Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 require that a review of the coronavirus restrictions is undertaken every three weeks. The most recent review was due by 13 May.
Confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Wales have fallen to fewer than 10 cases per 100,000 people and we continue to have the lowest rates in the UK. This reflects the hard work of people throughout Wales to keep themselves and their families safe.
Our vaccination programme continues to make remarkable progress – Wales has the third highest vaccination rate globally. More than 77% of the adult population has received their first dose of the vaccine and more than one in three adults has completed the two-dose course.
The public health situation and the continued success of the vaccination programme means we can move to alert level two on Monday 17 May. This is another step towards relaxing the restrictions we have lived with for so long and towards a more “normal” life. It means we will all be able to visit the following premises with our friends and family:
- Indoor hospitality, including pubs, restaurants and cafés;
- Entertainment venues including cinemas, bingo halls, bowling alleys, indoor play centres and areas, casinos, amusement arcades and theatres;
- Indoor visitor attractions, such as museums and galleries;
- All remaining holiday accommodation and associated shared facilities, such as shower blocks in campsites.
The number of people who can take part in organised activities can increase to 30 indoors and 50 outdoors, which includes wedding receptions and wakes in regulated premises.
All premises will be required to assess the risks associated with Covid-19, collect contact details and take reasonable measures to minimise exposure to the virus, including ensuring adequate ventilation and providing table service where required.
The regulations at alert level two will be amended so six people from different households, excluding children under 11 and carers, can meet indoors in regulated premises.
The regulations will also be amended to allow cinemas, theatres, concert halls and sports grounds to sell food and drink as long as it is consumed in a seated area, while watching a performance.
These regulation changes will come into force at 6am on Monday 17 May.
I know the restrictions have been hard on everybody but this will have been a particularly frustrating time for couples planning a wedding.
I am pleased that the numbers permitted at a wedding reception are increasing from Monday and will continue to increase as we move to alert level one. We will meet stakeholders to plan for how we can safely enable receptions to take place with more guests after alert level one.
We will also be updating our guidance to lift restrictions on the overall number of indoor visitors for people living in care homes from 24 May. This will help to improve the quality of life for residents and their families. We will be publishing revised care homes visiting guidance next week. In the meantime, some minor changes have been made to the current guidance and will be published later today.
We continue to monitor the so-called India variant closely – there are increasing reports of cases across the UK but particularly in England. The UK’s Scientific Advisory Group on Emergencies met yesterday to discuss the variant and we await its advice.
We will continue to follow the scientific advice and take a careful and cautious approach as we continue to relax restrictions. This will include considering whether we can make further changes ahead of the next review, including around social distancing between friends and family and whether some smaller events can restart.
We will also be consulting stakeholders from the education sector including local authorities and trade unions about guidance on face coverings in schools. Following discussions with the further education sector, the requirement to wear face coverings in colleges, where 2m social distancing cannot be maintained, will remain in place until at least the end of the summer term.
If the improvements we have seen in the public health situation are sustained, we will consider whether we can move to alert level one at the next review on 3 June. This will be subject to the public health conditions closer to the time.
As the new variant circulating in the UK at the moment demonstrates, the situation can change quickly.
Having further reviewed the Public Health (Protection from Eviction) (No.2) (Wales) (Coronavirus) Regulations 2021, we have decided these should remain in place for the time being.
In relation to international travel, from 17 May – in line with the position in England and Scotland - legal restrictions on non-essential outbound international travel will be lifted. We will follow the traffic light system in place in other parts of the UK and will be adding countries to the green list, including Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Singapore, Portugal (including the Azores and Madeira) and Israel.
But, to protect people in Wales from the risk of coronavirus re-entering Wales from overseas as international travel resumes, we will introduce some additional safeguards.
People travelling from a green list country will be required to take a test on or before day two following arrival back in the UK and for all people returning from amber-list countries, there will be no test-to-release scheme in Wales.
We continue to urge people to think carefully before travelling internationally and avoid travel if it is not essential. We encourage people to holiday at home this year.
Coronavirus has not disappeared from Wales, and new variants continue to emerge across the globe. The India variant is a cause for concern.
Our cautious, step-by-step approach is the best way to keep Wales safe.