Covid: Two households can form bubble after Wales’ lockdown

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media captionTwo households in Wales can form a bubble after firebreak, said the first minister

Two households in Wales will be able to form a bubble and meet at home after the 17-day firebreak ends.

First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced some of the rules that will be in place from 9 November.

There will be no travel restrictions within Wales, but people will not be able to leave the country except for essential purposes such as work during England’s four-week lockdown.

Groups of 15 will be allowed to meet for organised indoors activities.

All businesses that were closed throughout the firebreak will be able to reopen, Mr Drakeford told a press conference.

But it is not clear under what terms pubs and restaurants will be required to operate.

Outdoors, 30 people will be able to meet for organised activities under the rules, which will be reviewed in a fortnight.

Plaid Cymru said ministers should consider a phased reopening of hospitality, while the Welsh Conservatives welcomed some changes but called for clarity for businesses.

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The first minister said plans for the “unexpected” English lockdown, which is due to start on Thursday, have an impact on the next steps following the stay-at-home period in Wales.

“The English lockdown will have an impact on people who live in Wales but work in England, on companies operating in both England and Wales and on businesses trading along the border.

“It’s really important that as we open up, Wales doesn’t become an escape for people seeking to circumvent the new tighter restrictions imposed by the prime minister.”

Explanation of Wales' rules

Meanwhile, the UK government said it would work with leaders from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on a joint approach to what will happen over the Christmas period.

From 9 November, people will be able to meet others from their extended household bubble at home.

There will be new arrangements in other indoors settings – but Mr Drakeford said there would be further consideration of how hospitality operates in light of the English lockdown.

After Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced at the weekend that England would go into a month-long lockdown, the Welsh Government reiterated Wales’ version would end on 9 November.

During Wales’ firebreak lockdown, pubs, restaurants and non-essential shops have been required to shut, and people were told to stay at home.

Supermarkets were instructed to stop selling non-essential items, and travel was restricted except for a limited set of reasons such as work and education, known as reasonable excuses.

As well as shops and hospitality, churches will be able to reopen and local authority services will resume “based on local circumstances”.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionRetailers have been required to shut during the firebreak lockdown

How will travel ban work?

Mr Drakeford stressed that people who live and work on different sides of the Wales-England border would still be able to travel between the two nations.

The Welsh Government will introduce a “restricted list of essential purposes” to allow people to travel between the countries which Mr Drakeford said would be “the same broad system on both sides of the border”.

He added: “People who live in Wales but work in England will have a reasonable reason for travelling to work.

“And people who live in England and work in Wales really clearly have a reasonable excuse for coming across the border to work here.

“But it will be a restricted list of essential purposes, rather than the normal toing and froing across the border that you would have seen in less fraught and difficult times”.

English lockdown was ‘surprise’

Mr Drakeford said the Welsh Government was “surprised” to learn about England’s lockdown from newspapers at the weekend.

The first minister said the first he knew of Mr Johnson’s announcement were press reports.

While repeating his call for more regular meetings, he added he was not “criticising anybody for making these difficult decisions in their own circumstances”.

He and health minister Vaughan Gething took part in a meeting chaired by Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on Monday morning.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionAll businesses closed during the firebreak will be able to reopen

No trips abroad but holidays can happen in Wales

The first minister said people living in Wales could go on holiday in Wales when the Covid firebreak comes to an end.

People in Wales will be subject to the same ban on international travel as people in England.

Mr Drakeford said: “I can confirm that people will be able to travel within Wales, they won’t be confined to their local authority area as was the case during the firebreak.”

He added that “tourism will be able to reopen”.

Mr Drakeford said people would only see the benefits of the short lockdown if they ask in the weeks to come “not ‘what can I do’ but ‘what should I do’.”

He said that would help “to bring coronavirus under control and to give us a pathway through to Christmas and beyond.”

image copyrightWelsh Government
image captionMark Drakeford said it was important Wales did not become “an escape”

What has the opposition said?

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the Welsh Government should consider a “a two-week buffer period” when the firebreak ends.

Ministers should look at a “phased reopening” of the hospitality industry with pubs and bars closing at 18:00.

Mr Price said it was “crucial” that financial support was available to the hospitality sector.

Senedd Conservative leader Paul Davies welcomed some of the changes but said the Welsh Government needed to “explain urgently to businesses what support they will be able to access for the remainder of the Wales-wide lockdown and under the new national restrictions”.

“The Welsh Government needs to be bolder in getting core NHS activities back up and running to avoid other public health crises in devastating illnesses including cancer and heart disease.”

The Conservatives have been criticised for vocally opposing Wales’ 17-day firebreak lockdown, only for a month-long lockdown for England to be announced by the Conservative government at the weekend.

Mr Davies told BBC Wales: “What happens in England of course is a matter for the UK government and Boris Johnson, and his government has made that decision. What happens here in Wales is a different matter, and that’s what devolution is about.

“The first minister and the prime minister have said that devolved governments sometimes take different decisions, and we’ve made it absolutely clear that we think this temporary national lockdown was not the right thing to do.

“But we are where we are, and we do hope we will see the suppression of this virus.”

How have businesses responded?

Ian Price of business lobby group CBI Wales said: “For those in the hard-hit hospitality sector, the next step is to get clear guidance on how businesses can re-open again as swiftly and easily as possible.

“The first minister has placed great emphasis on personal compliance and changing individual behaviours as we continue to live with the pandemic.

“Having already invested significant sums in making workplaces safe for staff and customers, business stands ready to play its part in making that a success.”

Ben Francis of the Federation of Small Businesses in Wales said the organisation was “pleased that there continues to be certainty that the firebreak will end on 9 November”.

“Many businesses will feel reassured by the first minister’s statement on the lack of travel restrictions in Wales,” he said.

“This will benefit high streets and towns across the country and help businesses claw back some of the opportunities that they have missed this year.”

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