Posted: Fri 29th May 2020

First Minister confirms family and friends lockdown easing and tells shops to use next three weeks to prepare safeguarding

News and Info from Deeside, Flintshire, North Wales
This article is old - Published: Friday, May 29th, 2020

First Minister of Wales will announce later today the outcome of the third lockdown review as he is required to do every 21 days under emergency regulations implemented in March.

Mark Drakeford has been doing media rounds this morning explaining the reasoning behind the latest lockdown easing decisions being taken by Welsh Government.

During a press conference at 12.30pm today he will say that people from two different households will be able to meet outdoors from Monday.

Mr Drakeford will also ask people in Wales to ‘stay local’ and not travel more than five miles from home – but there be exceptions such as travelling to work, to seek care and shopping for essentials if they aren’t available locally.

There’s no specific announcement on when non essential shops will be allowed to open in Wales, unlike England where they will open from June 15 – but Mr Drakeford has suggested retailers should use the next three weeks to plan and prepare to open.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales this morning, he said: “What I’ll be saying today is that the advice we have from the chief medical officer is that the R rate (measure by which the rate of infection is spreading) , the circulation rate is no better in Wales today than it was three weeks ago. 

That means our headroom to make any changes is very limited and we can do one main thing. 

From Monday onwards, two households, will be able to get together in the open air provided those households remain at a two metre distance from one another. 

We’re doing this because people in Wales have been fantastic at sticking to the rules during lockdown. 

The one thing we hear from people is the thing they missed the most is the ability to see people who are very close to them, who they haven’t been able to see for many weeks.

We’re using the small headroom we have to give that permission for people to get together again in those strictly controlled circumstances.

What we’re offering people is permission to do things not an invitation to do things. 

You’re still safest if you see as few people as you can manage and stay as local as you can. 

So if you need to meet in the garden you can provided you can remain at a two metre social distance, you mustn’t go into the house, it’s not an invitation to get in the garden have a beer and start mixing with one another in a way that will cause damage to your health, potentially and to the health of other people.”

The R number measures the rate of transmission of coronavirus in the UK. Original estimates of coronavirus’ R number among a population with no immunity to the virus ranged between 2 and 6.6. The R number has dropped dramatically due to lockdown and social distancing measures. As of May 28 the figure in Wales currently sits at around 0.8 – critically its below 1. If the R number is below one, it means that on average, someone who has the virus passes it onto fewer than one other person.

Asked if those households who choose to mix will be allowed to have ‘beers and barbecues’ in their gardens for example, Mr Drakeford  

“What I’m saying to people is, that we need to use our common sense and to take some responsibility here, as people in Wales have done throughout the crisis.

This is permission for people to meet as two households in the open air at a social distance. 

People shouldn’t do things that risk strict rules from breaking down. 

It’s a really big step ahead to allow people to be face to face with one another again and I know the people in Wales will understand that they’ve got to do that in the most careful and controlled way.”

The new rules will allow people to see different households, provided the basic two metre social distancing rules are maintained and the meeting is held outside.

“Because this virus is much less dangerous to people in the fresh air and in the sunlight and the social distancing is really important both households must stay together and apart from the other household.” The First Minister said.

People in Wales will be asked to stay local and travel no more than five miles from home to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

Mr Drakeford said: “It is inevitable I’m afraid that as you begin to lift lockdown there will be some unfairness in the system. 

In our guidance, we will say to people what we mean by local is a five mile radius from your home but people can and will have to interpret that a little locally because in rural Wales you may not have a chemist, or a food supply within five miles so you’ll have to go a bit further. 

The more local you can stay the safer we will all be, because people who travel distances can take the virus with them, you can be infectious to other people without knowing you have got the virus at all.

The more people travel, the more the risk becomes that the virus will spread and spread particularly into communities in Wales where the virus is hardly in circulation at all. 

So while it’s very tough for those people whose families live beyond the five mile radius and I understand the frustration people will feel, they are making for the next three weeks their contribution to keeping Wales safe, and we’re going to go on asking people to do that. 

We will review this all again in another three weeks time, if there is more headroom to offer people further freedoms then that’s what we’re willing to do, but for now, stay local and help to keep Wales, safe.”

Asked why the measures were coming into effect on Monday given the sunny weekend forecast for Wales, Mr Drakeford said:

“We’ve always had this pattern at the end of every three week period in Wales.

We’ve announced (lockdown changes) on a Friday to give people a chance to understand what’s coming, then from midnight on Sunday night, so straightaway on Monday these freedoms come into play.

It gives people time to adjust to plan for us to be able to publish the guidance, let people see what we are suggesting to them so it’s just a couple of days of leading time to make sure we do this in an orderly fashion.”

England is moving at at a slightly faster pace in terms of easing lockdown measures than Wales, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced yesterday that from Monday in England, groups of up to six people from outside one household can meet outdoors in public and in private gardens, provided they maintain a distance of at least two metres from each other.

Over the border – less than five miles from Deeside – non essential shops have been given the go ahead to reopen from June 15.

Asked when non essential shops will be allowed to reopen in Wales, the First Minister said:

“The advice we had from our chief medical officer and scientists is that the headroom we have in Wales is only enough to allow us to do one big thing, that’s why we have chosen a family and friends.

We will say today to non essential retail, that they should use the next three weeks now to prepare to make things safe.

If we’re in a position in three weeks time to allow them to reopen, they have done everything they need to allow that to happen safely. 

It’s not a wasted three weeks it’s a clear signal to them that they can use this three weeks purposefully, they can put all the e and then in three weeks time if we are in a position to do so, we will be able to give them permission to get on and reopen. ”

Commenting on today’s expect announcement, Conservative spokesperson on post-Covid policy Darren Millar said:

“Today’s announcement is a missed opportunity for families, friends and businesses in Wales.

Where people were looking for clarity, they have again been given confusion. Where they wanted decisiveness, they have been given more dithering. Where they were expecting hope, they have been left helpless.

This policy is arbitrary and cruel to say to many families that they cannot mix, and for many people this will mean they will see grandparents and grandchildren reunited in the garden next door while they are left lonely and isolated.

This announcement is an urban solution by a Welsh Labour Government that only cares about city and town life.

A five-mile travel ban for meeting friends and family will let people travel from one side of Cardiff to the other, but in rural Wales won’t let many people travel to their nearest town or village. There’s more to Wales than the cities of South Wales.

Today’s announcement is also a huge missed opportunity to say something positive to business in Wales. The Welsh Government seems content to let the economy of Wales slip further toward a recession, without a care for many businesses which are ready to implement proper social distancing and re-open their premises to get the economy moving again.

Once again, too many people are left without hope today.”

The full briefing can be viewed at 12:30 PM via the Welsh Government twitter account @WelshGovernment, or on S4C or BBC One Wales – however it appears the BBC cut part of the Q&A sessions off due to the 30 minute slot.

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