COVID-19: Welsh tourism industry warned not to take Easter bookings from England as lockdown starts to ease

·3-min read

Wales' first minister has warned the reopening of the tourism sector could be halted if businesses take Easter bookings from people in England.

Self-contained accommodation in Wales can reopen on 27 March, but Mark Drakeford said the industry "should not be taking bookings from people who live outside Wales".

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He said he would be talking to councils and police "to see if there is anything we need to do to mobilise our own enforcement authorities".

"If the industry were to act irresponsibly, the penalty would be we wouldn't be able to carry on reopening the industry," said the first minister.

The "stay at home" order in Wales will be lifted this weekend and replaced by a "stay local" message - with people allowed to socialise outdoors in small groups.

England's stay at home order ends on 29 March, but people will still be encouraged to stay local. Self-contained accommodation is due to open after Easter - on 12 April.

Mr Drakeford said businesses in Wales should resist any temptation to break the rules and take bookings from people over the border.

"I know there are rogues in any part of life. But I think that the industry will absolutely recognise that we want to go beyond self-contained accommodation," he said.

"We want the tourism industry in Wales to have a longer and better season this year than we managed last year."

Wales' emergence from coronavirus lockdown gets going slightly ahead of other UK nations.

From Saturday, four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in gardens - a similar move in England doesn't start until 29 March, but began in Scotland on Friday.

Outdoor sports facilities, including basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses, will also be able to reopen, and indoor care home visits will restart for single designated visitors.

In a further easing of restrictions, way ahead of the rest of the UK, hairdressers and barbers will reopen for appointments from Monday - the same day that all primary pupils and those in qualifications years will return to school.

Schools will have the flexibility to bring Year 10 and 12 pupils back, and more learners will return to colleges.

Younger primary pupils have already been able to return to their classrooms since 22 February.

Under the Welsh government's phased approach to lifting lockdown, non-essential retail can return from 22 March as restrictions are lifted on what can be sold in shops that are already open.

Garden centres will also be able to reopen.

All shops will be able to welcome customers from 12 April - the same date as in England.

However, Mr Drakeford has admitted to having anxieties around Boris Johnson's plan to allow the resumption of foreign travel from as early as mid-May.

People living in England could be permitted to take foreign holidays from 17 May at the earliest, under the PM's road map for easing COVID-19 restrictions.

He told BBC Breakfast that September 2020 was a "difficult month" in Wales as people returned to the country from holidays abroad and brought the virus with them.

"I do not want to see all the hard work that people in Wales have put in over recent weeks being undermined by the reimportation of the virus," he said.

"The prime minister's roadmap for England is very clear that these are indicative dates and when I've raised this with UK ministers they always emphasise that the decision would be made in the circumstances much closer to the time.

"I am saying that for me, that does look early."

Mr Drakeford had extended the "stay at home" order for three weeks last month, although he also outlined the beginning of pupils' return to school.