Wales to end five mile coronavirus travel restrictions from Monday

3 July 2020, 08:01

The Welsh government will remove its current travel restrictions
The Welsh government will remove its current travel restrictions. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Wales' five-mile restriction on travel will be lifted from Monday, the Welsh Government has announced.

Mark Drakeford has said that the end of the "stay local" requirement will also coincide with allowing two households to form one extended household, enabling families to be reunited.

The First Minister also reminded the public the importance of maintaining social distancing and to "respect" the places and communities they choose to visit.

The restriction of staying within five miles of home has proved controversial to some in Wales, especially those living in rural communities who can live long distances away from family.

Mr Drakeford said: "The number of coronavirus cases is declining, thanks to the efforts we have all taken together to reduce the spread of the virus.

"This means we can continue to make changes to the coronavirus regulations.

"From Monday, we will lift the requirement to stay local and introduce new changes to the rules to enable people from two separate households to join together to form one extended household.

"These changes will be welcomed by many as they represent a further easing of the lockdown - but this doesn't mean that coronavirus has gone away.

"We all still have a responsibility to keep on doing all the things, which make a real difference to the spread of the virus.

"This means maintaining social distancing, thinking carefully about where we go and why, so together we continue to do all that we can to help to keep Wales safe."

Pubs could also resume indoor service in Wales
Pubs could also resume indoor service in Wales. Picture: PA

People found travelling outside their local area without reasonable excuse have faced being fined by police, with regular instances flagged up by forces of travellers from England breaching it and being issued with penalties.

Dr Meirion Evans, who advises Wales' chief medical officer, previously called for the restriction to be lifted, saying he believed it was more important to consider the purpose of a person's journey "than some measure of how far they travel".

But ministers argued that allowing people to travel further increased the chances of people spreading coronavirus across the country.

It comes as a Welsh Government minister said indoor service for pubs, restaurants, bars and cafes will be considered in Wales if the country's outdoor-only reopening is a success.

Baroness Eluned Morgan said ministers were "intensely aware" of the pressures faced by businesses unable to reopen, but that the health of staff and customers came first.

A phased return for businesses in the hospitality sector from July 13 will be given the go-ahead, subject to a review next week, as long as coronavirus cases continue to fall in the country.

The first phase would see the reopening of outdoor spaces owned by businesses and subject to existing licenses, and will require measures to reduce the risk of transmissions such as pre-booking and table service.

But some, including those belonging to the pub chain Wetherspooons and Welsh firm Brains, will not open until their venues can serve people indoors.

Pubs, bars and restaurants can reopen in England from July 4 and are allowed to provide indoor service.

At the Welsh Government's daily press briefing, Baroness Morgan said: "We've been very clear throughout this crisis that the link between health and the economy is one we need to understand.

"If we open too quickly, as we've seen in some parts of the world, we'll just simply have to go back into lockdown and that's not a place we want to be.

"That's why we're taking this step-by-step, phased, controlled approach, working with the sector where we can but understanding the importance of the sector on the Welsh economy.

"We are intensely aware of the numbers of people who work in the sector and the numbers of people who feel very pressurised at the moment.

"We will take every step that we can to make sure this first phase of opening is a success, and then if that is successful we can then move onto further reopening."

In relation to the two-metre social distance rule which some say will restrict the ability to trade, Baroness Morgan said the "chances are" it would remain unchanged.

"The scientific evidence we've seen so far makes it absolutely clear that two metres is safer than one metre, and so for the time being that two-metre rule will stay in place," she said.

But she added the Government was working on additional protective measures to support and protect staff and customers, referencing the need of staff to be able to serve at tables.

Baroness Morgan said she believed it will be possible to identify the cause of possible Covid-19 spikes in future, despite the planned reopening coming just two days after the return of tourism, and within two weeks of allowing people to form extended households and scrapping the five-mile travel guidance.

"We will of course be able to keep an eye on where incidents occur, and I think it will be possible for us then to monitor what will be the most likely cause of the rise in incidents," she said.

"And we will be making sure that guidance is in place to try and restrict the numbers of people who come into contact with each other in a way that could contribute to the spreading of the virus."

Meanwhile, Public Health Wales said a further eight people had died after testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths to 1,524, though separate figures released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show the true number of deaths involving the virus up to June 19 stands at 2,408.

The total number of cases in Wales increased by 41 to 15,815.