Lockdown restrictions to continue in Wales for further three weeks but rules around exercising with others to be relaxed

Credit: PA

Lockdown restrictions in Wales will remain in force for a further three weeks, the First Minister has confirmed. However rules around exercising with people from other households will be relaxed.

From tomorrow, people in Wales will now be allowed to exercise with one other person from one other household - provided they live locally.

People will also be allowed to "dissolve" and recreate a new support bubble. The rules surrounding who can form a support bubble will remain the same and people must leave a gap of at least ten days before reforming a new one.

On Friday, Mr Drakeford said: "I hope these two very small and careful steps will be the first towards a time when we can all live with fewer restrictions on our lives and without fear of this terrible virus.

Public Health Wales announced on Friday that there have been a further 546 cases of coronavirus in Wales, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 190,940.

It also reported that another 29 people have died after contracting the virus, taking the total in Wales since the start of the pandemic to 4,695

Credit: PA Images

The First Minister announced on Friday that primary school pupils may be able to begin returning to school after February half-term if coronavirus rates continue to fall.

Mark Drakeford MS said a phased return to the classroom, starting with primary school children, could begin "straight after half-term".

Wales currently has a rate of 170 cases per 100,000 of its population, down from 270 per 100,000 last Friday, while the country's R number is estimated to be around 0.7, meaning the virus is on the decline.

Mr Drakeford said on Friday that, following a three-week review, it is still too early to relax lockdown restrictions which have been in place since December 20, despite the promising figures.

Level 4 restrictions will remain in place for another three weeks in order to "allow the NHS to recover" from the surge in cases over Christmas.

But he said he will look to reopen schools in February, with the youngest pupils being prioritised if case numbers continue to fall.

Mr Drakeford said teachers will only be prioritised for a vaccine if the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) changes its advice.

The First Minister said: "The JCVI the list of prioritisation changes all the time. If teachers were to change to the top of the list then we would change focus.

"We will focus on the top four groups, that is how we will save the max amount of lives.

"We will focus on the expert on the advice. If the advice changes then the Welsh Government advice will change."

Wales' lockdown restriction will continue for three more weeks Credit: PA

The First Minister also warned that people should not try to "exploit the modest" relaxations around the lockdown rules, coming into force on Saturday.

Mark Drakeford MS said: "My message to the people is... if you think that this is an excuse to push the rules, to do more than is allowed, all you do is delay the day when we can lift other restrictions for us all.

"I’ve referred previously to small acts of selfishness, and it would be a small act of selfishness to try to exploit the very modest steps that we are able to provide today and, when people do that, they let themselves down, and they let other people down as well."

The Welsh Government said the Covid-19 situation is ''improving'' but another three weeks of Level 4 restrictions are needed to ''allow the NHS to recover.''

A statement said: "Rates of coronavirus across Wales have fallen below 200 cases per 100,000 people for the first time since early November.

"And every day, thousands more people receive their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine - the latest figures show almost 11% of the population have been vaccinated."

The lockdown restrictions are reviewed every 21 days, and on Wednesday chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton said a Wales-wide easing of lockdown restrictions is unlikely until the end of February at the earliest.

The reproduction R value for the virus on Wednesday was said to be between 0.7 and 0.9, while figures from Public Health Wales showed that the country's seven-day case rate stood at 204 cases per 100,000 people, down from 270 cases per 100,000 on Friday.

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