Wales could reopen indoor hospitality and all holiday accommodation by the end of May if Labour retain control of the Welsh Government, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
Mr Drakeford said the “ambition” was dependent on Wales’ public health situation at the time and whether he was still leading the country following May’s Senedd elections.
On Thursday he set out further dates for his road map out of lockdown, which included lifting travel rules and reopening all close contact services and shops on April 12 and reopening outdoor hospitality from April 26.
Speaking at Thursday’s Welsh Government press conference, Mr Drakeford said he would continue a “careful, step-by-step approach” to lifting the restrictions, but wanted to allow people to “plan even further ahead” by outlining potential easing of measures after the May 6 election.
Mr Drakeford said: “On Monday May 17, we will see the resumption of children’s indoor activities, the reopening of community centres and the resumption of organised activities for adults for up to 15 people, and that will be able to include exercise classes.
“Beyond that date, our ambition will be for indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to be able to reopen ahead of the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.”
Mr Drakeford said the public had to remember “that the pandemic isn’t over” and that easing “will only be possible with the help and efforts of us all” to keep transmission low.
His plans to not reopen gyms until May 10 – one month after those in England will be allowed to open their doors – came in for criticism from businesses and opposition parties.
Better Cardiff, which manages eight leisure centres in the Welsh capital, said it was “disappointed” Mr Drakeford had not prioritised the reopening of fitness facilities.
Rhys Jones, head of service at the company, said: “We have very safe, industry-leading Covid-secure processes in place and gyms and swimming pools across the UK were proven to have low rates of Covid-19 transmission when opened at various points last year.
“This delay will cause more damage to the mental and physical health of the population, with fitness levels deteriorating.”
Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price told ITV Wales he wanted an earlier opening of gyms “in a Covid-secure fashion”, saying it was recognised the importance of them for “physical but also mental and emotional wellbeing”.
Welsh Conservative leader in the Senedd, Andrew RT Davies, said gyms could operate in a safe environment and said they “should be open far sooner”.
Earlier on Thursday Mr Drakeford said people in Wales should “think very carefully” before going into England for a pint when hospitality businesses reopen for outdoor service from April 12, two weeks before Welsh businesses can do the same.
He said that rates of Covid-19 in Wales were the lowest in the United Kingdom and that any unnecessary trips over the border to visit a pub, cafe, or restaurant put people at risk of picking up the virus.
Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency: “(Covid rates) are higher in England and the highest in the North West of England.
“You would definitely be visiting somewhere where the risks were higher. We know there is a variant of this virus in Bristol, which so far we’ve managed to keep out of Wales completely.
“My message to people thinking about travelling across the border, in that couple of weeks before things are opening in Wales, is to think very carefully about it.
“You really will not have long to wait before you’re able to enjoy exactly the same sorts of things in Wales where the current state of the virus is more benign.”
Mr Drakeford said he considered bringing forward the reopening of outdoor hospitality in line with England’s date, but was warned by scientific and medical advisers that doing so risked a rise in transmissions.
“The advice was clear cut. The risks of doing so outweighed any rewards because we are opening such a lot of things on April 12 in Wales already,” he said.