What you and businesses can and cannot do during the outbreak and what happens if you break these new laws.
What restrictions have been put in place?
There are 4 things.
- certain businesses have to close
- people have to stay at home unless they have a good reason to go out
- rules have been made about keeping people staying 2 metres apart when they do go out
- people can’t gather in public places
Why have these restrictions been put in place?
The restrictions are essential to slow the spread of coronavirus. People travelling, meeting each other and touching things in public places can all spread coronavirus. We want people to stay at home, protect the Welsh NHS and save lives.
How do the restrictions protect the NHS and save lives?
The restrictions mean the spread of coronavirus is slowed, meaning fewer people get ill. If too many people become ill at the same time the NHS would not be able to treat everybody.
How is the Welsh Government able to do this?
Public health and health are both devolved matters. So the Welsh Ministers have wide ranging powers under legislation to respond to the pandemic.
How long will these restrictions stay in place?
The restrictions will be in place until the risk of spread of coronavirus has reduced, when they can be relaxed. Welsh Ministers have a duty to review these restrictions every 3 weeks.
Is breaching the restrictions against the law?
Yes they are imposed by the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 and you can be fined for not complying with the law.
Why do the restrictions change?
The legal powers to make the regulations require the restrictions to be proportionate to the outcome they are trying to achieve. They must be reviewed every 21 days. This means reviewing scientific evidence about the spread of coronavirus and considering the impact of the restrictions. The Welsh Ministers then consider what activity can resume.
Minor changes have been made because of the impact the restrictions (and people complying with Welsh Government advice) have had on the spread of coronavirus in Wales to date. This has helped to stabilise the situation in Wales – reducing the number of people admitted to hospital with coronavirus; the number of people who are seriously ill in intensive care and the number of people who are dying from coronavirus.
Are critical workers covered by the restrictions?
Yes. The Regulations affect how people live their daily lives and where they go. The Welsh Government has previously identified categories of critical workers, which will determine whose children can go to school or receive childcare. However, the Regulations make no reference to ‘critical workers’, so they must be followed by everyone regardless of ‘critical worker’ status.
How do I get advice about what I can and can’t do?
The Welsh Government has issued guidance to accompany the regulations which impose the restrictions as well as these answers to frequently asked questions. We are unable, however, to answer specific queries from individuals because the answer will depend on the particular circumstances. Community advice services are such as Citizens Advice are still available online and by telephone.
Staying at home
Does stay at home mean I can’t go out at all?
No, you can go out if you have a “reasonable excuse” to do so. The need to do things like going to work, shopping for food and go to the doctor is reflected. But the basic message is we want people to stay at home as much as possible. This is particularly important if you are an extremely vulnerable person (somebody who has received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales asking them to adopt strict shielding measures to protect them from the virus).
If you do go out you should stay 2 metres away from other people and wash your hands frequently. Please see the Public Health Wales advice factsheet for more information.
What can’t I do?
The legal requirement is that you can’t leave home without a reasonable excuse. However we urge people to think not only about what you can’t do because the law says so, but also about what you shouldn’t do because it could increase the spread of coronavirus. So even if you can leave home you should consider whether there are alternatives like working from home, shopping online or exercising in the garden.
What can I do?
There is a list of reasonable excuses to leave home, such as going to work, going to buy food and having medical treatment. Other reasons for leaving home that aren’t listed may, however, also be allowed if they are reasonable. Please more detailed guidance on the regulations.
I have to attend court – am I still supposed to go?
Yes. If your court proceedings are still going ahead, you can leave your house to attend court, providing you are not self-isolating – in which case you should contact the court for further information. The courts should help you stay 2 metres away from other people. The rules on no gatherings of more than 2 people in a public place do not apply to legal proceedings.
My bail conditions require me to report to a police station or meet other requirements, can I leave home for this?
Yes, providing you are not self-isolating – in which case you should contact the court that imposed the conditions for further information.
Can I move house?
