Covid: Two households can form bubble after Wales' lockdown

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Two households in Wales can form a bubble after firebreak, said the first minister

Two households in Wales will be able to form a bubble and meet at home after the 17-day firebreak ends.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced some of the rules that will be in place from 9 November.

There will be no travel restrictions within Wales, but people will not be able to leave the country except for essential purposes such as work during England's four-week lockdown.

Groups of 15 will be allowed to meet for organised indoors activities.

All businesses that were closed throughout the firebreak will be able to reopen, Mr Drakeford told a press conference.

But it is not clear under what terms pubs and restaurants will be required to operate, prompting concerns from the sector.

Up to 30 people will be able to meet outdoors for organised activities under the rules, which will be reviewed in a fortnight.

But Health Minister Vaughan Gething suggested people would not be allowed to meet others from outside their household bubble in private gardens.

Plaid Cymru said ministers should consider a phased reopening of hospitality, while the Welsh Conservatives welcomed some changes but called for clarity for businesses.

The first minister said plans for the "unexpected" English lockdown, which is due to start on Thursday, have an impact on the next steps following the stay-at-home period in Wales.

"The English lockdown will have an impact on people who live in Wales but work in England, on companies operating in both England and Wales and on businesses trading along the border.

"It's really important that as we open up, Wales doesn't become an escape for people seeking to circumvent the new tighter restrictions imposed by the prime minister."

Meanwhile, the UK government said it would work with leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on a joint approach to what will happen over the Christmas period.

From 9 November, people will be able to meet others from their extended household bubble at home.

There will be new arrangements in other indoors settings - but Mr Drakeford said there would be further consideration of how hospitality operates in light of the English lockdown.

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The community living by different Covid lockdown rules

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the weekend that England would go into a month-long lockdown, the Welsh Government reiterated Wales' version would end on 9 November.

During Wales' firebreak lockdown, pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops have been required to shut, and people were told to stay at home.

Supermarkets were instructed to stop selling non-essential items, and travel was restricted except for a limited set of reasons such as work and education, known as reasonable excuses.

As well as shops and hospitality, churches will be able to reopen and local authority services will resume "based on local circumstances".

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Robert Jones said it had been hard not seeing his grandchildren

How have people coped?

Robert Jones from Ystrad Mynach agreed with the firebreak strategy, but said it had been hard not seeing his grandchildren.

"This virus got to be hit on the head one way or another, and they've got to stop people from England coming into Wales, and people from Wales going into England," he said.

Following today's announcement on household bubbles, he said: "I've got grandkids living in Cardiff, so I'll be able to see them again, won't I."

Jemma Hall said it had been difficult not seeing her family during lockdown.

"I haven't seen my family in months and I've only really seen a portion of my friends, and mainly ones that live up here, and that's only been outdoors and stuff. So it's been quite a horrible time."

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Chelly Jones is trying to "cheer everybody up" with Christmas decorations after lockdown

Chelly Jones, who runs the Stanton House Inn in Chirk, Wrexham, on the English border, has been putting up Christmas decorations ready for the pub to reopen to "try and cheer everybody up".

"It's been hard for everybody, we've all missed our families," she said.

"We'll have a bit of fun, Covid or not. It can't beat us. We can't lose Christmas.

"It's about families and we've got to try and do something for the community to cheer them up. We've got to make Christmas the best we can."

Image source, Getty Images
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Retailers have been required to shut during the firebreak lockdown

No trips abroad but holidays can happen in Wales

People in Wales will be subject to the same ban on international travel as people in England.

But the first minister said people living in Wales could go on holiday in Wales when the Covid firebreak comes to an end.

Mr Drakeford said: "I can confirm that people will be able to travel within Wales, they won't be confined to their local authority area as was the case during the firebreak."

He added that "tourism will be able to reopen".

Mr Drakeford said people would only see the benefits of the short lockdown if they ask in the weeks to come "not 'what can I do' but 'what should I do'."

He said that would help "to bring coronavirus under control and to give us a pathway through to Christmas and beyond."

Image source, Getty Images
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All businesses closed during the firebreak will be able to reopen

How will travel ban work?

Mr Drakeford stressed that people who live and work on different sides of the Wales-England border would still be able to travel between the two nations.

The Welsh Government will introduce a "restricted list of essential purposes" to allow people to travel between the countries which Mr Drakeford said would be "the same broad system on both sides of the border".

He added: "People who live in Wales but work in England will have a reasonable reason for travelling to work.

"And people who live in England and work in Wales really clearly have a reasonable excuse for coming across the border to work here.

