse.
However if you live in the country and would want to pick someone up from the airport to stay with you and the only alternative would be for them to use public transport or a taxi then you can go and get them.
Hotels will be closed, unless operating under the request of the Welsh Government or a Local Authority. Such services would primarily be for the provision of emergency accommodation for people who are homeless or key workers provided under contract to the Local Authority or a Health body.
I do not live in Wales – can I transit through Wales, for example to use the airport or to pass between England and Ireland?
Yes, this is permitted, but you should keep all necessary stops within Wales to a minimum, and minimise all contact with people as much as possible.
You also cannot travel to your second home during the lockdown.
Travelling in Wales without a reasonable excuse during the circuit breaker lockdown period is an offence.
Travelling into, out of or within Wales to visit, check/inspect or stay in a second home is not a reasonable excuse.
The government website also dictates you can only go to funerals if you are invited and must not partake in or organise a wake or any other form of gathering following a funeral.
However you can go to a cemetery to visit a family member’s grave but should ensure you follow physical distancing practices when doing so.
What will happen if you break these rules?
The restrictions are being enforced by local authority environmental health officers and the police.
They can issue fixed penalty notices or recommend prosecution in a magistrates’ court. In addition, they have wide-ranging powers to take practical steps to disperse gatherings, require people to go home and enter property.
If reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus aren’t taken on premises or in the workplace then local authority enforcement officers are now able to issue a “premises improvement notice”.
This requires the person responsible for the premises to take specified measures, and if those measures are not taken an officer may issue a “premises closure notice” requiring the premises to close. Where necessary, an officer may also issue a premises closure notice without having previously issued a premises improvement notice.
So if people don’t comply premises can be closed down.
What will the police do?
Police in Wales will engage with people, explain what they need to do and encourage them to comply. But police forces have been given powers and they will use them – the restrictions will be enforced if people don’t respond.
The coronavirus regulations include provisions for a fixed penalty notice to be issued for most types of breaches of the regulations, carrying a fine of £60; this is increased to £120 for a second offence and continues to double for repeated offences, up to a maximum of £1,920. If prosecuted, however, a court can impose any fine (it is not limited).
Organising an unlicensed music event of more than 30 people is a separate criminal offence. These are events that are not licensed or otherwise authorised under the Licensing Act 2003. A breach of this prohibition will be an offence punishable by conviction and an unlimited fine or, as an alternative to conviction, by a fixed penalty set at £10,000.
The unlimited fine or significant fixed penalty for organisers of these illegal events reflects the potentially serious public health consequences at this time.
To read more on the coronavirus firebreak restrictions and how they will affect people living in and out of Wales, click here.
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