Wales eases lockdown restrictions early amid falling Covid cases

Abbianca Makoni
·4-min read
<p>The news comes as Wales’ Covid rate continues to fall - dropping to 15.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past week</p> (PA Media)

The news comes as Wales’ Covid rate continues to fall - dropping to 15.4 cases per 100,000 people in the past week

(PA Media)

Restrictions in Wales will be eased early amid falling cases of coronavirus, Wales’s First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford confirmed that indoor supervised activities for children, indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, and the reopening of community centres are being brought forward from May 17 to May 3.

He also said indoor hospitality and all tourism accommodation can reopen from May 17, subject to confirmation by the party that leads the Welsh Government following the Senedd election.

Mr Drakeford warned that a third wave of coronavirus during the summer is “likely” but will not necessarily see restrictions reimposed in response.

“The modelling does show a third spike is likely to happen in the summer,” he said.

“But there’s a tension there. If it happens in the summer, in some ways that makes it more manageable.

“On the other hand, every week we can push it back is another week where we vaccinate people and that might make that wave a smaller one and less steep.

“In a way, governments are not in control of where those waves come. I am hopeful that, when we see a further wave, it will not be of the sort that will need us to take the sorts of very blunt actions we’ve had to take in the last calendar year.”

Mr Drakeford said the combination of the vaccination programme, better knowledge of handling cases of Covid-19, and the expected warm weather means “we will be able to deal with a third wave without us needing to go back to the sorts of actions we’ve needed to take so far”.

He added that England’s date for reopening indoor hospitality, and issues with people meeting up to drink in unregulated settings, played a role in his plan to fully reopen the sector on the same day as England – May 17.

“I do take into account the border issue. So much of our population is alongside the border and, when things happen on the other side of the border, I think about that,” he told PA.

“I think about what people say about people being able to have a drink in a regulated setting and that being better than people doing it elsewhere.

“But the dominant reason is because coronavirus is in a better place here in Wales, because our vaccination programme is going from strength to strength, and that’s what’s given us the headroom to set out what we’ve set out today.”

Wales has the lowest level of virus infections in the UK and is third in the world in terms of vaccine delivery, while case rates are below 15 per 100,000 people.

But Mr Drakeford warned that coronavirus is “not over” and asked the public to do what they can to keep the virus “benign” in Wales.

The Welsh Labour leader denied that bringing forward some reopenings and outlining a date for indoor hospitality to resume with two weeks to go to the Senedd election on May 6 is an attempt to influence voters.

The changes mean Wales will now complete its move to Alert Level 3 by May 3 – three days before the election – but the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru have accused Mr Drakeford of using his powers as well as Welsh Government press briefings to unfairly influence the result.

“There’s an election on and parties will say what they want to say,” Mr Drakeford said.

“I turn up on the Friday at the end of the three weeks whether I’ve got difficult news to tell people or whether I’ve got better news to tell people. I do it as the First Minister.”

From Monday, outdoor hospitality can reopen and up to six people can meet outdoors with no limit on the number of households they can come from, not including children under 11 years of age or carers from those households.

Outdoor attractions including swimming pools, funfairs and theme parks, as well as outdoor organised activities and wedding receptions, both for up to 30 people, can also take place.

From May 3, gyms and leisure centres can reopen, and people can form extended households with one other household.

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