Minor changes to lockdown restrictions begin in Wales

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People in Wales will be able to exercise more than once a day and garden centres are set to reopen as part of lockdown changes starting today.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on Friday that lockdown restrictions in Wales would continue for a further three weeks - until May 28th - but a few minor adjustments were to be made from May 11th.

These include people being able to exercise more than once a day - but they must do so locally, with the exercise starting and ending at home.

Garden centres are able to reopen if social-distancing rules can be followed.

Local authorities can also start planning how to safely reopen libraries and municipal recycling centres.

But these relaxations do not apply to the 120,000 "clinically extremely vulnerable" people in Wales who have been told not to leave their houses.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson made a speech about changes to lockdown, but these mainly applied to England only.

Mark Drakeford said the "stay at home" message has not changed in Wales, despite the UK Government issuing a new slogan - "Stay alert, control the virus, save lives".

Let's look at the changes for Wales in more detail.

Since Monday 23rd March, everyone has been restricted by the coronavirus lockdown measures.

Shops, pubs and restaurants closed, sport was cancelled, and we were all told to stay home in order to "flatten the curve".

Today marks the start of the eighth week we have all been told to stay at home, other than for a few exempt activities. We are all familiar with them. Up to now, we have been told not to leave the house except for:

  • Shopping for food

  • Health reasons

  • Exercise (while not travelling “a significant distance” from home)

  • Work (but only if is not reasonably practicable to work from home)

The advice has also been - and still is - to:

  • Stay 2 metres (6ft) away from other people

  • Wash your hands regularly for 20 seconds or more

From today - Monday 11th May - the rules in Wales are changing slightly.

First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on the VE Day bank holiday that people can now:

  • Exercise more than once a day

  • Visit any reopening garden centres, libraries or municipal rubbish and recycling tips

These relaxations do not apply to the 120,000 people in Wales shielding - they are the most vulnerable people in our society who have various pre-existing conditions or compromised immune systems.

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How many times can we visit these places?

We asked the First Minister if it was acceptable for someone to - for example - get up and go for a run, then go food shopping before going to pick up a plant from the garden centre, then drive to the local rubbish tip, and then go for an evening stroll in the park.

"Well once those things are all reopened safely, then you will be able to use all those facilities", Mark Drakeford told ITV Cymru Wales.

"But they are all going to be reopening carefully, they're not going to look like they did before. Social distancing and all those things we've learnt how to do will be part of whatever activity we are undertaking.

"If those things were all open and and open safely, then in Wales they will be available to Welsh citizens, while reminding people that continuing to do all the things we have learnt to do remains as important as ever".

  • When are pubs and restaurants going to reopen?

The news on that front is still not good. "I don't think pubs will be reopening any time soon", the First Minister said on Sunday.

In his address on Sunday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that pubs, restaurants, hotels and other public places could begin to reopen in July at the earliest, "if - and only if - the numbers support it".

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  • Will the lockdown change in Wales at the same rate as the other nations in the UK?

The First Minister of Wales has said repeatedly that he hopes there will be a so-called "four-nation approach" - where decisions on how and when the lockdown is altered, and ultimately eased, would be taken by all the nations of the UK at the same time.

In the last week, however, there has been a distinct divergence between the UK Government's position and that of Scottish, Northern Irish and Welsh Government's positions.

England, for example, has seen a change of slogan from 'Stay Home, Save Lives', to 'Stay Alert, Save Lives'.

This message has not changed in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland.

  • How many times a day in total can I leave the house?

The First Minister did not put a figure on the maximum number of times we can leave the house per day, but he did reiterate the danger still posed by coronavirus to everyone in Wales.

"Coronavirus has not gone away. Its ability to kill people has not gone away and that's going to be with us for some months to come".

A sobering message after a weekend where warnings were issued by authorities that people "not taking coronavirus seriously" risked causing a new spike in case.

Nine people died after contracting coronavirus in the 24-hours running up to Saturday, and a further 12 died the following day.

In total, 1,111 people have died from coronavirus in Wales, according to Public Health Wales data.

Credit: PA Images
  • When will schools reopen?

There is no date yet for schools to fully reopen.

The First Minister has repeated that schools in Wales would not "return to normal" on June 1st, despite speculation.

"We will continue to make decisions which are right for Wales, using information and expert advice about how coronavirus is circulating here to keep us safe," Mr Drakeford said.

And last week, education minister Kirsty Williams said: “You will always hear directly from me on the decisions we make in Wales for our pupils, parents and school staff.

“The situation for schools in Wales will not change on 1st June. You have my guarantee that we will give everyone time to plan ahead of a next phase starting."

Ms Williams said that critical workers and others who need to use schools or hubs for their children should continue do so.

  • When can we go back to normal?

The short answer is - not for a long time. Social distancing, at the very least, is thought to be in all UK governments' plans for the remainder of this year.

There is concern that if we all go back to normal too soon and too quickly - we could see a second, perhaps worse, spike in cases.

However, the current strict lockdown measures will not last anything like that long.

Mr Drakeford finished his press conference on Friday by saying: "Coronavirus is with us not just for May, June or July.

"It will be with us for many months to come - we will have to be planning for those three months but we have to plan way beyond that to find the best way through this."