In a week’s time, the Welsh Government will announce the next changes to lockdown rules here in Wales.
Like all four of the UK Governments ministers in Cardiff are legally obliged to review the restrictions every three weeks meaning the next decision day is Thursday 18th June. The First Minister is expected to announce any changes the following day.
The Welsh Government has insisted on keeping to the three week cycle in order, it says, to give people and businesses a pattern and timescale to work with.
As a result of that and the fact that other governments are making changes to the lockdown at different stages along with existing differences in regulations, it can lead to a confusing picture and political pressure on ministers to act in certain areas.
For instance in England, the Prime Minister has already this week announced that in England from Monday non-essential shops will reopen along with zoos, safari parks and other outside attractions. Places of worship in England will open for individual prayer from this weekend. Also from this weekend, people living alone will be allowed to meet one other household from Saturday under new ‘support bubble’ arrangements.
In Northern Ireland, all retail including shopping centres will be allowed to reopen.
None of this will happen in Wales this week although the Economy minister said that the wait for businesses and individuals wouldn’t be long with potentially only three days between changes in England and the possibility that they will change here in Wales too.
Only the possibility though. The Welsh Government isn’t obliged to follow decisions made for England, Scotland or Northern Ireland and has insisted it will make its own decisions in its own time, based on scientific advice and on what ministers believe is in the interests of Wales.
So they will consider all the above changes which must therefore be the most likely to be adopted here next week.
The First Minister also confirmed to me that something else which is being considered is the possibility of allowing pubs and restaurants to reopen partially, using marquees and beer gardens to follow social distancing rules, something the UK Government is said to be looking at for later this month and the Scottish Government is likely to allow it from 18th June. It and other ideas will form part of a ‘long list’ of possible changes which will get whittled down to a short list before the cabinet takes its decisions on Thursday.
It may also look again at the controversial 5 mile travel limit which is in place here in Wales but it’s been fiercely defended by ministers since being introduced as an important ‘rule of thumb’ for people interpreting restrictions.
Having said that policies are changing very quickly. What once would have been criticised as a U-turn is now almost an everyday occurrence.
One area where a lot of pressure is building is in tourism. The Welsh Secretary Simon Hart wrote to the First Minister earlier this week to criticise his comments in a newspaper interview. The First Minister denied that he’d said tourism in Wales was ‘over’ for the year but said it would not be returning to a normal way of operating.
And the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions which represents 65 tourism businesses including Zip World, Folly Farm, Welsh Mountain Zoo, Snowdon Mountain Railway and Dan yr Ogof Show Caves issued a joint statement warning that ‘Wales’ second largest industry is on the brink of collapse.’
They’ve urged the First Minister to publish a ‘roadmap’ setting out when the tourism industry can see the possibility of reopening here in Wales.
Opposition parties have been setting out what they would like the Welsh Government to do.
Plaid Cymru says that, while remaining cautious, ministers 'should be moving as fast as scientific evidence allows to raise restrictions.'
The leader of the Brexit Party Mark Reckless says the lockdown should end and people left to use their own judgement.