Why the Welsh Government is only making one major lockdown change

Credit: Welsh Government

ITV Wales News understands that ahead of today's announcement on changes to the coronavirus lockdown rules, the scientific advice to the Welsh Government was that making one major change was possible.

First Minister Mark Drakeford was told that making more than one significant relaxation was too dangerous because if the infection rate went up, it would not be clear what had caused it.

He chose to address people's wish to see their loved ones again, as he is expected to explain in an announcement later.

Mr Drakeford will announce: "We know people have missed seeing their families and friends over the last three months while the stay-at-home regulations have been in place."

On the single issue of allowing families to meet, Mark Drakeford is going slightly further than Boris Johnson or Nicola Sturgeon Credit: Welsh Government

The First Minister said the Welsh Government will continue to asked people to stay local.

He is expected to say: "As a general rule, not travelling more than five miles from home to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more. There will be exceptions – for example, travelling to work, to seek care and shopping for essentials if they aren’t available locally."

There will be no limit in Wales on how many people can meet up if they are from two households. There will also be no attempt to discourage people who have been to one such gathering then moving on to another meeting with a different household.

Despite this change, the Welsh ban on non-essential travel is only relaxed a little. It still will not be possible to travel an unlimited distance to take exercise, as is allowed in England. However, the exception seemingly pioneered by the Prime Minister's aide Dominic Cummings, to travel to seek care, will be allowed.

Dominic Cummings drove 260 miles with his sick wife and their child. Credit: PA

People still will not be allowed to travel to their second homes in Wales, although the Gower MP Tonia Antoniazzi has claimed that in Mumbles second home owners have been telling the locals that they are "doing a Dominic Cummings".

She was questioning the Welsh Secretary, Simon Hart, who's MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire. He replied that he had heard the "same anecdotes" in west Wales.

The Secretary of State also said that the coronavirus regulations in Wales had at times been "quite opaque and unclear", though he added that he'd heard from the police that people caught making non-essential journeys knew what the rules were but were trying to evade them.

Mr Hart claimed that some of the Welsh Government's decisions to diverge from England were "a bit mystifying, with no obvious evidence base for them" but he knew from his conversations with Welsh Government ministers that they were concerned about Wales being left behind in the journey out of lockdown.

After Boris Johnson held a conference call with Mark Drakeford and his Scottish and Northern Irish counterparts, Downing Street said that they had all agreed that continued engagement is vital and that they will stay "in close contact" in the days and weeks ahead.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister made clear that as we begin to move to the next phase of tackling this virus, he remains determined to work closely with the devolved administrations. This continues to be a UK-wide approach, even though we may travel at slightly different speeds based on the scientific evidence."