Explains how the coronavirus laws are different in Wales.
As the decision to impose widespread restrictions was taken on a UK-wide basis, most of the provisions are the same or very similar across the UK. However, there are differences in approach, some of which are significant. The main differences between the legislation applicable in Wales and the legislation applicable in England are set out below:
- the English legislation does not impose requirements to take reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing (of 2 metres) while working
- no provision is made in the English legislation requiring local authorities and national park authorities in England to close beauty spots etc
- in the Welsh legislation the “reasonable excuse” to leave home to exercise is limited to an area local to your home
- the provisions relating to funerals are different (most notably in England attendance is essentially limited to close family, whereas in Wales the determining factor is the number of people who can attend - not who they are)
- the exceptions that allow hotels etc. to continue to operate are stricter in Wales
- there are numerous additional provisions relating to the enforcement of the restrictions in the Welsh legislation
- the Welsh legislation (like the English legislation) provides for the sum payable under a fixed penalty notice to be doubled for every breach. The penalties differ though, in Wales they rise from £60 to £120 to £1,920 for the sixth and subsequent case (though there is no limit on a fine if a breach of the Regulations is prosecuted in court)
The reason for the variations in approach comes from a need to address issues that have been particularly problematic in Wales, or because of a need to respond to concerns that have been raised in Wales since the initial “lockdown” Regulations took effect.
The first significant change was made early on when it became apparent large numbers of people were travelling to, and congregating at, the coast, in national parks and other beauty spots in Wales. Urgent Regulations were made on 23 March to require the closure of holiday caravan sites, camping sites, amusement arcades and indoor play centres to protect against the risks to public health arising from coronavirus. The Regulations also impose a duty, for the same purpose, on local authorities, national park authorities, National Resources Wales and the National Trust to close certain public footpaths and land.
The Welsh Government took the view it wanted to control the extent to which hotels were able to open, working in conjunction with local authorities. This was due to concerns that exceptions to the requirement to close could be exploited and because of creation of a scheme to manage use of hotels for public purposes.
The Welsh Government also took the view that to reinforce the overarching message that everybody should stay at home, and for practical enforcement reasons, that leaving the home to exercise was only a reasonable excuse once a day. This was relaxed, on 25 April following the first three-week review of the Regulations but only in cases of a particular health condition or disability. This change was made due to concerns raised by families with autistic children who had been distressed by a change in their routine. It was later relaxed again following the second three week review so as to not impose a limit (though it was also made clear that exercise should be undertaken locally).
Changes to the provisions about funerals were also made because of concerns raised by families of the recently deceased. The subsequent approach ensured the focus was on the public health response and the need to ensure physical distancing, rather than on the status of those allowed to attend a funeral (which is not a matter for the government to decide).
The significant change to the legal requirements while working to ensure physical distancing was also made to take a consistent public health approach to containing coronavirus. Existing requirements to maintain 2 metres distance were therefore extended to all workplaces, requiring reasonable measures to be taken in all circumstances bar vehicles (where it would generally not be practical to fulfil the obligation).