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Introduction

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 (“the Main Regulations”) came into force from 4.00p.m. on Thursday, 26 March. They will remain in force, currently until 26 September, but must be reviewed every 21 days, with the first review on 15 April 2020. Although the Main Regulations expire on 26 September 2020, the Welsh Ministers have the power to extend the restrictions under them beyond this period.

The Main Regulations revoked the Health Protection (Coronavirus: Closure of Leisure Businesses, Footpaths and Access Land) (Wales) Regulations 2020 and the Health Protection (Coronavirus: Closure of Leisure Businesses, Footpaths and Access Land) (Wales) Regulations 2020.

The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2020 (the “Amending Regulations”) make targeted amendments to the Main Regulations. The Amending Regulations came into force on 7 April 2020 at 12.01 am.

This document will be updated as further information, guidance and support is made available. This document is non statutory guidance to Local Authorities in relation to the amendments under the Amending Regulations to provisions relating to providers of holiday accommodation which are subject to the requirement to cease carrying on their business under regulation 4(4) of the Main Regulations.

The general requirement of accommodation businesses to close their businesses and remain closed.

All holiday accommodation businesses listed in Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Main Regulations are to remain closed until further notice, apart from where the limited exceptions described below apply.

The following types of accommodation are listed in Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Main Regulations;

  • Holiday sites
  • Camping sites
  • Hotels and bed and breakfast accommodation
  • Other holiday accommodation (including holiday apartments, hostels and boarding houses)

Exceptions applying to all holiday accommodation businesses including holiday sites and camping sites

Specific requests from the Welsh Ministers and Local Authorities

There should be only very small numbers of guests still in place in holiday accommodation (and those only in line with the exceptions and the guidance set out in relation to the Main Regulations).

All holiday accommodation businesses can open for any purpose specifically requested by the Welsh Ministers or Local Authorities. This exception previously did not apply to holiday sites and camping sites but, under the Amending Regulation, it will.

Please note, however, that there are other exceptions applying to other kinds of accommodation business that will still not apply to holiday sites and camping sites.

For clarity, unless businesses are specifically so requested by the Welsh Ministers or by Local Authorities, they must remain closed.

The Welsh Ministers or Local Authorities therefore can make a specific request for accommodation to open for a limited purpose.

If a business is specifically requested to open by Welsh Ministers or a Local Authority, this provision should not be taken to mean that whole sites or businesses can reopen. Any permitted re-opening under this provision will be specific, and limited, to the particular purposes set out in the request. The fact the Welsh Ministers or Local Authorities request a business to open for a specific purpose does not authorise it to open for any other purpose: the business may open only for the limited purposes set out in a specific request if such a request is made of them by the Welsh Ministers or a Local Authority. The fact the Welsh Ministers or Local Authorities make such a request of a business does not oblige the business to open for that purpose.

As a guide, we would anticipate the purposes for which requests could be made could properly include, but not be limited to, accommodating key workers, those who have been displaced or are homeless, or providing accommodation for health patients.

We are aware that some businesses are currently accommodating key workers. If businesses have not yet been asked to do so by the Welsh Ministers or a Local Authority, they must make the Welsh Ministers or the relevant Local Authority aware of this. They need to ensure that a request is forthcoming from the Welsh Ministers or Local Authority and may only remain open in response to such a request.

The Welsh Government or a Local Authority may ask also ask businesses listed in Part 3 of Schedule 1 to the Main Regulations to open in whole or part in the interests of “public services (including the provision of food or other support for the homeless or vulnerable people, blood donation sessions or support in an emergency)”.

Authorisation to open in response to such a request would be limited to the specific purpose of that request and would not permit the business to open for any other purpose.

To assist Local Authorities/Welsh Ministers in implementing this provision, business owners have been requested in guidance referred to above to take all reasonable steps to check that people who are asserting they are key workers validly hold that status.

Important factors to consider:

  • Careful consideration should be given to the suitability of accommodation to the intended purposes.
  • In respect of provision for the homeless, local authorities should refer to guidance issued by the Welsh Government
  • Accommodation businesses which solely or predominantly provide access to services by way of shared facilities (for example communal shower/wash blocks or laundry facilities) should be used only in circumstances you deem exceptional.
  • The spacing of living and any support or communal facilities should be such that the ‘two-metre’ rule can be applied and Social Distancing Guidance observed.
  • The proximity of the accommodation to other essential services (including support provision).
  • Delivery of any ongoing support it may be necessary or desirable to provide in situ, particularly to vulnerable people.
  • Similarly, the adequacy of security arrangements in place or to be provided.
  • A coordinated approach across public services to procuring accommodation that is and can remain appropriate to groups of people placed there.

