Plans to allow family and friends to meet outside have been unveiled by First Minister Mark Drakeford as the strict stay-at-home coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations are eased in Wales.
From Monday, 2 households in the same local area will be able to meet outdoors. In doing this, however, people must follow social distancing and strict hand hygiene practices to control the spread of the virus.
'Local' means not generally travelling more than 5 miles from home to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading from one area to another.
The changes mean people can meet another household outdoors in their local area but all the other rules to protect people from coronavirus will stay in place for the time being.
Meeting outdoors is key as the science tells us the virus survives only for minutes outside but for hours on indoor surfaces.
The changes follow the third statutory review of the regulations by Welsh Ministers. The review is based on the latest scientific evidence from SAGE and the advice of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales.
Wales has passed the first peak of infection and rates are falling but the R rate remains at 0.8. Both SAGE and the World Health Organisation has advised changes should only be made one step at a time.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
“We recognise what people have given up to help Wales slow the spread of coronavirus. I want to thank everyone for everything they have done – by sticking to the rules, we are all helping to protect each other and help our NHS respond to the pandemic.
“We know people are missing seeing their family and friends – the latest evidence, which underpins this review, means we can make some changes, to enable people to meet again, if it is done outdoors and locally, and people continue to follow the social distancing guidance.
“We are learning more about this virus every day and we know the risk of transmission is lower outdoors than indoors. That’s why, if we all remain 2 metres apart, 2 households will be able to meet outdoors, including in private gardens.
“However, a lower risk doesn’t mean no risk. Even in these circumstances it is vital we all maintain social distancing so we can continue to tackle the spread of this virus.
“Now and in the days and months ahead we all have a personal responsibility to make sure our actions don’t contribute to the spread of coronavirus. Please help keep Wales safe by staying local.”
The changes to the regulations will come into force on Monday and include:
- Allowing members of 2 separate households in the same local area to meet outdoors at any one time as long as they maintain social distancing. There is a low risk of infection if the 2 metre physical distancing rule is maintained while outdoors. This does not need to be the same people from the same household every time. ‘Local’ means not travelling more than 5 miles from home
- The 2 households can meet in private outdoor spaces, such as gardens, but this comes with a higher risk of infection as people may have to pass through someone’s private home to reach a garden. The Welsh Government will provide guidance about the precautions which can be taken to minimise these risks
- Allowing weddings and civil partnerships to take place if the bride or groom is terminally ill.
The need to stay local and not mix with others other than in certain circumstances will be subject to exceptions similar to those that currently apply. Guidance will be provided about what staying local means in different circumstances.
Beauty and tourist spots will remain closed.
The First Minister will today signal that non-essential retail businesses, which can comply with the physical distancing duty, should start to prepare to reopen over the next 3 weeks. A decision about whether non-essential retail will reopen will be taken at the next review on 18 June and will depend on the scientific and medical evidence.
At the next review, the Welsh Government will examine options for:
- Re-opening non-essential retail
- Increasing capacity for childcare and public transport to support a wider return to work
- Facilitating moving house to boost the housing market
- Re-opening outdoors sites, including outdoor markets, sports courts, outdoor showrooms, and outdoor museums
- Re-opening facilities for non-professional elite athletes to train safely.
The First Minister added:
“I am signalling to businesses across Wales that they may begin preparations to be ready to resume activity in these areas should the evidence support reopening.
“This will allow us to restart activity as soon as possible if the conditions allow. We will continue to work closely with the public sector, trade unions, businesses, the third sector and others to achieve this.”