Wales politics

Coronavirus: Lifting of Wales' travel limits gets go-ahead

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Media captionWhat do eased travel restrictions mean for me?

Travel restrictions in Wales will end on Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed.

"Stay local" guidance, asking people to stay within five miles of home will end with no limits on travel, and outdoor attractions will be able to open.

Two households will also be able to stay together indoors from Monday. It comes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall.

Mr Drakeford called for people to think "carefully about where we go and why".

Travel restrictions were introduced across the UK at the start of lockdown in March, although Wales kept its travel restrictions longer than the UK government did in England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson abandoned the rule in May - the difference in policy led to warnings not to drive to Wales.

"I want to do more to restore freedoms we have had to give up to us all," Mr Drakeford told the daily Welsh Government press conference.

"I want to see more of the Welsh economy in recovery. But that will depend, not on the actions of the Welsh Government, but on the actions of us all as Welsh citizens."

Mr Drakeford set out a list of "golden rules" people in Wales would need to follow if further restrictions were to be lifted, including:

  • Working from home whenever possible
  • Avoiding unnecessary travel
  • Keeping apart from other people - the two-metre rule still applies in Wales
  • Washing your hands often
  • Only meeting people from one other household when outdoors

Meanwhile he confirmed the Welsh Government could allow the resumption of cricket as part of next week's review of lockdown restrictions.

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Image caption Wales' beauty spots have been effectively closed to tourists since March

Despite the request to avoid unnecessary travel, from Monday there is no longer a limit to the distance people can travel.

It follows an announcement on Thursday that restaurants and pubs can open outdoors from 13 July.

Venues will be able to open in spaces they own and have licences for - as long as Covid-19 cases continue to fall.

The Welsh Government said two weeks ago travel restrictions could end, but it was dependent on cases of coronavirus continuing to fall.

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Image caption Some bars and restaurants with outdoor terraces are preparing to open from Monday week

On Friday, Mr Drakeford said there were only 19 patients receiving critical care in Wales - down 88% from a peak in April - and the lowest level since the start of the pandemic.

The so-called "R-number" - the average number infected by each case - has stayed below 1, meaning cases are declining rather than increasing.

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Image caption Mark Drakeford confirmed the news at a Friday lunchtime news conference

The Welsh Government has stuck to the 2m social-distancing rule but Mr Drakeford said in "some contexts it may be important" to reduce it.

But where it is, "we will expect to see other important safeguards in place", he said. Further guidance could be issued next week.

Two metres remains safer than one metre, he added. England is relaxing the rule in certain situations from Saturday.

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Image caption Wales' busiest roads have been quieter during lockdown, like the M4 motorway through south Wales

What's the political reaction?

Darren Millar, Welsh Tory spokesman on Covid-19 recovery, said: "I welcome news that the Welsh Labour-led Government's arbitrary and cruel five-mile rule is finally being scrapped in Wales but I urge the first minister to bring this forward to today to avoid another lost weekend for those wanting to see their loved ones."

Plaid Cymru health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said he would "still like to hear a firming up of face covering rules in enclosed areas".

"Let's also have clarity on the steps to be taken and the support that will be made available if there is a need to reintroduce some of restrictions in response to local outbreaks. And I'm also reiterating my calls to make maximum use of testing capacity so that the Test, Trace, Protect system can identify outbreaks urgently."

Image caption Tenby is among the places expecting visitors once the restrictions end

'It's very daunting'

Tourist hotspots in Wales - such as Tenby in Pembrokeshire - are preparing for an influx once the restrictions are lifted.

Mayor Sam Skyrme-Blackhall admitted there had been a dilemma between balancing the need to kick-start the local economy while also maintaining the safety of both locals and visitors.

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Image caption People who live in Wales' seaside resorts "want to be safe but also support businesses"

"It's very daunting at the moment - obviously people are very worried, but there are two sides to that - people want to be safe, but also we need to support our businesses.

"Tenby relies heavily on tourism, which in turn provides jobs for the local community. If we're not allowed to open, there will be no jobs and a lot of businesses will close by the winter."

Karen Evans, owner of the Bay Tree restaurant, added: "I need to open. I need the tourists. Three winters back-to-back isn't funny.

"I'm looking forward to them coming back - we are nervous but life goes on and we've got to get on with it. I've been closed since 19 March and not earned a penny since."

With self-contained accommodation able to take bookings from 13 July, Tim Rees, chief executive of Quality Cottages based near St Davids in Pembrokeshire, said he had his highest-grossing weekend in terms of bookings in its history, last week.

"We're anticipating around 95% capacity for August this year and a record autumn is on the cards," he said.

Snowdonia, which usually attracts about four million visitors a year, will also reopen on Monday but the authority that maintains it wants visitors to "protect" and "respect" the national park.

As well as maintaining a 2m distance, especially at gates and stiles, national park wardens want walkers to tread lightly, take litter and food waste home and sanitise hands after touching hard surfaces.

"Wildlife, birds and farm animals may be closer than before - protect them by keeping to the paths," says advice from Snowdonia's wardens.

"Be kind and considerate of other users and the people who live and work here."

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Media captionThe Pembrokeshire Coast Path celebrated its 50th birthday earlier this year while it was shut due to lockdown

The Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which attracts about four million visitors annually, is also reopening - but its chief executive said there were mixed views locally.

"The tourism industry is extremely important in our area, therefore we're very supportive of businesses that need to reopen," said Tegryn Jones.

"On the other side, there are some people in local communities that are tremendously concerned that we are going to have an influx of visitors and the possibility that the virus comes with that."

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