Wales emerges from firebreak lockdown under new national restrictions

9 November 2020, 06:21 | Updated: 9 November 2020, 07:53

Wales is allowed to start opening up again after 17 days
Wales is allowed to start opening up again after 17 days. Picture: PA

By Kate Buck

Wales has completed its 17-day firebreak lockdown to tackle coronavirus, and brought in a series of new measures to keep the virus under control.

Wales was plunged under the restrictions last month, which included pubs, restaurants and gyms were closed and supermarkets were controversially banned from selling 'non-essential' items.

But now, groups of up to four people can now meet up in cafes, pubs and restaurants while shops, gyms, hairdressers and places of worship will also reopen.

Supermarkets can again sell non-essential items while people will only be allowed to meet up inside homes with members of one other household if they have joined into a "bubble".

A 10pm curfew on alcohol sales will carry over from before the firebreak, with people required to prove their home address in bars following concerns people in England could flout its own lockdown and travel to Wales for a drink.

There are no restrictions on travel within Wales, but people will not be allowed to travel outside of the country unless for a reasonable excuse such as work.

The relaxation of the rules comes as England is in the midst of a month-long lockdown, with people banned from meeting indoors together and a limit on only two people from different households meeting outdoors.

Read more: Angry shopper tears down barricades to children's clothing in Wales

First Minister Mark Drakeford urged the Welsh public to reduce the number of people they see as well as time spent with them, warning that "we cannot go back to the way we were living our lives".

Mr Drakeford said: "We all need to think about our own lives and what we can all do to keep our families safe. We need to stop thinking about the maximum limit of rules and regulations.

"Coronavirus is a highly infectious virus - it thrives on contact between people. To keep each other safe we need to reduce the number of people we have contact with and the amount of time we spend with them.

"There will be a new set of national measures from today, which will follow up all the hard work and sacrifices which have been made during the firebreak.

Supermarkets were banned from selling 'non-essential' items
Supermarkets were banned from selling 'non-essential' items. Picture: PA

"We cannot go back to the way we were living our lives and throw away all that hard work."

Mr Drakeford also said people's behaviours and actions would be more important in controlling the spread of the virus than the new rules and regulations.

Read more: Wales outlines updated rules on 'essential items' following confusion and anger

The Welsh Labour leader previously said the end of Wales's firebreak just four days after England entered into a month-long lockdown would create the hardest border between the countries for "several centuries".

The final week of Wales's lockdown saw the number of Covid-19 hospital admissions surpass the levels of the previous peak of the virus in April.

The Welsh Government also faced calls to extend restrictions in areas of the south Wales valleys including Merthyr Tydfil - which became the worst-hit area of the UK last week with 741 cases per 100,000 people - as high levels of transmissions continue to rise.

Wales's new national measures from Monday include:

- The need to maintain two-metre social distancing and wear face masks in enclosed public places, including on public transport and taxis.

- The requirement to work from home whenever possible will remain.

- People should only meet with their "bubble" in their own home and only two households will be able to form a "bubble". If one person from either household develops symptoms, everyone should immediately self-isolate.

- People will be able to meet in groups of up to four people from separate households (not including any children aged under 11) in regulated indoor places, such as hospitality - bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants.

- Up to 15 people can take part in an organised indoor activity and up to 30 in an organised activity outdoors, providing all social distancing, hand hygiene and other Covid-19 safety measures are followed.

- People should avoid non-essential travel as much as possible. There will be no legal restrictions on travel within Wales for residents, but international travel should be for essential reasons only.

Primary schools and years seven and eight in secondary schools remained open during the lockdown apart from the half-term break, but all schools and year groups will resume from Monday.

Universities will resume a combination of in-person teaching and blended learning.