Travel and tourism: How likely is an Easter getaway in Wales?

A family enjoy the Easter sun on Barry Island beach in 2019. Will other families be able to enjoy an Easter break this year? Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government is due to announce fresh updates to lockdown restrictions on Friday.

Previously announced changes, including the lifting of the 'stay local' requirement, are expected to come into force over the weekend.

At the last lockdown review, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced that self-contained accommodation may be able to reopen in time for Easter.

Those encouraging words were joined by a revelation that it was the Government's plan to allow Wales-wide travel once again from Saturday 27 March.

  • What is self-contained accommodation?

The Welsh Government says accommodation is deemed to be self-contained when it does "not require guests to share washing facilities, toilets or kitchens", so for example caravans.

Self-contained accommodation also extends to cover B&Bs and hostels which have en-suite facilities and room service meals.

On Thursday, the Welsh Government Cabinet met to discuss the current coronavirus rates and assess what recent progress has been made in the battle against the pandemic.

It is those conversations in those types of meetings that shape government policy, inform its decisions and ultimately influence what we can and cannot do in these restricted times.

So, ahead of Friday's review and with the Government's repeated emphasis on lockdown loosening being dependent on coronavirus progress, just how likely is a self-accommodated Easter break in Wales?

The Welsh Government said it hoped self-contained accommodation could reopen in time for Easter Credit: PA Images

The Welsh Government has said it is being guided by the contents of its own strategic document, the Coronavirus Control Plan: Alert Levels in Wales - Coming Out of Lockdown.

It plots a particular path it believes Wales has to travel to navigate down through the four alert levels and make a return to near-normality.

This includes a fall in the number of people testing positive for coronavirus (the test positivity rate), acceptable and improving levels of hospital capacity, and a vigilance to the threats posed by new coronavirus variants.

The country is currently in Alert Level 4, the highest category in which the circulation of coronavirus is deemed enough of a threat to communities, the health service and people's lives to justify stringent restrictions.

However, with the all-Wales seven-day average figure for coronavirus infections falling in recent weeks, the Welsh Government confirmed last Friday that it had updated its strategic document.

It means that from Saturday, if conditions allow, Wales will move into Alert Level 3 and:

  • The 'stay local' requirement will be lifted

  • The tourism sector begins a phased reopening as self-contained accommodation is permitted to welcome guests

  • Outdoor children's activities reopen

  • There will be a limited opening of some outdoor areas including historic sites and some gardens

  • Garden centres can reopen

However, despite the intention to lift the 'stay local' requirement from Saturday, the Welsh Government has not ruled out a reintroduction of a system in which different areas across the country live under varying degrees of restrictions.

In its strategic plan, the Government said: "We hope to be able to maintain an all-Wales approach for simplicity and to avoid confusion.

"But our system will enable us to move up and down alert levels on a local or regional basis if this is the most effective and proportionate approach."

Clusters and regional flare-ups have developed in places throughout the pandemic.

In Neath Port Talbot this week, people were warned over the dangers of indoor household mixing after the emergence of a "significant" cluster of cases.

Some were linked to birthday party gatherings and extended family members visiting one another.

Last week, on Anglesey and in Merthyr Tydfil household mixing was again highlighted as a cause for driving up infections, with the First Minister warning more localised measures could be introduced as a consequence.

Garden centres reopened on Monday along with some non-essential retail Credit: PA Images

Perhaps, then, the obvious question: have the key numbers involved in tracking the progress of combatting coronavirus improved enough to pave the way to an Easter break?

At the time of the Welsh Government's last lockdown review, on Friday 12 March, Wales had the lowest coronavirus infection rate of the four UK nations.

It remains with the lowest seven-day average infection figure across the UK; 41.4 per 100,000 people.

Coronavirus hospitalisations also appear to be falling in Wales, with recent UK Government data showing that 382 people were in hospital with Covid-19 on Tuesday; that figure had been 611 on the day of the Welsh Government's last lockdown review.

Public Health Wales data published on Thursday revealed there have been a further four reported coronavirus deaths, taking the total in the country since the start of the pandemic to 5,495.

There have also been another 227 new confirmed cases of coronavirus.

On March 12, there were 12 recorded coronavirus deaths and 190 cases.

The success of the vaccination rollout, widely regarded as the way out of the entire pandemic, will also dictate how quickly people in Wales can begin to look forward to holidays both at home and abroad.

Wales' vaccination rollout has been steadily progressing since it began last December, with a third of the adult population being vaccinated by late February.

People enjoy eating fish and chips on Barry Island Credit: PA Images

Looking further ahead, another wide-ranging round of changes are due for Government consideration on 22 April.

This includes the reopening of outdoor hospitality, a resumption of weddings and the reopening of outdoor attractions.

Although, as ever, all changes being considered by the Welsh Government - and those that have already been made - are reliant on a continuing improvement in containing coronavirus and protecting those at risk.