Covid: Shoppers hit high streets as Wales' lockdown ends

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'Good feeling' as shops reopen after firebreak

Shoppers have been hitting Wales' high streets as the nation's 17-day lockdown ends.

New nationwide regulations allow non-essential shops to reopen and up to four people from different households to meet both indoors and outside.

From Monday people can travel anywhere within Wales, restaurants, pubs and gyms can reopen and two households can again form a bubble.

But some shoppers in Cardiff said not everyone was social distancing.

Image caption,
Friends Lara Walters and Casey Baos met up for lunch in Cardiff on Monday

Casey Baos, 17, was in the capital to meet her friend Laura Walters, 18, for lunch and a catch-up.

She said: "It is too busy to social distance - people just walk wherever."

Another Cardiff shopper Has Hirani said: "It looks like everyone is doing their Christmas shopping - it is much busier than I anticipated.

"But I'm not sure anyone is sticking to the social distancing rules so that's slightly concerning but understandable at the same time."

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Has Hirani said Cardiff was busier than she had anticipated

First Minister Mark Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast the firebreak had aimed to "turn back the tide" of rising cases and hospital admissions, but the impact would not be visible for some weeks.

But the lifting of restrictions did not mean that people could do whatever they wanted, he added.

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Shoppers queuing outside Zara in Cardiff on Monday afternoon

"The fewer people we meet, the fewer journeys we all make, the more we work from home, the safer we will all be," he said.

"Coronavirus isn't something that happens to somebody else. It can happen just as easily to you and what you do, the decisions you make, are the decisions that keep you and other people safe."

At a press conference Mr Drakeford called for people to "careful and cautious" and to only travel when "essential".

"The fact that you can travel is not an invitation to travel and it's certainly not an instruction to travel," he said.

Wales' lockdown - which the Welsh Government said would help prevent the health service in Wales becoming "overwhelmed" - ends just a few days after England's four-week lockdown started.

Wales has seen almost 7,000 coronavirus cases in the last seven days and the death toll is now more than 2,000 people since the pandemic began.

The number of patients in Welsh hospitals with coronavirus is now the highest since the height of the pandemic in April - and areas like Merthyr Tydfil, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Blaenau Gwent have some of the worst Covid-19 infection rates in the UK.

But Wales' Health Minister Vaughan Gething said on Sunday the country was starting to see a plateauing in the case rate.

He added: "It's still at a high rate which means that there's still a reservoir of coronavirus within our communities."

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'Our success and failure lies in the hands of every one of us,' Mark Drakeford said

Local measures

Opposition parties have called for more local targeted action in future.

Wales had 17 separate local lockdowns before the firebreak period.

Andrew RT Davies, health spokesman for the Welsh Conservatives, said: "Nobody wants further to see further lockdowns, but if they are to be imposed again, then they have to be targeted and based on ultra-accurate and localised data, which city-wide testing could provide."

Plaid Cymru's Rhun ap Iorwerth said "where we have more localised clusters or areas of particularly high prevalence, it makes sense to have a more enhanced set of rules".

Mr Drakeford said local lockdowns have not been ruled in future and they will be imposed "where that is necessary".


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Hot Gossip's Sara Bailey said the rise in cases "brought home" the dangers of Covid-19 in Rhondda Cynon Taf

Sara Bailey, who runs the Hot Gossip cafe in Treorchy, Rhondda Cynon Taf - recently one of the top 10 Covid hotspots in the UK - welcomed being able to reopen but admitted she was also feeling "apprehensive".

"Cases gradually crept up to the point where it became very close to home. I think that's brought it home for a lot of people," she said.

"I understand why we needed the firebreak. The local restrictions were strangling the business and it was difficult, it was very challenging."

She added this year would be "a write off" in terms of profitability, but the challenge was "staying afloat" with the hope of recovery next year.

"We can reopen and at least make some progress and have a chance of turning things around in the run-up to Christmas," she said.

'On our guard'

Image source, Family photo
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Gift shop owner Ceredig Davies has concerns over people from Covid hotspots visiting Aberystwyth

Ceredig Davies is a Ceredigion county councillor and runs Aberystwyth gift shop Mona Lisa.

When asked how he felt about people from parts of Wales with higher Covid case rates being able to visit Ceredigion, which has one of the lowest case rates in Wales, he said: "To be honest, that is a worry.

"I look at places like the south Wales Valleys where they've got a high Covid rate and with all due respect I hope they stay there.

"We want to keep this a low Covid area."

He added: "Just because the two-week lockdown is over we shouldn't be complacent, we should be on our guard and follow restrictions."

Mr Davies also felt the Welsh Government's new restrictions were complicated which meant "some people just don't follow them".

'Mixed messages'

Pub landlord Ian Blair of The Ship and Castle in Aberystwyth said he has decided to remain closed while the rules remain unclear.

"I just sensed that the message we are getting from the first minister really is, if you can, stay shut. Stay out of the way, step back for a bit. And that's what we've decided to do."

He said adapting to new rules during the pandemic has been "extremely stressful".

"We're getting a lot of mixed messages and I think the trade needs to have more clarity," he said.

'House hopping'

Image source, Family photo
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Mobile hairdresser Kate Wingfield is restricting her work to her county and four clients a day to reduce the risk

People in Caerphilly county were the first in Wales to be put into a "local lockdown" after a surge of coronavirus cases - but for the first time since having stricter rules imposed on 8 September, all residents are now able to leave the county

Rhondda Cynon Taf (RCT) was the second local authority area to be put under tighter Covid restrictions a week later - but now Wales has scrapped local rules for a "simpler" nationwide approach.

Kate Wingfield, a mobile hairdresser from Llanharan in RCT said: "You've got to be super careful - I'm entering places that family members aren't allowed to enter.

"I am nervous about it but I wear a visor and a mask and use hand sanitiser.

"It's more that I'm crossing houses that concerns me... I'm house hopping basically."

UK ministers to discuss Christmas

Meanwhile the first minister has said that talks involving the four governments of the UK about arrangements for Christmas will take place later this week.

Mr Drakeford told the press conference the meeting would now be a weekly event to discuss issues relevant to all four nations.

He said his office had been contacted by staff of cabinet office minister Michael Gove "to get a date in the diary this week, and the topic of that meeting will be a common approach to Christmas".

Mr Drakeford also welcomed new findings from trials of a potential coronavirus vaccine, but cautioned it was unlikely to represent "a magic bullet" that means coronavirus is about to "disappear out of our lives".

What are the new Wales-wide regulations?

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
During the firebreak some supermarket aisles selling non-essential items were closed off

The new regulations made by the Welsh ministers cover everything from seeing friends and family to travel and visiting pubs and restaurants.

They impose limits on meeting other people, prohibit people from entering or leaving Wales without a reasonable excuse, impose requirements on people who have tested positive for coronavirus, and contain rules for public-facing business and services.

Two families can form a bubble and meet up in each other's homes, as happened prior to the firebreak lockdown.

Up to 15 people can take part in activities indoors and up to 30 outdoors - providing social distancing, hand hygiene and other Covid safety measures are followed.

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Merthyr remains one of the worst-hit areas in the UK when it comes to cases per 100,000 people

Groups of four people from different households can meet indoors or outdoors at pubs, cafes and restaurants - again, providing social distancing, hand hygiene and other Covid safety measures are followed.

People from Wales can again holiday within Wales but international travel should be for essential reasons only so foreign holidays are still not allowed.

People will still be allowed to make visits to another person's home in Wales if they are concerned about their mental well-being, Mr Drakeford said.

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