What you can and can't do after the firebreak lockdown in Wales

Wales entered a 17-day lockdown on 23 October. Credit: PA Images / ITV Wales

The First Minister has announced that the post-firebreak coronavirus restrictions will remain in place for at least another two weeks.

Wales' firebreak ended on 9 November, with a new set of national rules replacing those during the 17-day lockdown.

During the firebreak, strict guidelines banned people from meeting with anyone outside of their household, unless there was a reasonable excuse. Non-essential businesses had to closed, and some year groups were not allowed to return to school after the half-term.

But businesses have since reopened and 'bubbles' have returned, allowing more freedom when socialising.

The Welsh Government has published official guidelines, emphasising that we should be looking at living within the minimum that the rules allow, instead of the maximum remit.

So what exactly do the current rules mean?

  • When did the new rules come into force?

The firebreak regulations end on Monday 9 November. On this date, businesses that were required to shut reopened, schools began operating fully and the rules on meeting up with people changed.

  • Under the replacement rules, can I see family and friends I don't live with?

The short answer is yes, although there are limitations on this still.

They either have to be within your extended household 'bubble' or socially distanced as part of a four-person group - more on this below.

Let's deal with bubbles first.

  • So how does a bubble work?

One household can form an extended household bubble with another. This allows two separate households to join together and meet up without the need for social distancing.

The bubble you form on 9 November can be with any other household who agrees to partner with you - they do not have to be the same household you may have previously bubbled up with under different lockdown regulations earlier in the year.

You can meet up with anyone from your bubble inside each other's homes or in each other's gardens. You can also go to any other business, like a shop or restaurant, with them - just as you can with anyone you live with.

There is no limit on the number of people who can be part of a bubble, as long as every member comes from only two different households.

  • Does the other household in my bubble have to live locally?

There are no geographical limitations on who you can form a bubble with. They can live in another county and even over the border in England - so long as the rules in place where they live allow this.

Current lockdown restrictions in England forbid people there from travelling into Wales, unless they have a reasonable excuse.

The Welsh Government is encouraging people to form their extended household with people who live locally. They say "this will help to prevent the virus spreading from an area where there might be a higher rate of infection."

Local lockdowns are not returning after November 9, instead the new rules apply to the whole of Wales. Credit: PA Images

  • So I can leave Wales to see someone in my bubble?

Technically yes, if you are bubbled with someone in England and the restrictions in place there allow you to travel to see them. England is in a national lockdown until 2 December and so there are different restrictions on travel and meeting people if you are over the border.

You do not need a reasonable excuse to visit someone in your bubble. However, the Welsh Government is asking everyone to consider if their journey is essential - to try to limit the amount of travelling we are doing.

You cannot leave Wales to visit family and friends who are not in your bubble, unless there is a reasonable excuse - like to provide care.

  • What about people who aren't in my bubble?

You can meet people outside your bubble in public areas and places like restaurants and bars as long as social distancing is in place and there are no more than four people meeting.

You cannot meet up with anyone inside your home or in your garden unless they are part of your household or extended household bubble.

Children under the age of 11 do not count towards the rule of four total. So you could have two families meeting up somewhere like a café, with four parents and several children under the age of 11, as long as the adults are social distancing.

Welsh Government are pleading with people to "be restrained in how many different people" they see and advise that it is better to see one or two people regularly, rather than lots of different people occasionally.

There is no limit on how many under 11s can meet.

Two-metre social distancing at a table of four people in a restaurant for instance may be impractical, which the economy minister acknowledged at a Welsh Government press briefing.

Ken Skates MS said: "Of course its going to be a challenge in many venues" but businesses will need to implement "as best a social distancing regime as possible, of course two-metres is always though the most desirable social distance to maintain".

Four people from different households can meet in places like cafés, restaurants, pubs and bars if they social distance. Credit: PA Images
  • What about for things like sports, when larger groups of people would meet up?

The rule of four does not apply to "organised activity". This is classed as instances where "there is a body responsible for taking charge of what the [coronavirus] regulations require" in terms of health and safety. So for example, a fitness class run by a leisure centre or a football game where a team coach is the organiser.

In this case, groups of 15 can meet indoors and groups of 30 outdoors.

The organiser and any children under 11 do not count towards that 15 or 30 maximum limit.

  • Can I visit a relative or friend in a care home?

Care home visits are allowed to take place but only if the individual care home allows it. You'll need to check with the home what their policy and procedure is for visits.

  • What if a family member who is not in my bubble provides childcare?

If a member of your family, like a grandparent, usually provides your childcare - this can continue even if they are not in your bubble. However this form of childcare should only take place if there are no other viable alternative options.

Care provision is considered a reasonable excuse, so you are allowed to visit another adult who is not in your bubble too if you need to care for them.

Visiting someone on compassionate grounds is also considered a reasonable excuse to meet someone outside of your household or bubble.

Different care homes may have different policies on visits.
  • Can I travel outside of my local area for things like shopping or to go to a café?

Yes, people are free to travel wherever they want within Wales but they are not allowed to leave the country without reasonable excuse.

People are still being advised to avoid unnecessary travel and avoid crowded spaces, particularly indoors.

You are also only allowed to enter Wales with a reasonable excuse, like for work or education.

  • Does this mean I can go on holiday?

You can go on a holiday inside Wales if you already live here, but you cannot go abroad for a holiday. Similarly you cannot enter Wales for a holiday if you do not live here.

All accommodation businesses - like hotels, campsites and caravan parks - are allowed to open but you can only share these with people in your household or bubble.

  • Do I need to postpone my haircut?

All businesses that were required to close during the firebreak can reopen on November 9. This includes hairdressers and barbers.

It also means that retail shops, gyms, leisure centres and those in the hospitality or tourism industries can reopen too.

All these businesses will still need to adhere to coronavirus health and safety regulations, including social distancing and wearing PPE where appropriate.

Hairdressers and barbers will still have to wear PPE. Credit: PA Images
  • Does the 10:20pm curfew still apply?

Yes, licensed premises must still stop selling alcohol by 10pm and close 20 minutes later. They can offer take-away beyond this time as long as this does not include alcohol.

The curfew on selling alcohol still applies to supermarkets and off-licenses too.

Licensed premises can only provide table service.

  • What are the other rules for pubs, restaurants, cafés and bars?

All hospitality businesses must have physical distancing measures in place. Official government guidelines state that businesses should ensure "all reasonable measures" are taken to ensure distancing between separate household members.

Face coverings should also be worn any time you are not seated to eat or drink. The business should continue to take contact details from visitors for track and trace purposes.

As per the rules on households, people can visit a hospitality venue in a group of any size and do not have to social distance from one another as long as they are all members of the same household or extended household bubble.

You can also visit in a group of a maximum four people who are part of separate households - as long as you maintain social distancing.

  • Can live event venues open?

Places like theatres and concert halls are still required to shut. Nightclubs also aren't allowed to reopen yet.

Other entertainment venues that were open before the firebreak - like cinemas, bowling alleys, museums, galleries and bingo halls - can welcome back visitors and customers if they implement social distancing measures.

  • Are schools, colleges and universities operating as usual?

All education settings are allowed to open fully but they will continue to operate like they were before the firebreak lockdown. This means places like universities will still be using a mixture of online and face-to-face learning.