Coronavirus 'in retreat' in Wales as First Minister announces latest lockdown easing

21 August 2020, 09:25

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford during a visit to Ysgol Llanhari school on July 14
First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford during a visit to Ysgol Llanhari school on July 14. Picture: Getty

By Megan White

Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said coronavirus is “in retreat” in Wales as he announced the latest easing of lockdown restrictions.

He said the virus “remains effectively surpressed” in Wales, but in a UK context is “slightly more challenging.”

People in Wales will be allowed to visit relatives and friends inside care homes from August 29 if coronavirus conditions "remain favourable.

A number of other changes will come into effect from Saturday, including allowing extended households to expand to include up to four other households in their bubble.

Weddings and funerals will also be allowed to cater for meals for up to 30 people as long as they keep to "suitably socially distant settings".

Schools are also set to reopen in Wales on September 1.

Mr Drakeford also said he had only spoken to Prime Minister Boris Johnson once since May 28, as part of a call with the other UK First Ministers at the end of July.

He also said the Welsh Government has had “more regular contact” with Michael Gove in that time.

The First Minister told LBC News: “The virus remains effectively surpressed in Wales, with our figures still going down, but the UK context is slightly more challenging with numbers rising everywhere else, so we will continue to make chanes in a careful, cautious, step-by-step way.

“As from tomorrow, the number of households in an extended household in Wales will double, from two to four, and it will be possible to hold wedding breakfasts and funeral wakes indoors for a maximum of 30 people.

“On the following Saturday, August 29, casinos will be able to reopen in Wales, and care home visits will be able to take place indoors for the first time since the virus began.

“On September 1, the major thing we will be doing in this three weeks, and the thing we are saving most of the head room we have for will be for the reopening of schools in Wales, and we want to make sure we will be able to do that in a safe and successful way.

“Therefore, the other changes we are making are relatively modest.”

Schools in Wales did reopen in June and July, making Mr Drakeford confident that parents will be happy for pupils to go back in three weeks time.

He also said over the next three weeks, there will be pilots for outdoors arts and sports events of up to 100 people to take place.

Mr Drakeford added: “I do agree that lifting lockdown is a lot more complicated than going into lockdown, and that there are a lot of rules and guidance that people have to get on top of if you are reopening our economy and our society.

“But I think in Wales our experience has been that provided you work with those sectors, and provided you do your very best to communicate things as clearly as you can to people, that people are very keen to do the right thing and are willing to put in some of the efforts that need to be made to try to understand what is required of them.

“It’s part of the explanation, it’s not the whole explanation, but it’s part of the explanation I think as to why coronavirus remains in retreat in Wales while we are seeing it come back again across Europe and in other parts of the United Kingdom.”