Yes, you can, but you shouldn’t if your moving date can be postponed.
Travelling and public transport
Can I drive to the coast or to the countryside?
No. That is not considered to be a reasonable excuse to leave home. Many beauty spots have been closed to stop people travelling and congregating.
Can I drive to my holiday caravan to do routine maintenance and repair work?
No. It is not considered to be a reasonable excuse to leave home. In any event caravan and holiday parks are required to be closed, although there are some exceptions – some people remain on site as otherwise they would be made homeless.
Can I drive to stay at my second home?
No. That is not considered to be a reasonable excuse to leave home. Travelling to a second home increases the risk of spreading the virus and also puts pressure on the NHS in areas which does not have the capacity to deal with an influx of people.
My son or daughter has left belongings in their student accommodation, which now needs to be vacated. Can we travel there to get them?
If this can’t be postponed and is required to comply with the terms of the accommodation agreement it would be a reasonable excuse.
Can I use public transport?
Yes, if you have a reasonable excuse to leave home. There are, however, fewer train services and many buses have reduced capacity in order to ensure that people can maintain social distancing practices.
Business closures, work and physical distancing
How do the restrictions affect businesses?
Many businesses have had to close while all others need to take all reasonable measures to keep people apart. People should work from home wherever they can. This will potentially have a wide range of impacts on businesses. Please see the guidance for businesses and employers.
Can my business be open?
The restrictions include a list of all businesses which must be closed – these included bars and restaurants; leisure and hotels. Most retail outlets are required to be closed but they can fulfil internet and telephone orders, including by “click and collect”. Please see guidance on business closures.
If I do go to work what must my employer do?
Where possible, people should work from home. Where that is not possible, employers must comply with a physical distancing duty, which means all reasonable measures must be taken to ensure a 2 metre distance is maintained between people while working. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures for more information.
My employer wants me to go to work. Do I have to?
People should only travel to work if it is not reasonably practicable for them to work from home. If you have coronavirus symptoms, live in the same house as someone with symptoms or are in an at-risk or extremely vulnerable group, you must stay at home.
Employers and employees should discuss their working arrangements. Employers should take every possible step to help their employees to work from home, including providing suitable IT equipment. Employers also have a separate legal duty to take reasonable steps to ensure their employees are not exposed to risks to their health.
Can I carry out building or repair work in someone’s home?
Yes. Work carried out in people’s homes, for example by tradespeople, can continue. Our advice, however, is that both the tradesperson and household members should be well and have no symptoms of coronavirus. Please see the self-isolation guidance for more information. Like other businesses, tradespeople must take all reasonable measures to ensure that 2 metre distancing is maintained at all times when working in other people’s households. Please see the guidance on reasonable measures for more information.
We recommend no work should be carried out in any household which is isolating or where a person who is classed as extremely vulnerable is undertaking ‘shielding’ measures, unless it is to repair a fault which poses a direct risk to people’s safety – for example, emergency plumbing. In these cases, Public Health Wales can provide advice to tradespeople and households. But no work should be carried out by a tradesperson who has coronavirus symptoms, however mild.
Can I do voluntary work?
Yes. There is no restriction on going out to provide care or help to a vulnerable person, including emergency help. This includes getting food and medicines for them. But it is important you do not put yourself or the person you are caring for at risk. Please see the volunteering guidance for more information.
My employer hasn’t taken any steps to keep people 2 metres apart while working, what should I do?
You should raise this with your trade union or other representatives – or directly with the employer. We hope issues can be resolved through discussion, however failures to take reasonable steps can be reported to the environmental health department of your local authority.
How will businesses be aware of the law?
These emergency laws have been widely publicised by the Welsh Government and, in the normal way, the Regulations can be found on legislation.gov.uk and associated guidance on the Welsh Government website. The Welsh Government has also published a consolidated version of the Regulations.
Health care and carers
I need to access health services, what do I do?
