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Wales travel restrictions to end and tourism to return in July, says Drakeford

Wales plans to end its five-mile restriction on travel next month and allow holidaymakers to return a week later, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said tourism businesses have three weeks to prepare for the potential changes, which will allow the use of self-contained accommodation such as caravans and cottages.

On Friday, Mr Drakeford said the further headroom to lift restrictions has been created by the efforts of the public to bring coronavirus under control in Wales, where the R number shows Covid-19 is receding at a faster rate than in England.

He said that at the height of the pandemic, one in every 1,000 people in Wales was “probably infectious”, but that has now dropped to one in 10,000 or lower.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

It means Monday will also see the reopening of all non-essential shops as long as they can comply with social distancing measures, while the housing market will also resume, and more outdoor individual activities such as tennis will be allowed for the first time since lockdown.

Private prayer in places of worship with social distancing can also take place from Monday, with childcare facilities available on a phased basis to support people returning to work.

Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government’s daily press briefing the five-mile “stay local” requirement would end on July 6 if transmissions continue to fall, but warned that “coronavirus is not over”.

He said: “On July 6, we will lift the requirements to stay local, provided the evidence at the time continues to support this.

“This means we are asking the people of Wales to stay local to keep Wales safe for two more weeks.

“The reason we’re doing that is simple, coronavirus is not over. Every day, people are being infected.”

Mr Drakeford said that though fines would remain in place for people breaching the travel rule during the next two weeks, a “significant change” in the regulations meant that people would be able to travel beyond their local area for “compassionate reasons” including to visit sick relatives.

He added: “We are now making concerted steps to resume something approaching a new normal while living alongside coronavirus.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

“This public health crisis is not yet over. Through all our efforts, we have succeeded in bringing the fire of coronavirus under control. But that fire is not yet out.”

Mr Drakeford said tourism and visitor sectors could now plan to welcome people for when the “stay local” requirement is lifted, meaning businesses can begin to take bookings for the week beginning July 13, though he warned it would “have to be at their own risk” should the plan be scrapped.

Holidaymakers will be restricted to self-contained accommodation, including caravans with their own kitchen and bathroom, cottages, and hotels and bed and breakfasts that are en-suite and provide room service meals.

Hairdressers were also given notice that they should use the next three weeks to prepare for services to resume by appointment only and with safeguards in place.

Wales is currently the only UK nation not to have “bubble” arrangements in place, but Mr Drakeford said the government has been considering allowing households to form a bubble and could announce a decision on that before the next review period of the regulations in three weeks.

This is likely to involve a single household “bubbling” with another household to give relief to people who have been “particularly isolated” as a result of the coronavirus restrictions.

Responding to the announcement, Welsh Secretary Simon Hart praised Mr Drakeford for bringing the country in closer alignment to the other UK nations, and said the plans provided clarity for businesses and people in Wales.

He said: “There continue to be more similarities than differences in the approaches of the different administrations of the UK and I look forward to further collaboration with the Welsh Government on helping all sectors of our economy to bounce back.”

The leader of the Senedd’s Welsh Conservatives, Paul Davies MS, said Mr Drakeford had “woken up” to the need to publish a timetable for lifting of restrictions, but said the five-mile rule should have been lifted sooner.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow health minister Rhun ap Iorwerth MS said people and businesses needed a “longer-term view” of future plans rather than the current two and three-week block being provided.

Meanwhile, Public Health Wales said a further four people had died after testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths to 1,475, while the total number of cases there increased by 31 to 15,001.

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