Happy shoppers? The lockdown changes that might be on their way to Wales

All eyes will be on the Welsh Government’s lockdown review announcement tomorrow with more scrutiny about decisions being taken here in Wales than at any previous time in this pandemic.

Changes already in place in other parts of the UK have led to intense political pressure on Mark Drakeford and his ministers to follow suit. News reports showing non-essential shops reopening in England have bolstered the arguments of those who think the same should already have happened here.

Meanwhile businesses operating in the tourism and hospitality industry have banded together to beg publicly and repeatedly for answers about when, how or even if they will be able to begin reopening.

Mark Drakeford has said that he won’t be pressurised by what other governments are doing

Mark Drakeford has said that he won’t be pressurised and his determination was only strengthened by a letter from the Welsh Secretary to Senedd Members and local council leaders urging them to use their influence on the First Minister.

A "clumsy and ill-judged" intervention said the Health Minister today. Vaughan Gething added that, "The Secretary of State has the luxury of not being a decision-maker."

But Simon Hart gave that response short shrift. "We want you to pay all the bills, we want you to write a fat cheque to the Welsh Government every few minutes … but don’t you dare express an opinion," he said. "That’s not acceptable."

The UK Government says it has provided an extra £2.295bn to the Welsh Government over the course of the pandemic.

Regardless of the politics, the Welsh Government has heard the calls from the tourism and hospitality sectors and the First Minister is holding a Zoom conference call with representatives this afternoon.

They can expect some of the clarity they are calling for tomorrow. I expect it will be more of a timetable for cautious reopening than an instant change of policy but that may be enough for some of them.

Snowdonia's Zip World attraction is one of the many centres forced to close Credit: PA

They may have to compromise on the ending of the five mile rule though. Even though minister after minister has insisted that it is not a law, just a "rule of thumb," they also see it as a useful guide to help transition out of lockdown.

Most likely to be announced tomorrow is some sort of return for non-essential retail so that high streets and shopping centres can start seeing the sort of socially-distanced queues that have been seen in England.

There have been strong hints too about moves to reopen businesses that can operate in an outdoors way such as markets.

I would expect too a clear reiteration of the previously-announced plan to let schools reopen from June 29th. That plan has hit a bit of trouble in the last few days, but compromises by the Education Minister and the unions seem to have resolved it.

Pupils and staff will be expected to maintain social distancing as much as possible Credit: PA

I will be looking out too for any new guidance on interactions between different households. "Support bubbles" as they are known have allowed for some emotional reunions between grandparents and grandchildren and others who have been separated for the last few months.Opposition parties have been setting out their advice for the Welsh Government.

The Conservatives are calling for the following immediate changes:

  • Scrapping travel restrictions

  • Reopening retail

  • Reopening the property market

  • A timetable for reopening tourism businesses in time for the summer season

  • Lifting restrictions on outdoor attractions such as zoos

  • Permitting all non-contact outdoor sports and closed door professional and elite sports

  • A flexible approach to the reopening of places of worship

  • Improve access to dentists and opticians

  • Extend opportunities for personal contact to support relationships

"The lack of clarity from the Welsh Government on the reopening of Wales is impacting on personal relationships and the health and wealth or Wales", Conservative MS Darren Millar said.

"Travel restrictions are keeping loved ones apart, unnecessary uncertainty over the reopening of businesses is putting thousands of jobs on the line, and money which would have been spent in Wales is going elsewhere.

"The Welsh Government must show some compassion, wake up to the dangers posed to the Welsh economy, and adopt a safe and sensible lifting of the restrictions to protect both lives and livelihoods."

Plaid Cymru is calling for lockdown restrictions to be lifted Credit: PA

Plaid Cymru is calling for lockdown restrictions to be lifted "as quickly and safely as possible."

The party’s health spokesperson Rhun ap Iorwerth said, "Wales’s adherence to restrictions has been very good, and this has been key to driving down infection rates and everyone can take credit for that. But as time goes on, inevitably people will become more and more frustrated at missing loved ones and deepening financial worries.

"It’s not about compromising on safety, it’s about transparency. Neither is it about comparing with what’s happening in any other one country – including England. Wales must do what’s right for Wales. But it is about seeing what international evidence as a whole tells us it is safe to do, and how quickly it can be done, with the correct precautions in place – including a robust, fast-working and far-reaching test and trace regime.

And the Brexit Party leader in the Senedd wants all restrictions lifted immediately. Mark Reckless MS said, "We should end attempts at micro management and lift restrictions generally. We were told they were to protect the NHS and its capacity, and they have done so. People will make better decisions than Welsh Government by applying their own judgement and common sense to their individual circumstances."

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