Lockdown rules to be eased in Wales as 'stay at home' restrictions lifted

  • The lockdown changes announced in Wales

The First Minister for Wales has announced steps to ease some lockdown restrictions in the country.

Wales has been under a strict Level 4 lockdown since before Christmas, which meant people were told to stay at home unless for essential reasons and all non-essential businesses, including hospitality have been closed.

As coronavirus levels continue to fall, Mark Drakeford has announced that from Saturday 13 March, a "stay local" rule will replace the "stay at home" message, meaning people are able to travel further afield.

Wales currently has the lowest coronavirus case rate of the four UK nations, according to latest analysis. On Thursday however, the First Minister said that people should be expecting to live with some form of restrictions throughout 2021.

'Stay local' will replace the 'stay at home' message which has been in place since before Christmas Credit: PA
  • What other changes to lockdown have been announced?

Four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors to socialise, including in people's gardens, from Saturday 13 March. Up until now, people were previously only allowed to meet up outdoors to exercise.

Outdoor sports facilities can also open from tomorrow such as basketball courts, tennis courts and golf courses.

Indoor care home visits with one person will also be permitted.

Hairdressers and barber shops will also be allowed to reopen from Monday by appointment only.

From 22 March, some non-essential retail will be allowed to reopen "gradually" as the restrictions are lifted on what can be sold in shops which are currently open, the FM said.

Garden centres will also be allowed to reopen.

All shops, including all close contact services, will be able to open from 12 April – the same date as in England.

Garden centres can reopen from 22 March Credit: PA

Also from 15 March, all primary school pupils and those in qualifications years will return. Schools will have the flexibility to bring year 10 and 12 learners back and more learners will return to colleges, the Welsh Government said.

From March 27 Wales wide travel will be allowed with a return of holidays.

Mark Drakeford said: ''It will be self contained accommodation only, not somewhere where facilities have to be shared.

''The basic rule of only going with your household will remain in place and all the other restrictions that we continue to observe.''

It means that holidays will be allowed in time for Easter in self-contained accommodation, but Drakeford warned people in England would not be permitted to travel to Wales for a holiday.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Mark Drakeford said: ''At Easter time, Welsh people will be able to travel for holidays over Easter within Wales, and to self-contained accommodation."

"The rules in England will not permit that. The Prime Minister's road map says that for the weeks after March 29, people should minimise travel, there are to be no holidays, and people won't be allowed to stay away from home overnight.

"If it won't be safe to stay overnight in England, then obviously it would not be safe for people to travel into Wales." 

About 40% of children in Wales were back in school, with that figure rising “considerably” from Monday. Credit: PA

Last week, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said some secondary pupils in Wales could be returning to schools to "check in" with teachers before the Easter break.

Mark Drakeford said, “We are taking a phased approach to unlocking each sector – starting with schools. We will make step-by-step changes each week to gradually restore freedoms. We will monitor each change we make, so we know what impact each change has had on Wales’ public health situation.”

Some opposition parties have already responded to the announcement with Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price saying travel restrictions should be "eased with caution".

Mr Price said that relaxation of restrictions should be done “slowly and steadily” and stressed the need for the “clearest plan possible” out of lockdown for businesses including the reopening of gyms for mental health reasons.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price any relaxation of restrictions need to be done "slowly and steadily" Credit: PA

"Travel restrictions should be eased with caution and the sensible approach is to reintroduce the “stay local” message for as long as is necessary – ensuring that guidance is tailored depending on where people live. Stay Local can mean different things in different parts of Wales – particularly rural Wales.

“Any relaxation of restrictions need to be done slowly and steadily. After all, we all want this lockdown to be the very last lockdown that we face.

“But above all, we support measures that aim to keep people safe, based on evidence, but people and businesses need the clearest plan possible about the road ahead of us.

“However, loneliness and isolation remain also a real challenge for many people, and we hope that the government will put a sharp focus on when and how it will be safe to return to extended household bubbles. 

"We also cannot ignore the mental health crisis which has been brought about because of the pandemic. It is vital that everything possible is done to enable gyms to be among the first facilities to reopen."

Responding to the announcement of the lockdown restrictions being eased, Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies MS said: “We await the full details, but it appears Labour have missed another opportunity to provide clarity and a detailed roadmap out of lockdown for people across Wales.

“Labour’s U-turn on the opening of non-essential retail at such short notice will be a hammer blow for many businesses, and the decision to now align with England in that area shows we could’ve adopted a similar roadmap weeks ago.

“The ongoing refusal by Labour ministers to do so will only increase frustration in the sectors worst hit by the pandemic and will put more Welsh jobs at risk.

“Sadly, the scant details are reflective of a Labour government that doesn’t trust the people of Wales and which we found out this week believes that Welsh people...“if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile.”

“People in Wales fully understand the pandemic can change course and Labour ministers need to start treating us like adults, cut out the political games, and provide a clear path and roadmap forward.”

Businesses unable to reopen will be eligible for more financial support Credit: PA

The hospitality sector, which includes pubs and restaurants, have not been given a date for when they might be able to reopen.

Speaking at Friday's coronavirus briefing, Mark Drakeford said more funding would be available for businesses still unable to open.

An extra £150m will be made available in addition to rates grants, which means businesses will be eligible for between £4,000 to £5,000 to meet ongoing operating costs.