By Dominic Williams
On July 17, Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford announced the further easing of lockdown measures across Wales.
The announcements were made following a week in which 4 out of 7 days saw no reported COVID-19 related deaths in Wales according to Public Health Wales. Currently, the total number of COVID-19 related deaths in Wales remains at 1,541.
It was reported by the BBC on July 16 that deaths from COVID-19 were at their lowest in Wales for 10 weeks.
Wales’ approach to easing lockdown measures has varied significantly from England’s, with the Welsh Government being cautious in their approach. Although this approach has been criticised as overly-cautious by some, the reported COVID-19 cases in Wales have continued to fall.
Positive test rate continues to fall
The First Minister stated by July 13, almost 300,000 COVID-19 tests had been carried out in Wales.
Mr Drakeford stated that of those 300,000 tests, 17,000 had been positive, with the number of positive tests continuing to reduce.
Although easing of lockdown measures have been introduced in Wales, there is still a requirement to socially distance, to wash hands frequently, and to only meet people from one other household outdoors.
What are some of the changes?
Face coverings will not be compulsory in Wales in shops and supermarkets in Wales, although some businesses may ask people to wear them, the First Minister stated. Although face coverings will not become compulsory, they have been advised, especially in places where it is hard to socially distance appropriately.
Face coverings will, however, be mandatory on public transport in Wales from July 27. On trains, buses, and in taxis, face masks will be mandatory. This change has already been implemented in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Which establishments will open following these announcements?
Mr. Drakeford explained that beauty salons, Tatoo shops, and nail parlours could re-open from July 27, as COVID-19 cases continue to fall in Wales. The First Minister also made the announcement that July 27 was the date museums, galleries, indoor cinemas, and archive services are also able to open to the public.
These gradual easing of lockdown rules in Wales meant beer gardens and hairdressers were re-opened on July 13, while having to abide by social distancing guidelines.
The Welsh Government also announced the re-opening of indoor pubs, cafes, restaurants, and bars from August 3, given that COVID-19 cases remain low. Pub chains such as Wetherspoons and Brains will wait to reopen until patrons are allowed inside on August 3.
July 20 is the current date set for the re-opening of outdoor playgrounds for children and community centres, provided social distancing is maintained.
What about those who are shielding?
First Minister Mark Drakeford’s recent announcement included the easing of the 2 metre social distancing rule for some businesses. But what does this mean for those who are shielding?
From August 16, the Welsh Government will pause shielding for children and adults on the shielding list, unless the number of COVID-19 cases in the community begins to rise significantly.
This will mean that, as long as the workplace and schools are COVID-secure, adults vulnerable to the virus will be able to return to work and children will be able to return to schools.
Those on the shielding list will also be able to shop for food, given that they remain 2 metres away from other shoppers in supermarkets.
Although the number of weekly deaths involving COVID-19 in Wales has fallen to the lowest number since the end of March, the Welsh Government has stated the easing of lockdown in Wales is reliant on the number of COVID-19 cases continuing to fall.