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First Minister sets out plans to ease restrictions in Wales

The First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford is setting out a plan of action that will take the country into Alert Level 3 by 17th May, subject to infection rates remaining low.

Priority will be placed on ensuring all children return to face-to-face education on Monday 12th April, as well as reopening non-essential retail and close contact services. The rules will also be changed to allow travel into and out of Wales from the rest of the United Kingdom and Common Travel Area.

The Welsh Government is also signalling further changes it aims to confirm at the 22nd April review, subject to public health conditions and final confirmation by Ministers, which would see outdoor attractions and outdoor hospitality reopen, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants on Monday 26th April.

By early May, plans include allowing organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people to take place, and for gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities to reopen for individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.

The changes continue the Welsh Government’s planned, step-by-step approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions, taking account of the highly-infectious Kent variant, which is now the dominant form of the virus in Wales.

First Minister, Mark Drakeford said:

“Thanks to a real team effort across Wales, coronavirus cases remain stable, and the vaccination programme continues apace. As a result, the Welsh Government has the headroom to continue its careful, step-by-step approach to relaxing restrictions.

“The review we have concluded this week, means we can continue with our programme of further re-opening of the economy and loosening the restrictions in place.”

Should transmission rates remain low, the following relaxations can go ahead from 12th April:

  • The full return of children to schools for face-to-face education, all post-16 learners will return to further education and training centres, and university campus’ will be able to open for blended face-to-face/online learning for all students;
  • All remaining shops can reopen, completing the phased reopening of non-essential retail;
  • All remaining close contact services can open, including mobile services;
  • Travel restrictions on traveling into and out of Wales will be lifted. However, restrictions on travel to countries outside the Common Travel Area without a reasonable excuse, remain in place. The Common Travel Area means the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and the Republic of Ireland;
  • Viewings at wedding venues can resume by appointment;
  • Outdoor canvassing for elections can begin.

A small number of outdoor pilot events of between 200 and 1,000 people are being planned.

The phased approach is set out in the updated Coronavirus Control Plan: Revised Alert Levels in Wales

On Monday 26th April:   

  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, would be allowed to reopen;
  • Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants. Indoor hospitality will remain restricted.

On Monday 3rd May:

  • Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people can again take place;
  • Weddings receptions can take place outdoors, but will also be limited to 30 people.

On Monday 10th May:

  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. This will include individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes;
  • Extended household will again allow two households to meet and have contact indoors.

Preparations will be made to allow the following relaxations to be considered at the review on 13th May by the next Welsh Government, subject to public health conditions remaining favourable.

The reopening/resumption of the following, from the first week of the new cycle, i.e. Monday 17th May:

  • Children’s indoor activities;
  • Community centres;
  • Organised indoor activities for adults, limited to a maximum of 15 people. This includes exercise classes.

After 17th May, to consider enabling indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to reopen in advance of the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.

These are indicative dates to give the sectors time to plan and prepare – decisions on these will be made nearer the time, once the impact of other relaxations have been assessed and subject to the health situation allowing the relaxations to go ahead.

The First Minister added:

“The sacrifices we have all made are having a positive effect in the battle against Coronavirus. This last year has been incredibly difficult for all of us and again I want to thank everyone for their efforts.

“These efforts have allowed us to gradually ease the restrictions, to gradually introduce more elements of normal life.

“With the weather improving, with more opportunities to see family and friends, there are reasons for optimism. However, we can’t let our guard down yet. We all still need to be vigilant, we still need to do our part to keep this deadly disease at bay.”