First Minister Mark Drakeford has hinted at the possibility of a “very modest” further easing of lockdown restrictions next week.
So far the only change seen this year is the expected return of children in the foundation phase of primary school from February 22.
Mark Drakeford, speaking at the Welsh Government’s press conference on Friday afternoon, said his aim was to restore freedoms in a careful and cautious way that will not put the safety of the public at risk.
Wales’ lockdown is next set to be reviewed by the Welsh Government on Friday, February 19. Until then we remain in coronavirus alert level four – the highest risk category.
But could anything significant change next week, and what might it be?
Last year, a number of lockdown restrictions were announced in phases.
Here, we take a look at the options the Welsh Government might have ahead of any announcement next week.
Five Mile Rule
In May 2020, Mark Drakeford introduced the five mile rule. It meant you were able to travel five miles from your home to meet loved ones.
People were allowed to drive to play golf, take part in angling, or enjoy watersports, but only if it was local to them. Driving beyond five miles to take part in such pursuits was not allowed.
At the time, Mr Drakeford, said: “A five mile distance….is a rule of thumb for people to apply to their own particular geography. By staying local you are helping to keep Wales safe.”
However, many took advantage of this rule as Wales saw hundreds gather at beauty spots, with Mr Drakeford threatening to impose tougher restrictions as a result of some of the scenes.
The rule was lifted on July 6 with people allowed to travel anywhere in Wales.
The rules you have to adhere to over coronavirus:
Non essential shops
New lockdown measures could see non-essential shops re-open, as long as retailers ensure social distancing laws are being followed.
It has caused a number of independent traders and businesses to close.
Last year, retailers were busy implementing new signage, hand sanitisers and extra security among their measures.
However, the rules which were announced in May, meant that shoppers would have to remain local, staying within five miles of their home.
Sports centres and gyms
Re-opening gyms and leisure centres is set to be one of the first things the Welsh Government will consider when lockdown restrictions are next eased.
All gyms, fitness and leisure centres in Wales have been closed since December 20, when the country entered a new lockdown.
Swimming pools, sports courts, enclosed pitches and golf courses are also currently closed under the current restrictions.
Speaking at a recent Welsh Government press conference, Eluned Morgan, the Welsh Government’s mental health, wellbeing, and Welsh language minister, said: “We absolutely recognise the amazing difference that keeping fit can have on someone’s mental health.
“That’s why we were actually really reluctant to close down gyms, that’s why when we re-open, it will be one of the first things that we try and consider.
“Of course we have a very clear pathway now for what gets re-opened and when so gyms are very much in the early opening areas that we would like to focus on.”
At alert level 3 you must:
- Follow social distancing rules with people you don’t live with or who are not in your exclusive extended household.
- Wear a face covering (if you are able to) in all indoor public places.
- Only form an extended household with no more than 1 other household and they should stay the same.
- Not meet with anyone in a private home other than those you live with or your extended household.
- Meet no more than 3 other people indoors in a cafe, restaurant or other open premises.
- Meet only your extended household in private gardens.
- Meet no more than 3 other people outdoors (unless with extended household of a larger number).
- Work from home if you can.
- Not travel to areas of high prevalence without reasonable excuse.
- Avoid travel to areas of low prevalence and international travel.
What can open at alert level 3
- Schools, colleges and childcare providers.
- Higher Education Institutions (mix of in-person and remote learning).
- Licenced premises – sales only (alcohol cannot be drunk on the premises, only taken away). Hospitality businesses close at 6pm, off licenses to stop selling alcohol at 10pm.
- Non-essential retail.
- Close contact services.
- Hospitality (no alcohol for consumption on premises. Open between 6am and 6pm, and for takeaway after 6pm).
- Holiday accommodation.
- Leisure and fitness facilities.
- Places of worship.
- Community centres.
- Libraries and archive services.
- Sport courts, golf courses.
- Playgrounds and public parks.
- Organised indoor activities (up to 15 people).
- Organised outdoor activities (up to 30 people).
- International Travel.
- Weddings in venues that are allowed to be open, and funerals (ceremony limit set by venue).
- Wedding reception or wakes, in venues that are allowed to be open, (15 people indoors, 30 outdoors).
What must be closed at alert level 3
- Venues for events and conferences.
- Theatres and concert halls.
- Indoor and outdoor visitor attractions.
- Entertainment venues.
- Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.
In July, 2020, Mark Drakeford told holiday businesses to get prepared for his next announcement on lifting restrictions in three week’s time.
From July 13, he said, people were likely to be able to go on holidays:
- to a static caravan with its own kitchen and toilet
- to a rented cottage
- to a hotel that has turned itself into self-contained accommodation
Mark Drakeford today spoke about the “pathway to opening society” by the spring as cases in Wales continue to fall, and the vaccination programme hits the first target.
He was then asked what he meant by the spring, and said: “We have got Easter at the beginning of April this year, and it is always an important time for our tourism and hospitality industries.
“We have been talking with them about what might be possible around the Easter period. But it is all very much caveated that the current progress that is being made can continue and it is lifted in a careful and cautious way.
“Easter is amongst the dates we are using in our conversations with businesses and people in Wales.”
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Hairdressers and salons
One of the measures people must follow in level 4 restrictions is the closure of “close contact services”, which includes hairdressers and beauty salons.
Similar to last year, it meant that, like during the firebreak lockdown in late October and early November when hairdressers had to close their doors, all close contact businesses have been required to shut since the end of trading on December 24.
Hairdressers and salons in Wales will be permitted to re-open once the level is lowered to alert level three, which is classed as “high risk”.
Pubs, cafes and restaurants
It was in July last year that pubs, cafes and restaurants were allowed to re-open, but only outdoors.
It saw people return in numbers to businesses with outdoor areas, but for others it was not possible.
We also saw the creation of special al fresco dining areas where people could sit and order from a range of restaurants.
Hospitality may re-open if Wales returns to alert level 3, but with alcohol sales banned except for takeaway and with all premises having to close at 6pm.
-- to www.walesonline.co.uk