First Minister insists 'Wales is not falling behind' as shops re-open in England

The First Minister has insisted the Welsh economy is "not falling behind", as shops reopen over the border in England.

During his daily press conference, Mark Drakeford told journalists that restrictions in Wales are being lifted in a 'careful, sequenced way' because coronavirus is still present.

He pointed out that some countries have reintroduced their restrictions because cases of the virus have increased.

"A stop-start reopening of the economy because coronavirus is out of control... nothing could be worse," he added.

Wales has entered its thirteenth week of lockdown with some relaxations, such as unlimited exercise, and being able to meet up with people from one other household outside.

But England, which is also in its thirteenth week of lockdown, has some additional easements.

Today, queues formed at stores over the border as thousands of non-essential shops pulled up their shutters for the first time since March.

Boris Johnson also announced that people in England who live alone would be able to form a support bubble with one other household - something which is not currently allowed in Wales.

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh government will ban non-essential travel from Covid hotspots after he had not heard back from the PM. Credit: PA

Communication between the two governments appear to be irregular after Mr Drakeford told the press conference he last spoke to Boris Johnson "around three weeks ago."

"I last spoke to the PM two weeks ago last Thursday - that was almost three weeks.

"As of today there is no invitation to speak to any UK minister during the rest of this week. That does not include Secretary of State for Wales and I have had discussions with him.

"That doesn't mean we don't get any intelligence from the UK Government, there has been some ministerial contact...but in terms of what I I have wanted to see, that regular, regular reliable rhythm of meetings with UK ministers - and the stop-start arrangements we have had, I'm afraid we’ve been in a stop part of that cycle for more than two weeks."

The First Minister also said he hopes to give "some clarity" for the tourism sector at the end of the week.

It comes after bosses warned the industry was on the "brink of collapse" and urged Mr Drakeford to provide some dates on when it would be likely that attractions could begin to reopen again.

"If we are reopening tourism in Wales and welcoming people, then those visiting Wales need to be welcomed when they get there - for me that would be the test", he said

"I hope we can offer some clarity at the end of this week."

Watch the press conference here:

Today, Mr Drakeford said the number of deaths from coronavirus continues to fall each and every week in Wales.

As we continue our gradual and cautious approach to relaxing the coronavirus restrictions, it is important for people to understand we won’t be returning to the pre-pandemic normal.

First Minister Mark Drakeford

The Welsh Government is currently looking at a "package of measures" in three main areas - the reopening non-essential retail where businesses are able to comply with social distancing, reopening schools on June 29 and further relaxing restrictions on more outdoors activity.

Mr Drakeford said he hoped to be able to provide more clarity later this week.

At the weekend, Health Minister Vaughan Gething said Wales may be able to move at a "slightly faster rate" when it comes to easing lockdown restrictions.