Beyond the bubbles: What extended households reveal about longer term lockdown in Wales

290620 Lockdown Collage, schoolchildren, reunion, shopping - all PA
Children have returned to school, shops have reopened and households will be able to meet one other from next week Credit: PA

Mark Drakeford’s announcement reveals or confirms three things about the way the First Minister is handling changes to the lockdown in Wales.

Firstly, it shows his determination to stick to announcing one big change at a time, even if he is the one who has previewed that bigger change could be coming. 

When he signalled last week that this news was coming, he also spoke about the prospect of giving some good news to pubs, restaurants and others in the hospitality sector. 

Any such announcement was notable today by its absence. 

Mark Drakeford said the government will continue to use a "cautious and careful approach" Credit: PA

When I asked him why, the First Minister said that the talks over the weekend had consolidated a list of proposals from representatives of the hospitality industry which could translate into a plan. That list will be pored over in coming days by the Chief Medical Officer Dr Frank Atherton.

If I were to put money on when that news will come, I would stake it on forming part of his next press conference on Friday. 

But that is interesting too.

For a little while, the mantra from the Welsh Government was that changes would only be unveiled or signalled in three-weekly intervals, linked to the date when all four governments of the UK are legally obliged to review and if necessary change the lockdown restrictions. 

So the second thing we have learned from today’s announcement bolsters what he and other ministers have been saying for a week or so now, that they will, if need be, make announcements outside that three-week cycle.

I guess it still fits his other mantra of "regular, reliable, rhythm" but it proves how quickly seemingly cast-iron rules are coming into being and discarded by governments during this coronavirus crisis. Keeping up is proving difficult. 

By the way, I think it puts a lot more focus and possibly pressure on next Monday, 6 July. Assuming the tests are met, that’ll be the day that the "stay local" five-mile travel limit will be lifted and now extended households will be introduced.

These were the scenes in England when support bubbles were introduced

That Monday, you could be free again to drive long distances and to reunite with family members. That will be a big day for many people. 

It will follow, too, a big set of changes in England on the previous Saturday, 4 July. I am sure it is not what the Welsh Government intends, but what are the chances a number of people will use their new found freedoms to drive to a pub in England? 

The third thing today’s announcement shows is that whatever the differences in lockdown restrictions between different parts of the United Kingdom, all four nations are now on similar trajectories in terms of reopening parts of the economy and easing lockdown restrictions. 

Mark Drakeford’s government may be making decisions cautiously and emphasising the risks, while Boris Johnson and his ministers appear to be doing the opposite. 

In reality they’re moving at a similar pace. My guess is that long before the autumn, all four nations will be in broadly the same place with their lockdown rules.