Wales politics

Coronavirus in Wales: Relaxation of two-metre distancing not ruled out

Two metre marking in Cardiff Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The Welsh Government has used the two-metre social distancing recommendation in line with the rest of the UK

The first minister of Wales has not ruled out reducing the two-metre social-distancing rule to one metre.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to relax the two-metre rule in England, with some conditions.

Mark Drakeford told the Welsh Government's daily briefing he would do the same if Welsh advisers said it was safe to do so.

The pub industry has been calling for the rule to be eased, saying they would struggle otherwise.

"We put the health of the public first," Mr Drakeford said.

"Of course, we will follow the advice that the prime minister will be relying upon for any announcement that he makes.

"If the advice we get through our scientific networks and through our chief medical officer is that it is possible to amend the advice we give and things can open safely - of course, that is what we would want to do, but we will assess that for ourselves.

"We will make decisions in a way that are right for Wales".

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Media captionOne and two metre social distancing - what does it look like?

The change to the rule in England, which follows a UK government review, is expected to come into effect on 4 July.

The World Health Organization recommends a distance of at least 1m (just over 3ft), but the UK government's scientific advisers say that distance carries up to 10 times the risk of being two metres apart.

The Welsh Government has put the two-metre rule into legislation.

Image caption Pubs have been closed in Wales since March

Firms operating in Wales must do all they can to ensure two-metre separation at work, risking fines otherwise.

Shops opening in Wales on Monday have been expected to use social distancing measures.

While 4 July has been given as a potential date for reopening pubs in England, the Welsh Government has not set a date.

The Welsh Government has however promised discussions with the sector for a phased reopening. The next review is due around 9 July.

Pubs 'in the dark'

Nick Newman, chairman of Cardiff Licensees Forum and general manager of the Philharmonic, said bars were hoping to open on 3 August but added he was "in the dark" on the matter.

"We were really hoping to have heard something positive last Friday," he told Gareth Lewis on BBC Radio Wales.

Mr Newman said easing the social-distancing rule would make a "huge difference" to the industry.

"Some of the experts way above my paygrade have calculated that we need to be at 70% capacity just to break even," he said.

R rate at 0.9 in Wales

Meanwhile the average number of people infected by each person who gets the virus is now 0.9 in Wales.

The R-number is up from 0.7.

But Welsh Government advisers suggested that as numbers of cases fall, the transmission rate (R) is less of a useful tool for looking at the progress of the virus.

The latest analysis from experts at the Technical Advisory Cell (Tac) said as the number of new cases drops to low levels, the R number "becomes very sensitive" to daily changes in cases found through testing and tracing, causing it to fluctuate weekly and that it "tends towards" 1.

If infections continue to fall, it says the number of new cases and GP reports will become "more important" than using the R number as a primary indicator.

Welsh Government advisers said there was no evidence it was "significantly different" in Wales and other UK nations but there was "greater uncertainty in the estimates" due to the smaller numbers of cases and deaths.

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