It is vital that attempts to accommodate people are coordinated across services, so that capacity is maximised, prioritised, and used appropriately. The Welsh Government is already working with local authorities to obtain accommodation to meet the needs of vulnerable people, including victims of domestic abuse and those displaced for whatever reason during the current pandemic. This includes contracting accommodation, importantly with the right support staff in place to support those individuals and households who are accommodated. We are working cross-Government to ensure that this is done on an area basis with the needs of all current and future vulnerable groups in mind. We will also advise the relevant local authorities of our intentions.

Provision of information and services online, by phone or post only (future bookings/ amendments to bookings)

The Main Regulations have been amended, via the Amending Regulations, to clarify that all holiday accommodation businesses including holiday sites and camping sites can continue to provide information or services online or by telephone or post only. This exception is limited to providing information or services via those media only. It does not permit those businesses to reopen.

The amendments enable all businesses to communicate with customers to provide information, including on potential future bookings etc. Given the restrictions put in place by the Main Regulations, we are not able to specify any dates from which businesses could consider taking bookings without breaching the obligations to close their businesses and to keep those businesses closed; opening their businesses while those restrictions remain in place would be an offence under the Main Regulations (unless an exception applies). Businesses will not be able to honour any bookings until such time as after the restrictions are lifted. Any bookings taken are, therefore, at the businesses’ and consumers’ risk.

Bookings should not be taken to provide accommodation for any periods that the businesses are required by the regulations to be closed unless such bookings are in response to a specific request by the Welsh Ministers or Local Authority and are limited to fulfilling the specific purpose of that request.

Exceptions applying to all holiday accommodation excluding holiday sites and camping sites

In respect of all holiday accommodation excluding holiday sites and camping sites exceptions apply for: 

  • Persons already staying in the accommodation when the regulations came into force (i.e. 4.00p.m. on 26 March 2020) and who were unable to return to their main residence or are, in fact, using the accommodation as their main residence. This could include people who own or are employed at the site providing the above exceptions also apply.

The persons responsible for carrying on these businesses (which includes the owner, proprietor, and manager of that business) should have already satisfied themselves that there was evidence that these exemptions were appropriately applied. For example by:

  • assessing any supporting evidence of where a person’s council tax is paid;
  • where people cannot go to their home due to international flight restrictions; and
  • the fact that, due to infirmity, disability or other vulnerability, they would face great difficulty in vacating the site or in obtaining alternative accommodation.

Remaining in holiday accommodation cannot be a matter of preference or convenience: for example, our view is that a claim of self-isolation or isolation from family members should not constitute a valid reason to stay (as people can and should self-isolate or isolate at home, so avoiding proximity to others and using shared facilities).

Although consideration should be given to whether a person has to use public transport to return home and any risk so posed to the public; likewise having ‘work done’ to the main home may not be a valid exception. Further enquiries should have been made as to the nature and of that work and effect it causes and, if necessary, corroborated.

Exceptions applying to holiday sites and camping sites only

Holiday sites and camp sites were required to be closed by the the Health Protection (Coronavirus: Closure of Leisure Businesses, Footpaths and Access Land) (Wales) Regulations 2020 which were made on 23 March and came into force on 24 March. This requirement has been maintained in the Main Regulations and the Amending Regulations. Persons responsible for carrying on these businesses were obliged to use their best endeavors to require any person staying to vacate the premises.

In exercise of these best endeavours, they must have taken positive steps to ask people to vacate the premises. If, however, when they asked them to do so, they offered a compelling, credible and evidence-able explanation as to why they are unable to leave, we consider that they would have satisfied their best endeavours obligation.

Residential parks (mobile home sites) are not required to close. Residents lawfully using a mobile home on a holiday site for human habitation under an agreement made under Part 4 of the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013 are exempted. Any attempts to evict or harass such persons by the owner of the site or their or agent would still constitute criminal an offence (under section 42 of the Mobile Homes (Wales) Act 2013.

Guidance for hotels serving food

Hotels and accommodation providers that are remaining open if the exception applies or have been requested to open by Welsh Government or the Local Authority to for example house key workers, vulnerable groups will still be able to serve food, subject to the’ ‘two-metre’ and other social distancing guidelines (for example by providing a takeaway service, ‘grab and go’ service or room service).

All persons responsible for work taking place at any place of work requires the person to take all reasonable measures to ensure that people stay 2 metres from each other on the premises, in line with the social distancing measures provided for in the Main Regulations as amended by the Amending Regulations, unless the persons are members of the same household or a carer and the person being cared for.

Enforcement and penalty

It is an offence for owners not to comply with their duties under these regulations, as it is for others to obstruct them in carrying out their duties. In both cases the offence can be penalised by a fine.

Please note that as this situation is rapidly evolving in relation to case definition and countries affected, please check the Public Health Wales Coronavirus page which is updated daily at 11am.

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