A police chief is calling for the new three-week lockdown be extended for at least another week to avoid a surge of tourists over the May bank holiday weekend.
North Wales Police and Crime Commissioner Arfon Jones and the three other Welsh commissioners have already raised the matter with the Welsh Government and will be seeking the support of the policing minister, Kit Malthouse MP, when they have a conference call with him on Thursday.
Mr Jones says it’s essential to send out a clear message about the importance of staying home to avoid causing a second wave of the coronavirus.
He said: “We have called on the Welsh Government to extend the lockdown for at least a week beyond the bank holiday on May 8.
“If we relax the restrictions ahead of the bank holiday weekend, everybody is going to want to get out.
“It’s vitally important to send out a clear message that it’s imperative that people stay at home for the time being.
“We must send out the same message as the one we sent out ahead of the Easter weekend and we must be just as robust in our enforcement of the lockdown.
“There are risks and deadly consequences if people do not respect the lockdown and don’t stay put.
“We can’t relax the restrictions in certain areas and not in others. The lockdown should remain as a UK wide policy otherwise people will travel into areas where things have been relaxed, causing mayhem and leading to a second wave of Covid-19 infections.
“The three-week extension to the lockdown should go on for at least another week beyond the bank holiday on May 8.
“It’s natural that people would want to get out and to celebrate the 75th anniversary of VE Day but staying at home and saving lives is far more important.
“The Government should make it clear that the planned celebrations on May 8 are being postponed until it is safe for them to be held at a later date.
“Quite rightly, other events like agricultural shows, the National and Urdd eisteddfods along with sporting fixtures have all been postponed or cancelled this year and we really should not be sending out mixed messages.
“As police and crime commissioners, we will be raising this with the policing minister, Kit Malthouse, next Thursday in our weekly conference call.”
It was a sentiment endorsed by Dafydd Llywelyn, his counterpart in Dyfed-Powys, who stressed the importance of extending the lockdown further to safeguard against the spread of Covid-19.
He said: “The extension is welcomed and social distancing should remain over the VE Day Bank Holiday in May to safeguard against further spread of COVID-19”.
Both commissioners welcomed the decision of the National Police Chiefs’ Council (NPCC) and the professional standards body, the College of Policing, to withdraw their guidance which described driving to the countryside for a walk as reasonable if far more time was spent walking than driving.
Mr Llywelyn added: “The England only guidance issued by the College of Policing has confused matters and the public should understand that there are no changes to the travel rules in Wales and traveling for daily exercise is not essential.
“Welsh Forces will continue to proactively enforce the lockdown and exercise should be carried out close to your home address”.
Meanwhile Plaid Cymru Westminster Leader Liz Saville Roberts MP has said that all four UK Governments must agree how and when lockdown is lifted, after a meeting with the First Secretary of State Dominic Raab MP in a cross-party meeting this morning.
London has consistently been highlighted as significantly ahead of other regions of England, as well as the other nations of the UK, Liz Saville Roberts said.
With the lockdown implemented on a UK wide basis, Ms Saville Roberts sought clarification as to whether it will be lifted on the same basis, noting that Wales could face considerable risks if there were any relaxation of a lock-down in England while the ‘peak’ had not been reached in Wales.
Ms Saville Roberts MP said that it was vital that all four nations agree any lockdown exit strategy and, if necessary, maintain the lock-down in England until all four nations agree that the peak infection period have passed everywhere.
“This morning’s meeting with the First Secretary of State was a welcome opportunity to question the UK Government on its next steps in response to the Coronavirus crisis,” she said.
“Opposition leaders did so robustly, but always with the intention of ensuring the best possible outcome for public health.
“Perhaps the overriding concern is when and how lockdown is lifted. The UK Government continues to focus on the passage of the ‘peak’ of the outbreak, however I have serious concerns as to how this is measured. In particular, whether differences across the four different nations and regions of England are taken into account – especially when it comes to a decision on any change to the social distancing measures.
“It was a UK-wide lockdown and it should be a decision for all of the four governments of the UK as to when and how it is lifted. If any of those administrations has concerns about restrictions being lifted they should be maintained across the four nations.
“If the lockdown is lifted in one nation or region because it has passed the ‘peak’ not only will we see confusion, but the potential movement of people around the UK which in turn could lead to greater infection rates and more importantly unnecessary pressures on local healthcare services.
“We cannot take any unnecessary risks – this is not about constitutional politics, it is about saving people’s lives.”