"But it will be a restricted list of essential purposes, rather than the normal toing and froing across the border that you would have seen in less fraught and difficult times".

English lockdown was 'surprise'

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Government was "surprised" to learn about England's lockdown from newspapers at the weekend.

The first minister said the first he knew of Mr Johnson's announcement were press reports.

While repeating his call for more regular meetings, he added he was not "criticising anybody for making these difficult decisions in their own circumstances".

He and health minister Vaughan Gething took part in a meeting chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Monday morning.

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This heat map shows how the case rate has increased since the summer

Where are cases rising?

The latest seven-day rolling average of case rates, since the firebreak started, shows on average cases in Wales have risen by 258.5 per 100,000 people.

They have risen more sharply in the south Wales valleys areas, with Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Blaenau Gwent the highest, as we can see from a heat map.

Mr Drakeford said restrictions had "arrested the speed" of the rise in cases and efforts had made a "real and positive difference" in ensuring that the firebreak did not need to be longer and more severe.

Image source, Getty Images
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Vaughan Gething suggested there will not be prescriptive rules for meeting individuals away from the home

Will I be able to meet my parents in my garden?

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has suggested that meeting people in household gardens would not be permitted under the new rules.

He indicated that household bubble rules for home meetings would apply to the garden as well as the rest of the house.

Asked on BBC Radio Wales if people would be able to meet their parents in a back garden and at a social distance, Mr Gething said: "No.

"The reality is if you're in someone's garden you're likely to need to go indoors particularly this time of the year."

But he said they could be seen at a "social distance in a range of venues", such as a park or a walk, or "all sorts of things that people do".

"We're not going to write a set of prescriptive rules to try to determine how people can or can't see people in that sort of way," he added.

What has the opposition said?

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the Welsh Government should consider a "a two-week buffer period" when the firebreak ends.

Ministers should look at a "phased reopening" of the hospitality industry with pubs and bars closing at 18:00.

Mr Price said it was "crucial" that financial support was available to the hospitality sector.

Senedd Conservative leader Paul Davies welcomed some of the changes but said the Welsh Government needed 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".

"The Welsh Government needs to be bolder in getting core NHS activities back up and running to avoid other public health crises in devastating illnesses including cancer and heart disease."

The Conservatives have been criticised for vocally opposing Wales' 17-day firebreak lockdown, only for a month-long lockdown for England to be announced by the Conservative government at the weekend.

Mr Davies told BBC Wales: "What happens in England of course is a matter for the UK government and Boris Johnson, and his government has made that decision. What happens here in Wales is a different matter, and that's what devolution is about.

"The first minister and the prime minister have said that devolved governments sometimes take different decisions, and we've made it absolutely clear that we think this temporary national lockdown was not the right thing to do.

"But we are where we are, and we do hope we will see the suppression of this virus."

We're seeing a reset on the messaging here, with less emphasis on detailed rules and more on each of us exercising our personal judgement about what is the right thing to do.

The more complex rules are, the easier it is for them to become derailed by confusion or controversy - the first weekend of lockdown was overwhelmed by the essential/non-essential row, for example.

Government advisers talk a lot about finding "sustainable interventions", in other words something that can stop the spread of the virus that we can also live with longer term.

Interventions are always more sustainable with public "buy-in" than without it, but once again the radically diverging approaches of politicians in different parts of the UK will raise questions - even as those same politicians try to agree a four-nation approach to what happens at Christmas.

Image source, Getty Images
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It is not clear under what terms pubs and restaurants will be allowed to reopen on 9 November

'No clarity' for hospitality

A spokeswoman for the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective said clarity had been promised on Monday on the terms their businesses would be able to reopen, but it had not been given.

"The first minister has announced that hospitality can reopen from 9 November but not announced under what restrictions," a spokeswoman said.

"Prior to firebreak we were clear in our consultations with Welsh Government that a return to previous restrictions including individual households only, 10pm curfew and so on would lead to a slow strangulation of the sector and businesses."

"We need to make crucial decisions about the future viability of our businesses. Without knowing under what circumstances we can trade, this is impossible."

Ian Price of business lobby group CBI Wales said: "The first minister has placed great emphasis on personal compliance and changing individual behaviours as we continue to live with the pandemic.

"Having already invested significant sums in making workplaces safe for staff and customers, business stands ready to play its part in making that a success."

Ben Francis of the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said the organisation was "pleased that there continues to be certainty that the firebreak will end on 9 November".

"Many businesses will feel reassured by the first minister's statement on the lack of travel restrictions in Wales," he said.

"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."