You can leave your home to access local health services, but you should phone beforehand. Please follow any guidance your local surgery or health service has put in place to protect you and staff, including the need to keep 2 metres away from other patients waiting to see a GP or nurse. If you can rearrange your appointment, please do so, and use NHS 111 Wales online services where possible.
If you have symptoms of Coronavirus do not visit your GP, hospital or pharmacy. For more information please use the NHS 111 Wales symptom checker.
What should I do if I have a hospital or GP appointment?
We advise everyone to access medical assistance remotely, wherever possible. However, if you have a scheduled hospital or other medical appointment during this period, talk to your GP or clinician to ensure you continue to receive the care you need and consider whether appointments can be postponed.
I need a carer, can my carer still help me?
Yes, there are various exceptions to the restrictions that mean people can still receive care.
Vulnerable people and the homeless
Do the restrictions apply to vulnerable people?
Yes, it is particularly important that extremely vulnerable people stay at home as much as possible. Extremely vulnerable persons in Wales are those who have one of a very specific list of pre-existing and long-term serious health conditions. The impact of their pre-existing, long-term health condition on their immune system puts them at high risk of serious illness if they are exposed to coronavirus. Those in this position have received a letter from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales asking them to adopt strict shielding measures to protect them from the virus. Guidance has been issued about how we protect ourselves and others from coronavirus.
What is the advice if I live with a vulnerable person?
If you live in a house with a vulnerable person refer to our household guidance.
I am homeless, what should I do?
Extra funding has been provided to local authorities in Wales to help people who are homeless or rough sleeping. If you are in need of support then you should contact the housing options team in your local area, their contact details will be located on your local authority’s website.
Please stay 2 metres away from others and please see the Public Health Wales advice factsheet for more information. You must not gather in a public place with more than one other person.
The Welsh Government also funds Shelter Cymru to provide independent housing advice and support. Further information, advice and support can be found on the Shelter Cymru website.
Families and meeting others
I share parental responsibility for my child, can they visit the other person with parental responsibility?
Yes. You can continue existing arrangements for access and contact if you share parental responsibility for your child with another person. Please ensure you follow the guidance on frequent handwashing and do not place others at risk if you or a member of your household is self-isolating. If however you have coronavirus symptoms, live in the same house as someone with symptoms, or are in an at-risk or extremely vulnerable group, you should stay at home and children shouldn’t visit.
Can I meet friends or family if I do it outdoors?
No. Leaving home just to meet friends and family is not allowed at the moment. Our overarching advice is to stay at home. You need a reasonable excuse to go out, and arranging to meet friends and family is not reasonable excuse. In addition the regulations require people not to gather in a public place.
Can I meet or exercise with others if I socially distance?
No. Leaving home just to meet friends and family is not allowed at the moment, regardless of whether you socially distance. Neither can you do this when exercising – you can only exercise alone or with a member of your household.
Can I go for a picnic in the park?
No. Leaving home just to go for a picnic is not allowed at the moment. You can leave the house to exercise and we also consider activity that is “incidental” to exercise, which is good for people’s health or wellbeing, to be reasonable. So you could go for a walk (as your exercise) and stop to have something to eat or sit in the park. But most of the time away from home should be spent exercising and your purpose for leaving home should be to exercise.
Any “incidental” activity is subject to the requirement not to gather with others, and the advice on social distancing should also be followed.
Shopping and food
Can I go shopping?
Yes. Many shops are required to be closed but supermarkets, hardware stores and some others are open – leaving home to go to one of these shops is a reasonable excuse. Shops that are open are required to put measures in place to ensure people are kept 2 metres apart.
If I buy something online, can I collect it from the shop?
As long as the distance travelled to collect the item is not unreasonable, this is allowed. The shop providing the service has to put measures in place to ensure people are kept two metres part while collecting the item purchased.
Why are garden centres allowed to be open?
Garden centres are generally outdoors for the most part and the evidence suggests the risk of spreading coronavirus is considerably less outdoors than indoors. They are also required to put measures in place to ensure people are kept 2 metres apart.
