Covid: Call for Wales indoor hospitality to reopen sooner

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image captionPubs and restaurants in Wales do not yet know when they can reopen indoors

Tourism taskforce leaders have called on Wales' first minister to bring forward reopening plans for the indoor hospitality sector.

The group said they wanted to "strongly urge" Mark Drakeford to make "a positive statement" at the next Covid review on 22 April.

They said they wanted the industry to match the opening date for England and Scotland, which is on 17 May.

The Welsh government said it was taking a "careful step-by-step" approach.

The Welsh Conservatives said livelihoods were being put at risk while Plaid Cymru called for all possible avenues for a "fast and safe" reopening to be explored.

Decisions needed to be based on "the science and the statistics", the Welsh Liberal Democrats said.

'Much-needed reopening'

The taskforce was established by the Welsh government to help guide the sector through the pandemic.

Its letter said it was felt "conditions are right to make a clear and positive statement and bring forward the much-needed reopening of tourism and hospitality businesses in Wales".

It has been signed by chairs of Wales' regional tourism forums, Visit Britain and the British Tourist Authority, along with senior figures at UK Hospitality Cymru and the Wales Tourism Alliance.

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image captionOutdoor hospitality in Wales is restarting from 26 April

They welcomed financial support during the year, and urged the Welsh government to ensure the industry continued to be supported and protected "as we wait to reopen".

But they added: "Nothing can replace our ability to trade.

"We appeal with urgency for an early reopening and the positive opportunity to help you begin the economic rebuild that our great industry can help the new government to deliver in the coming months."

In the last Covid review at the end of March, the first minister said the Welsh government would consider reopening indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation by the end of May, in advance of the spring public holiday.

But he added: "Decisions on these will be made nearer the time, once the impact of other relaxations have been assessed."

Responding to the taskforce's letter, the Welsh government said it had worked closely with the group and set out a series of measures to relax Covid restrictions through April and May.

It said it had provided "unprecedented levels of funding to support Welsh businesses" through the pandemic.

It said a £30m package aimed at the hospitality, leisure and tourism sector was announced on 3 March, as part of a £180m support package for businesses affected by extended restrictions.

"To date we have provided more than £2bn in business support during the pandemic, safeguarding 165,000 Welsh jobs," added an official.

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image captionRules for indoor hospitality and other visitor accommodation could be relaxed by the end of May - but no firm date has been announced

The Welsh Conservatives said it "speaks volumes when Labour's very own taskforce has written to the first minister calling for a speedy reopening".

They added: "Labour's insistence on playing politics, rather than listening to the science, means Welsh businesses are losing out on vital trade, and its putting livelihoods at risk."

Plaid Cymru said the hospitality sector was "understandably frustrated" following the most challenging year in memory.

"We urge the Welsh government to explore all possible avenues for fast and safe reopening of hospitality, and if possible before the scheduled date."

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said decisions on easing restrictions "need to be made based on both the science and the statistics".

"We've seen before what happened when lockdowns were eased too quickly," they said.

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