By Zoe Kramer | Head of News
First Minister Mark Drakeford announced changes to the COVID-19 lockdown on Friday. The tier 4 lockdown as it stood had been in effect since Christmas and was pending review.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently announced his plan to end lockdown by stages in England, culminating in potentially few to no restrictions over the summer. The Welsh plan is much less drastic, incorporating a much slower and more gradual approach to lifting restrictions. The Welsh government have not used the same system where specific dates are listed in a schedule for the lifting of COVID-19 regulations.
In the latest review, certain restrictions on the number of people allowed to meet outdoors were lifted, allowing for a greater number of people to gather. Care homes will be open for indoor visits beginning on the 13th of March.
Some of the regulations which will change are four people from two different households will be allowed to meet outdoors, including in gardens. Outdoor sports facilities such as basketball courts, tennis courts, and gold courses will be reopened. Services which were closed because they can not be done socially distanced, such as hairdressers, will be reopened. Replacing the stay-at-home order, local travel is now allowed.
Some industries did not receive good news on Friday. The hospitality sector, including pubs and indoor dining, will remain closed due to the increased risk of COVID-19 spreading indoors. Gyms will also remain closed for the foreseeable future.
Non-essential retail, which was originally going to reopen on the 22nd of March, will reopen on April 12 instead. Overall, the restrictions to be put in place are expected to prioritise caution in order to ensure that the r-rate remains under control.
Mr Drakeford spoke on BBC Radio Wales, saying “We will be looking carefully at whether an intermediate period of stay local – people are used to that, we had a period of that last year in Wales – would be a first step on a journey.
“In Wales, that is how we are trying to approach the whole business – carefully, cautiously, step by step, not doing too many things at once – so that we can monitor the impact of changes, and then restore more freedoms to people and to the economy once we are confident it’s safe to do so.”
These changes come in the wake of some positive statistics regarding the transmission of COVID-19. Recently, for the first time since September, no new deaths were reported. Additionally, almost a million people have been vaccinated in Wales, reaching approximately 32% of the population.