Why are drive-through fast food restaurants opening?
Buying takeaway food has always been allowed. Many decided to close despite this but are now re-opening.
Places of worship, cemeteries and funerals
Can I go to my place of worship?
No, places of worship are closed except for funerals.
I am a religious leader, can I go to my place of worship?
Yes, but you will not be able to hold services with other people present, other than funerals.
You can, however, broadcast (without a congregation) an act of worship, whether over the internet or as part of a radio or television broadcast.
A close family member has died and I need to organise the funeral – what do I do?
Funerals can be a distressing experience, and the impact of coronavirus is making it even more difficult to make practical arrangements. Guidance has been issued to local authorities and to individuals.
Can I go to a funeral?
Yes, but you must be invited. Numbers are constrained by the need to put social distancing measures in place.
Can I go to a cemetery to visit a family member’s grave?
Yes. But you should ensure that you follow social distancing practices when doing so.
Exercise and sport
What sort of exercise can I do?
The regulations do not stop any particular type of exercise, but in practice the type of exercise allowed is constrained by some of the other restrictions put in place to control coronavirus. For example, indoor swimming pools have been closed; sports courts and leisure centres are closed and certain footpaths, beauty spots and parts of the countryside are closed. You also have to stay local.
To avoid increasing the burden on the NHS we also advise people not to take unnecessary risks while exercising.
Who can I exercise with?
You must exercise alone or with members of your household.
Can I exercise with friends if we are socially distant?
No. You must exercise alone or with members of your household. You are advised to keep your distance from other people while you exercise but that doesn’t mean you can exercise with others.
What about cycling?
People are expected to only cycle on routes they know well and are well within their ability level. Cyclists on shared paths should be considerate of walkers, runners and other people cycling: they should stay two metres away from others, slow their pace and stop to let people pass as appropriate. Cycling to work, or for work, is also considered a reasonable excuse to be outside, if you can’t work from home.
You must stay local (not go a significant distance from home) and you must cycle alone or with members of your household. Cycling with others in groups is not allowed, regardless of whether social distancing practices are followed.
Can I drive somewhere to exercise?
In general, exercise should not involve people driving away from home to exercise. No journeys outside your local area should be taken to exercise in the countryside, at the coast or at other beauty spots, for example – many beauty spots have been closed to prevent people gathering.
I have mobility problems and need to drive to exercise – can I do that?
Yes. People with specific health or mobility issues may need to travel by car from their home to exercise. For example, some wheelchair users may not be able to exercise immediately outside their homes for practical reasons. In such circumstances the journey should be to the nearest convenient accessible location. You must, however, stay local.
What does staying local mean?
People should not travel a significant distance from their home to exercise. We have deliberately not defined this more precisely as it could be seen to be arbitrary and it will also depend on the circumstances – what is “local” in Cardiff on the one hand, and in mid Wales on the other, could be quite different. People are asked to exercise good judgement. If you live in Cardiff and have driven to Porthcawl to exercise on the beach, you know you haven’t stayed local.
Can gyms be open?
Gyms are not allowed to open at the moment. For the time being, we continue to advise people to exercise in their own home or outdoors.
Can I exercise by playing golf?
Playing golf on your own or with a member of your household on a course that is local to your home is allowed. Golf courses are not currently listed in the regulations as a business or premise that must close, but we recognise that many will not be able to stay open based on the restrictions on activity.
We are continuing to prepare for the future. We would expect Wales Golf, working with the R&A and other UK governing bodies, to monitor the situation in England closely where golf is permitted from May 13 and prepare detailed protocols for a potential partial resumption in Wales when the conditions are right.
Is angling allowed?
If you get your exercise by angling, then provided you comply with the other requirements, this is allowed. The regulations state exercise should be done locally, which means people cannot drive to exercise outside their local area, and you must exercise alone or with a member of your household. The primary purpose for leaving home should be to exercise.
Can I go to the local park?
