THE stay-at-home restrictions will be replaced by a new interim stay local rule in Wales from tomorrow (Saturday 13 March) as part of a package of measures, beginning the process of unlocking the strict coronavirus regulations, First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced.
The return of children to face-to-face learning in school will continue to be prioritised but there will also be a gradual and phased approach to relaxing restrictions in other parts of society.
The new stay local rule will mean people can leave their homes and travel within their local area – usually within five miles. Local outdoor sports facilities will also be opened.
The five-mile rule of thumb will be set out in guidance – people living in some parts of Wales, especially rural areas, may need to travel further than five miles to access shops and other public services.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“Thanks to the fantastic efforts everyone has made, we can make some changes to the current restrictions, which will be phased in over the coming weeks.
“The number of cases of coronavirus continues to fall overall; the pressure on our NHS is easing and our vaccine programme continues to go from strength to strength.
“But the very clear advice we have is that the virus has not gone away – the highly infectious Kent variant is the dominant strain in Wales and as soon as we start to mix again, the virus will come too.
“With every step we take to return to a more normal life, we are responsible for what happens next. While we will welcome more freedom to move around locally and meet with family and friends, we cannot afford to let down our guard.”
From Saturday 13 March:
- No more than four people from two households will be able to meet in their local area outdoors, including in gardens. Children under 11 and carers do not count towards this limit. There must be no indoors mixing and social distancing should be followed.
- Outdoor sports facilities can reopen, including tennis courts, golf courses and bowling greens. A maximum of four people from two households can take part in activities using local sports facilities.
- Indoor care home visits can resume for one designated visitor, with the permission of the care home.
From Monday 15 March:
- All primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring in year 10 and 12 pupils, to support them to progress to the next stage of their learning, and more learners will return to colleges. There will also be flexibility for in-school check-ins for all other pupils. All learners will return after the Easter break.
- Hairdressers and barbers can reopen by appointment only to cut hair.
From Monday 22 March:
- The first steps to re-open non-essential retail will begin. Restrictions on the sale of non-essential items will be lifted for those shops, which are currently open.
- Garden centres will also reopen.
An additional £150m will be available to support businesses to the end of March, which are not yet able to open.
The extra funding will see businesses in the hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail sectors that pay non-domestic rates qualify for an additional payment of up to £5,000.
During the third week of the review period, we will take stock of the latest evidence before confirming changes for the Easter holidays. If the public health conditions continue to be favourable, from 27 March:
- The stay local restrictions will be lifted to allow people to travel within Wales.
- Self-contained holiday accommodation will re-open for one household.
- Organised children’s activities outdoors will restart.
- Libraries will reopen.
The review on 1st April will consider whether all remaining shops and close contact services can reopen on the 12th April. This is in line with planned re-opening in England.
First Minister Mark Drakeford added:
“We need everyone’s help as we start to unlock these restrictions. We all need to follow the rules, maintain social distancing, good hand hygiene and to wear face coverings in indoor public places.
“We all want to see Wales re-open and the return of a more normal life. This is within sight – but only if we can keep the virus under control. No one wants us to have to reintroduce strict restrictions, to retreat from the progress we have made. Only by working together, can we help keep Wales safe.”
The changes follow the regular statutory review of the coronavirus regulations by Welsh Ministers, using the latest scientific and medical evidence from the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) and the advice from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales