Covid: Welsh pubs and restaurants to open indoors in May

Published
comments
Comments
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionHaving an alcoholic drink inside pubs and restaurants in Wales has been banned since 4 December

People in Wales will be able to have a drink inside a pub or restaurant for the first time in more than than five months from 17 May.

All tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions in Wales are also set to reopen that day, in time for the Spring bank holiday.

Indoor children's activities and groups of up to 15 adults, like gym classes, have been brought forward to 3 May.

First Minister Mark Drakeford described it as a "major reopening of Wales".

He said the relaxation of a number of lockdown rules had been moved forward because of falling Covid rates.

It is the first time a proposed date has been given for the reopening of pubs and restaurants indoors in Wales.

It comes after the Welsh Conservatives and Plaid Cymru called for the industry to be allowed to resume indoor trade on that date - the same as that proposed in England.

Opposition parties accused Mr Drakeford, the leader of Welsh Labour, of electioneering by changing Covid rules during the Welsh Parliament election campaign.

Mr Drakeford disagreed, saying the move was only because Wales' Covid case rate had fallen to the UK's lowest.

"The virus doesn't know there is an election on, and I don't think it would have been right not to have given those indications," he told BBC Radio Wales.

The latest restriction easing comes after previous announcements that any six people can meet outdoors in Wales from Saturday, and dates for gyms and swimming pools being moved forward by two weeks to 3 May.

media captionIt is the first time a proposed date has been given for the reopening of pubs and restaurants indoors in Wales

Mr Drakeford has also confirmed outdoor hospitality, including cafes, pubs and restaurants, will be allowed to reopen on Monday - alongside outdoor attractions, organised outdoor activities and wedding receptions or funeral services for up to 30 people outdoors.

Two people will also be allowed to visit their loved ones in care homes from Monday.

Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can also reopen from 3 May, while people can once again form extended households, allowing two households to bubble up and have contact indoors.

By the time indoor hospitality reopens on 17 May, Mr Drakeford anticipates being able to increase the number of people who can attend organised activities, such as wedding receptions, to 30 indoors and 50 outdoors, from the same date.

People in Wales haven't been allowed to buy an alcoholic drink inside a pub or restaurant in Wales since 4 December.

So allowing people to do so from 17 May would be similar to the plan in England and Scotland - with up to four people from up to four different households in Wales allowed to meet.

How does Wales' timetable compare to other UK nations?

Although, Scotland will be the first in the UK to open its cafes, pubs and restaurants indoors from Monday - but no alcohol can be served.

People in England can already visit the pub or have a meal in a restaurant outside - that could extend to inside from 17 May.

Pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants can welcome customers outdoors in Northern Ireland from 30 April, with restrictions, while people may be allowed to socialise inside from 24 May at the earliest, depending on Covid case rates.

'Time to reopen'

image copyrightSara Bailey
image captionHappier times for café owner Sara Bailey - when customers could order inside

It has been a long time coming for Treorchy cafe owner Sara Bailey.

Hot Gossip, like so many other catering businesses in Rhondda Cynon Taf, has been shut for four months.

"It seems that things are going well at the moment with Covid cases, so it is time to give us a date to reopen," she said.

image copyrightSara Bailey
image captionWithout any outdoor seating, Sara Bailey is desperate to open inside her Treorchy café

For restaurateur Nataniel Martinez, who runs Le Monde in Cardiff and Penarth's Old Customs House, reopening is a large-scale operation.

"The opening of indoor hospitality for us means we can bring back about 120 staff into work," he said.

"The demand for indoor dining is massive, so we are really looking forward now to getting back to it and reopening all the restaurants."

image captionRestaurateur Nataniel Martinez says opening indoors is vital to his businesses

Rhian Davies, owner of the Crown and Sceptre pub in Cadoxton in Neath Port Talbot, said there was a "lot of preparation to do" before reopening - but added the industry was used to it after months of safety measures last year.

She said she accepted closures had been needed: "I wanted to help the hard working staff of our hospitals and health service... and was happy to do my bit to stop Covid spreading."

The announcement has been warmly welcomed by UKHospitality, the trade body representing the hospitality sector in Wales.

"We have led the calls for earlier reopening and have been advising, consulting and negotiating on the need to help protect jobs and businesses - and the public," said Dave Chapman, its director for Wales.

He said the announcement "offers clarity and commercial hope, and reflects positively the medical evidence".

What is the Covid case rate in Wales?

Wales had the highest Covid case rate in the UK when the Welsh government banned sale of alcohol on the premises of pubs and restaurants on 4 December.

Then came the pre-Christmas lockdown, shutting all restaurants, pubs and shops, as Wales reported more than 3,000 Covid cases in a day and that the Welsh NHS was struggling to cope.

Now, Wales has the lowest Covid case rate in the UK - around 15 cases per 100,000 people - with, compared to other UK nations, the highest percentage of its population vaccinated. The number of Covid patients in hospitals in Wales has also dropped to its lowest level.

What do politicians say?

While there now appears to be a broad consensus on hospitality restrictions, both the Tories and Plaid Cymru have said Mr Drakeford should not be using the televised address for announcements easing restrictions.

The Welsh Conservatives accused the Welsh Labour leader of "naked electioneering" while Plaid Cymru said it was "completely inappropriate" for the press conference to be used like this.

Plaid leader Adam Price, said: "A Plaid Cymru government would plan for the reopening of indoor hospitality, tourist accommodation, cinemas and other entertainment venues on 17 May.

"To put businesses on the best possible footing our first steps in office include providing start up grants for hospitality businesses.

"Additional financial support would also be backdated to 26 April for those businesses that cannot viably trade on the basis of outdoor opening alone."

Welcoming the announcement Jane Dodds, leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, said it was "great news".

She said: "As a nation we must all work together to ensure the vaccination programme continues and that the lockdowns and closures we've been through never need to return."

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader, Andrew RT Davies, said: "Labour had ample opportunity to bring forward a roadmap out of lockdown, but refused to do so.

"Thanks to the UK's great vaccination story much more detail could have been announced prior to the election period... but Labour chose to play politics instead of adopting the Welsh Conservative roadmap."

Mark Reckless, from the Abolish the Welsh Assembly Party, said: "This is getting to the point of testing election rules to breaking point.

"The Labour leader is using his platform as first minister to make political announcements during an election campaign."

WALES ELECTION: THE BASICS

What's happening? On 6 May, people will vote to elect 60 Members of the Senedd (MSs). The party that can command the support of a majority of MSs will form the Welsh government. Find out more here.

What powers does the Senedd have? MSs pass laws on aspects of life in Wales such as health, education and transport - and have some tax powers.

More on this story