Reaction to post fire break national restrictions announced by the Welsh Govt today
The Welsh government has announced what new Wales-wide restrictions will be in place after the end of the fire break national lockdown on the 9 November.
During a press conference today first minister Mark Drakeford said new national measures are designed to protect people’s health and provide as much freedom as possible while the virus remains in circulation.
Some of the new measures are still being finalised following the “unexpected announcement” over the weekend about a month-long lockdown in England, which will start on Thursday.
These national measures from next Monday include:
- The need to maintain two metre social distancing and wear face masks in enclosed public places, including on public transport and taxis, will continue;
- 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.
- Up to 15 people can take part in an organised indoors activity and up to 30 in an organised activity outdoors, providing all social distancing, hand hygiene and other covid safety measures are followed;
- All premises, such as restaurants, cafes, pubs and gyms, closed during the firebreak, will be able to reopen. Following the announcement about the English lockdown, Ministers are having ongoing discussions with the hospitality sector about the detailed rules for reopening. This includes about meeting in public indoor spaces;
- As part of keeping our risks to a minimum, 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.
The Welsh Government should consider a “a two-week buffer period” when the firebreak ends next week, Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price has said.
“We won’t know immediately how successful the Fire Break has been in driving down the infection rate. It would therefore be both premature and counterproductive to suddenly ease all measures if the R number continues to be above 1. Mr Price said:
“The Welsh Government should take a slow and steady approach rather than pursue a rapid reopening. A ‘buffer period’ of two weeks with mitigation measures as we come out of the fire break could include a phased re-opening of closing hospitality, for example at 18:00, crucially backed by appropriate financial support – and a programme of blended learning in schools allowing for a 2-week rota for older pupils.
“We also need to know how the fire break period has been used to make the test and trace system far more robust, free from its reliance on the failing UK lighthouse lab network.
“Coming out too early and too quickly risks undoing any benefits gained. A cautious and careful approach will lead to better public health outcomes, greater security for business and will avoid a permanent cycle of locking and unlocking – which would be damaging for all.” The Plaid Cymru Leader said.
Conservative MS Paul Davies, the Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament has welcomed some of the changes but is urging the Welsh Government to give urgent clarity on what the support for businesses will be. He said:
“Late last week the Welsh Government closed applications for Business Development Grants after being open for just 24 hours and being oversubscribed. The Welsh Government needs to explain urgently to businesses what support they will be able to access for the remainder of the Wales-wide lockdown and under the new national restrictions.
“It is also disappointing that five weeks after announcing the self-isolation grants for people on low incomes, and re-announcing them last week, the First Minister has still not released any details on how people will be able to access these vital grants.
“The Welsh Government needs to be bolder in getting core NHS activities back up and running to avoid other public health crises in devasting illnesses including cancer and heart disease. I have previously called for green hospitals in Wales, which do not accept Covid-19 patients, to keep other patients safe.
“Finally, the Welsh Government needs to give more detail on what support it is giving to local councils and health boards to boost the Test, Track and Protect programmes, especially in containing the rising measures in some parts of Wales which are far above others. This information, which is essential to giving confidence to the system in Wales, should have been included in the announcement.”
Federation of Small Businesses Wales Policy Chair Ben Francis welcomed the “early moves” that the First Minister has made to “provide detail on what a post-firebreak Wales will look like.”
Mr Francis said: “We are pleased that there continues to be certainty that the firebreak will end on the 9th November. We understand that the changing picture across the UK will impact upon what the First Minister feels able to do, but it is incredibly important that all businesses can reopen and do so confidently on the 9th November, which includes the hospitality sector.
“We’ll be working closely with the First Minister in the coming hours and days to ensure that all businesses in Wales have the certainty that they need to have every chance to survive the winter. Hospitality businesses and their customers will be looking for clear guidance as to what they can and cannot do in order to move forwards safely and sustainably. Whilst we appreciate the First Minister’s message that we all must consider what we should do to help contain the virus, this could have unintended consequences for businesses if people feel discouraged from using them.
“Many businesses will feel reassured by the First Minister’s statement on the lack of travel restrictions in Wales. This will benefit high streets and towns across the country and help businesses claw back some of the opportunities that they have missed this year. That the First Minister also confirmed that people living in Wales can look to book holidays within the country will also provide reassurance to the tourism sector who have experienced such a difficult year already.
“We’ve consistently called for a Tourism Hibernation Fund which would provide a mix of grant and loan funding to tourism and hospitality firms who have borne the brunt of the economic impact of coronavirus, and will continue to struggle to operate in a way that keeps them viable over the winter under coronavirus restrictions. So much ground has been lost by these businesses, and we urge Welsh Government to consider how these firms can be supported through the winter.”
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