Retail returns, more pupils go back to school and some travel restrictions lifted in Wales' latest lockdown easing

  • Video report by ITV Wales journalist Charanpreet Khaira

All school pupils in Wales will now return to face-to-face teaching, non-essential retail can fully reopen and some travel restrictions will be lifted in Wales' latest easing of lockdown restrictions.

University students will also be able to return to campus on Monday for blended learning and close contact services can resume.

Wedding venue "show-arounds" by appointment will also be permitted again.

While restrictions on travel in and out of Wales will be lifted on Monday, people will not be able to journey to countries outside of the Common Travel area - the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland - without a reasonable excuse.

All pupils returned to schools today Credit: ITV Wales

Monday sees the full return to education for pupils across Wales, many of whom have not been inside a school this year.

At Pencoedtre High School in Barry, pupils Lucy Tucker and Malina Michalska are both glad to be back in the classroom after months away.

''It's a bit of normality for us because we've been off for so long,'' Lucy said.

''It's good to be back so we can be normal again.''

''We're not as isolated now,'' Malina said.

''I find it easier to have someone in front of me showing me during lessons. On camera it has been challenging to set the lesson out and for everyone to pay attention.''

Last week, the Welsh Government announced it would be accelerating parts of its lockdown exit programme, with First Minister Mark Drakeford saying the "improvements" in the public health situation and the ongoing vaccination programme meant changes could be made to previously announced plans.

Under the new plan, organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people will be able to take place from April 26 instead of May 3.

Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be permitted outdoors from April 26 - also a week earlier than initially scheduled.

The reopening of gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities will be allowed from May 3, brought forward a week from May 10.

This will include for individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.

Gyms will be able to reopen a week earlier than had initially been scheduled

An extended household rule will again allow two households to meet and have contact indoors from May 3, rather than May 10.

All dates are "subject to the public health situation remaining favourable" and will be confirmed at a review of coronavirus regulations on April 22, the Welsh Government said.

Mr Drakeford said the speeding up of the timetable was "only possible because of the efforts everyone is making to protect themselves and their loved ones".

The easing of lockdown restrictions is conditional on coronavirus numbers continuing to improve Credit: PA Images

In response to the easing announcement, the Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies said last week: "The great British vaccination programme is protecting more and more lives every day and gives us the ability to restore freedoms in a safe but accelerated manner.

"Pressure from the Welsh public and Welsh Conservatives have forced Labour ministers to act, but there is still more they can do in accelerating the roadmap with the safe resumption of activities such as outdoor hospitality and gyms."

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said last week: "Plaid Cymru has been pressing the case for gyms to reopen as quickly and as safely as is possible because they are crucial for people’s mental health and well-being.

"This new date, whilst welcome, is still not early enough.

"The scenes of unregulated drinking over recent days has been a serious cause of concern and many will question the Labour Government’s decision not to move the re-opening of outdoor hospitality forward.

"A regulated drinking environment is, after all, a better and safer option.

"Likewise, the lack of clear date on indoor hospitality remains a major problem and at the very least the government should urgently revisit its decision to delay any additional financial support until after election."

From April 26 outdoor attractions, such as funfairs and theme parks, could be allowed to reopen - the date for which has not been changed.

Outdoor hospitality, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants, is also set to resume from April 26. 

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