Cruel or sensible? Why the five-mile rule has been so controversial

Stay Home sign
The five-mile, 'Stay Local' rule caused some controversy when it was first introduced. From Monday 6 July, the rule will be scrapped. Credit: PA Images

On May 29, Welsh Government announced a change to the 'Stay Home' lockdown advice. The new advice was for people to 'Stay Local' or within five miles of their home.

On Friday the First Minister confirmed that as of Monday 6 July, that rule is being scrapped.

The five-mile rule received criticism from political parties and individuals, with many living in rural areas saying the limit of five miles was unfair on them.

The rule also recently sparked a row between Welsh Government and airline Ryanair, who refused to cancel their flights from Cardiff Airport.

  • So when did the five-mile rule come into force?

The 'Stay Home' advice for Wales was changed on Monday 1 June, about three weeks after it was in England.

However the key difference was that in England, people were allowed to travel any distance to places like beaches and parks alongside the advice to 'Stay Alert'.

In Wales, people were now allowed to travel more freely and could meet with one other household outdoors so long as it was within five miles of their home and they stayed local.

People will be able to travel further than five miles from Monday July 6. Credit: Welsh Government

Exceptions to that rule were outlined, for instance if you need to provide care for a vulnerable person, to avoid injury or to obtain essential supplies for your household. This includes supplies or services for essential household maintenance.

People were told not to leave their local area to do anything that they could not reasonably be expected to do locally.

The police have the power to fine anyone breaking the 'Stay Local' rule however the specific limit of five miles is not legally enforceable.

From Monday 6 July people will also be able to form an extended household with one other household. Credit: PA Images
  • How did people in Wales react to the new rule?

Following the announcement of the five-mile rule, the Welsh Conservatives criticised it as "unfair" and "unclear."

They argued that it was difficult to interpret because of the ambiguity of what 'local' means to different people. They also said that because it was more restrictive than other parts of the UK, it demonstrated a mistrust in Welsh people's judgement.

Paul Davies MS, the leader of the Welsh Conservatives, said it was "absolutely ridiculous" that you can travel 15 miles to a garden centre or supermarket but not more than five to see family or friends in an outdoors space.

The Welsh Conservatives also dubbed it "the cruel rule".

The Liberal Democrats called for "urgent clarity" on the regulations too.

Some people ITV Cymru Wales spoke to in Cardiff on the day of the announcement said the restrictions on traveling more than five miles meant they still would not be able to see the majority of their family.

Jeanette Edwards from Splott, Cardiff, said the difference in lockdown rules across the four nations was also a problem. She said: "If you're listening to the general news you're more confused than ever."

The advice was changed in Wales from 'Stay Home' to 'Stay Local'. Credit: Welsh Government
  • How did Welsh Government respond?

On the difference between the travel rules for Wales and the rules in place over the border in England, the First Minister claimed that a "cautious and careful" approach based on science meant that the 'Stay Local' rule was right for Wales.

Welsh Government did recognise that for some people there was headroom to travel further than five miles, emphasising the need to be 'local' as more important than the five miles element.

Welsh Government defended the 'Stay Local' advice and giving five-miles as guidance as a way of limiting the spread of the virus. The First Minister told ITV Cymru Wales that taking "careful" and "sensible" steps to easing travel restrictions was consistent with the science and "with the preferences of people in Wales."

On June 21 the Economy Minister, Ken Skates MS, said it was "entirely reasonable" for shoppers to travel more than five miles as non-essential shops were due to reopen the next day. This gave people more scope to travel further than five miles.

On June 22, non-essential shops were allowed to reopen in Wales - a week after they were allowed to in England. Credit: PA Images

The 'Stay Local' rule and five-mile guidance is set to be scrapped from Monday but it has still managed to cause controversy in the week leading up to this.

Ryanair have been operating limited flights since mid-March but confirmed in May they would be scaling this up from July 1. With the 'Stay Local' advice still in place, Welsh Government called for the airline to cancel flights from Cardiff Airport as only essential travel is permitted.

Ryanair refused to do so and said operations are continuing as normal, with "hundreds of Welsh people travelling home from countries with lower R rates than the UK."

Ryan said they were ramping up flight numbers from July 1. Credit: PA Images

  • How far can we travel from Monday 6?

Mark Drakeford MS confirmed on Friday 3 July that the 'Stay Local' advice would no longer be in affect from the following Monday. This means that people in Wales can travel however far they would like to from that date.

There are still some restrictions on what people can travel to do, for example hairdressers and some businesses will remain closed so people will not see life return to pre-covid normality.

Social distancing of 2m remains in place as well.