Economy Minister suggests remaining coronavirus restrictions in Wales will not be eased in one go
Wales’ economy minister has indicated the remaining coronavirus restrictions will not be eased in one go.
Speaking in the Senedd yesterday Vaughan Gething MS said he was “optimistic about the choices” the Welsh Government will get to make in the upcoming 21 day review.
However he warned it will be done in a “manner that is responsible and not driven by demands to simply blow the doors off and allow everything to happen at the same time as other parts of the United Kingdom.”
On Monday Prime Minister Johnson confirmed that the vast majority of England’s remaining restrictions, including social distancing and the requirement to wear face masks, will come to an end on July 19.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also outlined the direction of travel for Scotland in the coming weeks.
There has been no indication on what changes could made to the remaining restrictions in Wales, with a final decision and announcement expected from next week.
Yesterday the economy minister faced calls from Vale of Clwyd MS Gareth Davies to announce similar easing to measures so tourism businesses in Wales do not lose out to England.
Mr Davies said: “Tourism businesses in Denbighshire, particularly those in my constituency in the Vale of Clwyd, have been decimated by the pandemic.
“The sector’s recovery is going to be long and slow, particularly as there appears to be very little detail in terms of opening up from COVID over the summer, which is essentially the peak time for the trade.
“Minister, without a relaxation of COVID restrictions, the likes of Rhyl, Prestatyn, Bodelwyddan and St Asaph are going to find it hard to compete with their English counterparts, who will face little to no social distancing rules. Even Scotland have plans to fully relax their restrictions.
“How will the Welsh Government ensure tourism businesses in my constituency aren’t disadvantaged as a result of ongoing restrictions, and will you publish a road map for recovery?”
Mr Gething said there is already a high demand for tourism in Wales this summer and argued that any decision will be driven by “data and not dates”.
The minister said: “I think there are a couple of points to make in response. The first is, of course, that we have a much more generous offer to support businesses here in Wales, including the tourism sector, than over the border, and not just the general support that we’ve provided—at least £400 million more than the consequentials that would come from spending in England—but the fact that we continue to provide rate relief for a range of businesses, when England have already reduced that support for businesses across the border.
“The second point that I’d make is that, actually, there is already high demand for tourism businesses through the summer already. And in the conversations that I have directly with the sector, their challenge is actually about getting enough staff to work within the sector itself, and we’re working alongside the sector to promote people to look to work not just on a seasonal basis, but on a more permanent basis in an industry that pays perhaps more than people may realise, with the rewards that the broader sector may bring to them.
“And I think the third point is that, when you come to the broad demand to end social distancing and to have dates in place, you will have heard consistently for more than a year now the approach we’ve taken in Wales is generally being driven by data not dates.
“We’re considering the advice that we are getting from our own scientific advisers and public health advisers, and we need to take a balance in our public health risks, which we know are there still, even as we look to hopefully exit the pandemic, and we’ll continue to make choices alongside the industry about what the future will look like.
“I’m optimistic about the choices that we’ll get to make, but we’ll do so in a manner that is responsible and not driven by demands to simply blow the doors off and allow everything to happen at the same time as other parts of the United Kingdom.
“We’ll provide dates and data when the time is right, and the Member shouldn’t have to wait very long for the Cabinet to make those choices.”
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