'Think very carefully' against travelling to pubs in England, urges First Minister

  • Watch: Video report by ITV Wales correspondent, Carole Green

The First Minister has urged people in Wales not to cross the border into England next month to visit a pub, when outdoor hospitality businesses reopen there.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants in England are set to reopen their outside spaces on April 12 but those businesses in Wales will have to wait until April 26 to do the same.

People in Wales will be allowed to cross the border from April 12 but Mark Drakeford said they should "think very carefully" against travelling to go to a pub because of higher rates of coronavirus in England.

On Wednesday evening, Mr Drakeford set out further dates for the easing of coronavirus restrictions and moving Wales fully into alert level 3. The roadmap also includes potential dates for opening gyms, indoor hospitality and the return of extended households.

Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency: "Rates of coronavirus in Wales are the lowest in the United Kingdom. They are higher in England and the highest in the north-west of England.

"You would definitely be visiting somewhere where the risks were higher. We know there is a variant of this virus in Bristol, which so far we've managed to keep out of Wales completely.

"My message to people thinking about travelling across the border in that couple of weeks before things are opening in Wales is to think very carefully about it. You really will not have long to wait before you're able to enjoy exactly the same sorts of things in Wales where the current state of the virus is more benign."

Explaining the reason behind reopening hospitality businesses outside in Wales two weeks after England, the First Minister said there was clear scientific advice against matching the date across the border.

He said he would have preferred Boris Johnson to reopen outdoor hospitality later so it would not attract people from Wales.

"I wish we could have done it at the same time, that would have been preferable," he said.

"We at the cabinet here asked this week for very specific advice from our chief medical officer and scientists as to whether or not we should have brought our date forward to match the English date exactly because of these cross-border issues.

"The advice was clear-cut. The risks of doing so outweighed any rewards because we are opening such a lot of things on April 12 in Wales already. The advice was we really did need to wait two weeks to see whether those actions were having the effect of driving the virus numbers up again."

On 13 May, the Welsh Government will consider allowing indoor hospitality to reopen on 17 May. Credit: PA Images

One pub owner in Colwyn Bay welcomed the April 26 date and said it was actually "much earlier" than he had been expecting.

Graham Higgins, who owns The Red Lion Pub, said it would be nice if businesses in England and Wales were on "an even keel" but "the decision's been made that we are gong to things differently so, we just have to go for it."

An ice cream parlour owner said she thinks people are travelling across the border anyway.

Carrie Parisella said her business in Conwy has been a lot busy since Wales-wide travel was allowed but also believes people are just "making their own decisions and own rules" in terms of crossing the border.

Plaid Cymru have called for more financial support for the Welsh hospitality sector, ahead of reopening.

Leader of the party, Adam Price, said: “While this news offers hospitality a glimmer of hope, it will be a while yet before the sector can fully re-open. Labour has a duty to provide extra financial support to help those businesses to get back on their feet - increasing the pot of cash that’s available to businesses.

"Time and again, hard-working Welsh businesses that form the backbone of our economy have been let down and left behind by this Labour government - the very least they can do is to dig deep and support key sectors of the Welsh economy."

Before the announcement on Wednesday of a date for outdoor hospitality reopening in Wales, The Welsh Conservatives were calling for more certainty for the sector.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies, previously said: "Given the progress we’ve made on case rates and vaccination, we also believe consideration should be afforded to the reopening of outdoor hospitality in Wales."