The regulations do not require parks to close. Local authorities will make decisions about whether local parks are open. We encourage people to go out to exercise but in doing that people should avoid places that can be busy (be they particular parts of parks, footpaths or other places).
Can I go to the vet?
Yes, this is a reasonable excuse to leave home. You are, however, encouraged to delay any treatment that isn’t urgent.
Can I go out to walk my dog?
Yes, this is exercise (and it is of course good for you and your dog).
Am I allowed to travel to pick up new pets?
Collecting a new pet is not listed as a reasonable excuse to leave home, but on animal welfare grounds our view is that travelling a reasonable distance to collect an animal should be allowed.
Differences between Wales and England etc.
Why are there different laws across the UK?
The coronavirus does not respect borders, and where possible a co-ordinated “four nations” approach is taken across the UK. However health and social care are devolved subjects, as are related subjects like schools and tourism. The Welsh NHS is run by the Welsh Government and we need to manage the impact coronavirus has. In addition there are certain issues that are specific to Wales and should be addressed in the best interests of the people of Wales.
Why are some restrictions in Wales different to England’s?
Most of the restrictions were introduced at the same time in Wales and England and they contained many similar provisions. However, there were some significant differences – for example, the English legislation has not imposed requirements on employers to take all reasonable measures to maintain physical distancing where people work, and there was no provision made in the English legislation requiring local authorities and national park authorities to close beauty spots.
All governments are required to review the regulations every 21 days, based on the unique circumstances in their country – including specific scientific evidence. The Welsh Government assesses the extent of the spread of coronavirus, and its impact, in Wales and takes decisions accordingly.
In England people are allowed to meet up with one other person from outside their household, why can’t we do that?
The Welsh Government decided not to change the law in the same way as in England. In England going outside for any recreational purpose, and meeting one other person who is not from your household, is now allowed. In our view this could lead to an increase in illegal gatherings and people mixing more freely, and it is inconsistent with the underlying requirement to stay at home where possible to help contain the spread of the virus.
Like all other aspects of the restrictions, however, this is being kept under review.
The English regulations allow people to leave home for any recreational purpose – will this mean more people coming to Wales?
We receive weekly updates from the four police forces in Wales, which monitor compliance with the regulations; we also monitor traffic flow on all main routes in and into Wales. We understand that having slightly different rules in Wales and England may be confusing for some, particularly along the border, and we are working very hard to make sure people are aware that in Wales, the Welsh rules apply.
Travelling to Wales to spend time in the countryside or at the coast is not allowed under Welsh law. We will use whatever means are available to convey this message, including signs on the major roads and motorways and articles in local newspapers along our borders.
What do the new rules mean for people who live in Wales but work in England?
Our overarching advice has not changed – people should work from home wherever possible and continue to avoid all unnecessary journeys. If your normal place of work is in England, please discuss your working arrangements with your employer. However the same “reasonable excuse” to leave home to go to work applies in Wales and in England.
Enforcement and fines
Who enforces the restrictions?
The restrictions are being enforced by local authority environmental health officers and the police.
What can enforcement officers do?
They can issue fixed penalty notices or recommend prosecution in the Magistrates Court. In addition they have wide-ranging powers to take practical steps to disperse gatherings, require people to go home and enter property.
What will the Welsh police do?
The police in Wales will engage with people, explain what they need to do and encourage them to comply. But our police forces have been given powers and they will use them – the restrictions will be enforced if people don’t respond.
What are the financial penalties?
The coronavirus regulations include provisions for a fixed penalty notice to be issued for breaches of the regulations, carrying a fine of £60; this is doubled for each subsequent breach to a maximum of £1,920 for the sixth and any subsequent case. If prosecuted, however, a court can impose any fine (it is not limited).
We hope people understand the severity of the situation we are facing and will comply with the regulations, without having to be issued with penalties.
Will the level of fines be increased in Wales?
We continue to keep fines under review and, if the police believe stronger fines are needed, this will be considered.