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First Minister slows down unlocking so that more can be vaccinated amid concerns about new variant

03 Jun 2021 3 minutes Read
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford. Picture by the Welsh Government

The First Minister has announced a slower than expected relaxing of lockdown restrictions so that more people can be fully vaccinated against Covid before a new variant potentially spreads throughout Wales.

The move comes as 97 cases of what is now known as the Delta (formerly Indian) variant have been discovered in Wales, with 39 just cases in the last week, including a cluster in Conwy.

As a result of concerns about the spread of this more transmissable variant, the move to alert level one will be “phased”, with outdoor events opening first on Monday.

“The two-stage approach will enable more people to be vaccinated – and complete their two-dose course – amid growing concerns about the spread of the delta variant of the virus across the UK,” the Welsh Government said.

Ministers will review the public health situation again, ahead of June 21, to determine whether indoor events can restart.

First Minister Mark Drakeford thanked everyone in Wales for what they have done so far to contain the spread of the virus, but warned that “the delta variant shows the pandemic is not over yet”.

“The risk of infection is significantly less outdoors than it is indoors,” he said. “This is why we are phasing in the changes in this three-week cycle.

“This will allow more people to enjoy events outdoors and take advantage of the Welsh summer, while we continue to roll out the vaccination programme to all adults.

“We will review the public health situation again in a couple of weeks to see whether we can continue to relax the restrictions and restart indoor events.”

‘Serious’

The first phase of the move to alert level one means that from Monday:

  • Up to 30 people can meet outdoors, including in private gardens, outdoor hospitality and public places.
  • Larger outdoor organised gatherings and events, such as concerts, football matches and sporting activities, like organised running groups can go ahead for up to 4,000 people non-seated and 10,000 people seated.

All organisers planning events and activities must undertake a full risk assessment and put in place measures to prevent the spread of coronavirus, including social distancing.

The Welsh Government will consider further changes to the regulations on indoor activity later in the month, if public health conditions allow.

These include:

  • Rule of six for meeting indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation.
  • Increased numbers for indoor organised gatherings and indoor events.
  • Opening ice skating rinks.

Despite concerns about the Delta variant, the seven-day coronavirus case rate remains very low in Wales and the positivity rate is less than 1%.

Wales also has the best vaccination rates in the UK – more than 85% of the population has had one dose and 45% have completed the course.

However the Scottish Government has already paused some of their plans to ease restrictions. The UK Government have also suggested that they might not be able to lift all the pandemic rules in England on June 21st as intended.

New Health Minister Eluned Morgan said earlier that the situation was “very serious” and they needed to “nip it in the bud”.

She added that the spread of the variant “will play into how we assess the situation on Friday”.

“The last thing we want to see is this spreading across the whole of Wales,” she said.

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