Covid: Wales' pubs could reopen and families meet indoors in May

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Pubs and restaurant owners had been keen to know when they could reopen

Pubs, restaurants and hotels in Wales may reopen indoors in time for the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has set out a series of dates for easing lockdown, stretching into the next month.

Under the plans two households could meet indoors from 10 May, if Covid cases remained low.

Travel into and out of Wales from the rest of the UK and Common Travel Area may go ahead from 12 April.

Restaurants and bars could reopen outdoors from 26 April and from 3 May, outdoor wedding receptions with up to 30 people may be permitted.

But the changes could depend on the results of the Senedd election on 6 May, and whether the Welsh Labour leader is returned to power.

The Welsh Conservatives' own plans would see most rules on social contact scrapped by 17 May.

Both the Tories and Plaid Cymru called for gyms to reopen now, while Plaid said the Senedd should be recalled to discuss more economic help for businesses.

Under the Welsh plans gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities will also be able to reopen from 10 May. This will include individual or one-to-one training, but not exercise classes.

Spring Bank Holiday Monday is 31 May, but the Welsh government has not specified an actual date for reopening hospitality indoors.

It said after 17 May it would "consider enabling indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to reopen in advance of the Spring Bank Holiday".

Only six people from two households will be able to meet in reopened beer gardens and should still socially distance.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the public emergency is not over.

He told Claire Summers on BBC Radio Wales: "You see in the pattern a continuation of the step-by-step approach we've taken in Wales, doing the outdoor activities first because it's safer to be outdoors.

"But for the first time in the timetable we are now able to set out the first re-openings of indoor activities as well."

He added: "The presence of the virus in Wales is the lowest in the United Kingdom, the rate of vaccination in Wales is the highest in the United Kingdom.

"On Saturday, we will complete the vaccination offer to everybody in the top nine priority groups, again the first country in the UK to get to that milestone."

What lockdown restrictions are easing and when?

Provided cases remain low, the following things will be permitted:

Monday, 12 April

  • Travel into and out of Wales from the rest of the UK and Common Travel Area, dependant on restrictions where you are intending to travel to
  • All non-essential retail and close contact services, like beauty salons, allowed to reopen

Monday, 26 April

  • Outdoor hospitality, including cafes, pubs and restaurants
  • Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks
  • End of 22:00 BST alcohol sale limit in shops

Monday, 3 May

  • Organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people
  • Outdoor wedding receptions attended by no more than 30 people

Monday, 10 May

  • People will be allowed to form extended households again, allowing two households to meet and have contact indoors
  • Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. Individual and one-to-one training will be allowed, but not exercise classes

Monday, 17 May

  • Children's indoor activities
  • Community centres
  • Organised indoor activities for adults, limited to a maximum of 15 people. This includes exercise classes

Beyond that date, ministers would consider reopening indoor pubs and restaurants, and remaining visitor accommodation ahead of the Spring Bank Holiday.

How have businesses reacted?

Image source, Lucy Hywel
Image caption,
Lucy Hywel says throwing away stock has been painful

Tracy Lawler, who owns The Dressing Room Boutique in Prestatyn, Denbighshire, said she cannot wait to reopen on 12 April.

She said because her shop is "is small and intimate I can keep it really ultra clean after each person has entered".

"I'm probably one of the safest public places for people to come in and the government is saying to me that I can't open up [yet]… very frustrating."

'We're hurting'

Lucy Hywel, who owns That's Lovely That giftshop in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, was also looking forward to reopening, but said: "We're hurt and we're still hurting.

"I myself have thrown out loads of food, thousands of pounds worth of stock, even last week, stock I thought I may have sold in the lead up to Easter got chucked away and that pain is there every time you do something like that."

Image source, Victoria
Image caption,
Victoria Hallimi says the past few months have been really tough

Victoria Hallimi, who owns Victoria's Driving School in Swansea, gave her last lesson on 13 December but can now reopen on 12 April.

She said: "My phone was going a bit crazy last night as soon as the announcement was made.

"I was up until about 11, 11:30 last night scheduling everybody in."

She said the past few months had been "really tough" and her husband had been doing a lot of overtime to make up for her not being able to work. "He can relax now," she added.

Image source, Kelly John
Image caption,
Kelly John has not paid herself a wage since January

Kelly John, owner of KMW Beauty in Maesteg, Bridgend county, said she has not paid herself a wage since January to ensure she had enough money in her business account to buy supplies when she was allowed to reopen.

"Luckily my husband is working, otherwise I wouldn't have a house," the mother-of-two said.

"But being an independent woman, it is really hard. I can't do anything - it's Easter this weekend and I haven't bought anything."

Meanwhile, the Welsh Independent Restaurant Collective, which represents more than 400 Welsh hospitality firms, said it welcomed the move but "continues to press for certainty and support" about funding to support them while they remain closed.

Alert level three

The plans will move Wales into the "alert level three" stage of the government's control plan by 17 May.

While parts of Wales' lockdown have eased quicker than elsewhere in the UK, the Welsh government had been reluctant to set out a full schedule for when different sectors would reopen.

Friday's announcement is the most detailed list of dates given by the government since the winter lockdown began to be eased.

It does not go as far as England's tentative plans to scrap social contact restrictions by 21 June, although Mark Drakeford has previously said that's "very optimistic".

Mr Drakeford told a press conference the new "indicative dates" were are there "to help businesses plan and prepare".

"We have to remember that the pandemic isn't over - it's more important than ever that we continue to work together to keep this terrible virus under control so that we can go on unlocking Wales."

Some sectors like cinemas and theatres have not been given a date to reopen in Wales.

Following criticism of his plans for gyms and leisure centres, Mr Drakeford said the sector will be the first able to reopen indoors.

Pubs will be able to open outdoors two weeks after England. The first minister said he had considered bringing that forward, but "the advice was very clear that that was not advisable on public health grounds".

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
First Minister Mark Drakeford has criticised Boris Johnson's roadmap out of lockdown in England as being optimistic

What does the opposition say?

The Welsh Conservatives' Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said Mr Drakeford's roadmap was "very late in the day".

He said it was "unfortunate" that further funding had not been made available to hospitality sector - and said outdoor hospitality should be opening in line with England on 12 April.

Mr Davies told Wales Today: "What's really dumbfounding is that despite his mental health minister's assurances that gyms will be one of the first facilities to open, they are now not going to open until May."

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price said he would go faster on reopening gyms and indoor hospitality.

"We've also been calling for a much more accelerated timetable in terms of reopening gyms, because of their importance in terms of mental and physical well being. So I think it's disappointing to see that being delayed.

"There are dangers of course in moving too fast but there's an equal danger of being over cautious".

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said: "Now that more and more of Wales is opening up and life is slowly returning to normal, it's time to put our recovery first.

"I want to see support for those individuals who will lose their jobs when furlough ends, those who are likely to lose their homes when the ban on evictions is lifted and those whose mental health has suffered as a result of this pandemic."

A UKIP spokesman said: "With the success of the vaccine rollout, lockdowns no longer have any major impact on case numbers.

"The Welsh economy must be reopened now. Not in a month's time. This apathetic timeline will be the final nail in the coffin for many businesses that have been just about clinging on."

What is the Covid case rate in Wales?

The announcement comes as latest figures show admissions to hospitals of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases hit a record low - it stands at a daily seven-day average of 19.

Covid hospital admissions are the lowest since the pandemic began with 17 confirmed and suspected Covid patients on Wednesday, with none at all in Swansea Bay hospitals.

Wales' case rate stands at 34.9 per 100,000 people over seven days - the lowest since mid-September.