Hairdressers reopen and more school pupils return to classroom in latest easing of lockdown restrictions

Hairdressers and barbers were allowed to reopen on Monday with a number of safety measures in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, in the latest easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions.

The change marks the first lifting of rules for close contact services since Wales entered lockdown on December 20, although businesses such as nail parlours and beauty salons are expected to remain shut until at least April 12.

Welsh Government regulations say that hairdressers can only serve customers with an appointment, and that their services will be restricted to haircuts only.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said on Friday that hairdressing businesses would be allowed to reopen because they have "gone through everything that is needed in order to operate safely".

More primary school children are due to return to the classroom on Monday

Monday will also see primary school pupils return to classrooms for the first time this year, joining those in foundation years who returned last month, while face-to-face teaching will also resume for learners in years 11 and 13.

Teachers can also invite learners in years 10 and 12 back to school in order to support their learning, while all other years will be allowed to "check in" with teachers on a limited number of days before a full school return from April 12.

Meanwhile, speaking at Monday's Welsh Government press conference, the education minister said university students could be back in lectures from April 12.

Kirsty Williams said the "expectation" is that students can return for blended learning for the summer term.

Universities have planned for more teaching and learning to continue in the summer term than in a normal academic cycle, she added.

Students will be offered tests before they return to university, and twice-weekly lateral flow testing will be available for all students and staff.

University students in Wales could be back in lectures from April 12th, combined with remote learning. Credit: PA Images

Commenting on the wider return to school for learners, the teaching union NAHT Cymru reiterated its position that teachers should be prioritised for vaccination.

Laura Doel, NAHT Cymru director, said: "We want nothing more than schools to reopen for all children, but only as long as the science supports that it is safe to do so.

"The return must be sustainable to avoid further disruption to children’s education, which means everyone continuing to adhere to the rules. 

"Understandably, there’s been some anxiety around bringing in more children to school as previously there had been an increase in Covid-19 cases associated with schools being open.

"We remain disappointed that the Welsh Government did not choose to vaccinate school staff, who, as a frontline workforce, should have been prioritised after the most vulnerable in our communities had received their jabs."

The Welsh Government has always maintained that it is guided by independent advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which states that vaccination by profession could begin in phase two of the rollout.

Wales currently has the lowest seven-day case rate of the four UK nations Credit: PA Images

It comes after Wales' "stay-at-home" restrictions were lifted on Saturday, as the country moved to a "stay local" period, with travel restrictions expected to be eased further in time for Easter.

At Friday's Welsh Government press briefing it was also announced that:

  • Four people from two households can meet outdoors and in private gardens to socialise

  • Outdoor sports facilities, such as tennis courts and golf courses, can open again

  • Indoor care home visits can resume with a single, designated visitor

Wales' seven-day case rate on Sunday stood at 39 cases per 100,000 people, the lowest of any country in the United Kingdom.

However, despite the downward trend in infection rates the easing of some restrictions came with a warning.

On Saturday First Minister Mark Drakeford posted a video on social media, warning that recent mutations of coronavirus had made it difficult to accurately chart its course.

He said: "We hope this is just the beginning of the process of unlocking the restrictions.

"But I want to be clear, we are facing a very different situation than the one we saw last year.

"Rates of the virus are low and we are vaccinating more people every day but there is now a very infectious form of the virus present in all parts of Wales.

"This makes it very difficult to predict how the virus will behave.

"As we go out more and meet our friends and families outdoors there will be more opportunities for the virus to spread and to cause illness."

Public Health Wales data published on Monday revealed there have been a further two suspected coronavirus deaths, with another 248 confirmed cases.

On vaccinations 1,122,931 people have received a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine; 264,255 people have been given a two-dose course.

Amongst the over-eighties, 94.5% of people have been given a first does of the vaccine.

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