Wales’ FM: People can leave local area on ‘compassionate’ grounds

Mark Drakeford the First Minister of Wales. Picture by the Welsh Government

People will be able to leave their local area on “compassionate grounds” from Monday, the Welsh Government have said.

The First Minister gave the example of a family member living alone beyond the local area, when the lockdown was having a poor impact on their welfare and well-being. That would count as a compassionate reason, he said.

“We will have to rely more and more on people making decisions for themselves,” he said.

The requirement to stay local and not generally travel more than five miles from home remains in place but will be scrapped on 6 July unless the pandemic worsens.

However, new guidance published by the Welsh Government today will make it clear that in the meantime people “are able to travel outside their local area on compassionate grounds”.

The Welsh Government said”seeing people at a care home or a youth offender institution – when these visits are allowed”.

The First Minister said that five miles was advice not a rule, and that they were “highlight and exemption” in the rule that you should stay local.

He said it was not possible to make a decision on ‘bubbling’ extended households alongside everything else, but may turn to that issue next week.

 

Warning

The Welsh Government had already briefed that all non-essential shops in Wales will be able to re-open from Monday as part the biggest unlocking of the coronavirus regulations to date.

Retailers will be able to resume trading if they can take all reasonable measures to comply with the physical distancing duty in Welsh law to reduce the spread of coronavirus and protect shop workers and shoppers.

The changes are part of what the Welsh Government are calling a comprehensive package of measures being introduced step by step every Monday over the next three weeks.

Pupils will return to schools on 29 June and the requirement to stay local will be lifted, if conditions allow on 6 July.

The First Minister said he was giving two weeks’ warning so that people and local authorities had time to prepare for visitors.

He also alerted the visitor and tourism industry to start preparations to reopen if the spread of the virus continues to decline.

Monday’s changes include:

  • Enabling private prayer in places of worship where social distancing is maintained and gatherings do not take place;
  • Restarting the housing market by enabling house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed;
  • Lifting the restrictions on outdoor sports courts but social distancing must be maintained. No contact or team sports will be allowed;
  • Enabling non-professional elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, to resume training.
  • On June 29, pupils will be returning to schools to check in, catch up and prepare for summer and September under plans announced by Education Minister Kirsty Williams.

‘Progress’

“The threat of coronavirus hasn’t gone away but thanks to the efforts we have all made over the last few months, the number of people contracting coronavirus each day in Wales is falling, so too is the risk of meeting somebody with virus,” First Minister Mark Drakeford said.

“Given the progress we have made, we are able to take some additional cautious steps to further unlock our society and economy. This includes more retailers being able re-open their businesses, as long as they take measures to minimise the risk to their staff and to the customers who visit their stores.

“Our focus continues to be on the health risks of the outbreak, but we can now begin to cautiously focus much more squarely on the wider economic and societal impact the virus is having.

“We have provided a huge amount of support to businesses and jobs as they hibernated during the pandemic – now we start to take these careful steps to restart our economy.”

‘Thanks’

The Welsh Government said ministers had also decided to lift the requirement to stay local on 6 July, provided the conditions allow. With the requirement lifted, people will be able to travel to tourist attractions across Wales.

The First Minister will today signal to some businesses and the visitor and tourism industry to use this period to begin to make preparations for reopening.

At the next review on 9 July, the Welsh Government will consider a range of specific options for opening:

  • Self-contained holiday accommodation;
  • Personal care services, such as hairdressing and beauty, by appointment.
  • Discussions will also be held with the hospitality sector about the potential phased reopening of pubs, cafes and restaurants while maintaining strict social distancing.

“I know the wider tourism industry is keen to reopen and to salvage some of this summer’s season. I am therefore signalling owners of self-contained accommodation should use the next three weeks to prepare to re-open, working with their local communities,” the First Minister said.

“But I want people to know coronavirus has not gone away. We have some headroom to make this package of changes to the regulations, which will be introduced in a phased and cautious way in Wales.

“Many aspects of daily life in Wales will be moving into the amber zone in our traffic light system. But we all need to continue to take steps to protect ourselves from the virus – that means working from home wherever possible; avoiding unnecessary travel; only meeting with one other household outdoors; maintaining social distancing and washing your hands often. It may also mean wearing a face covering in some situations.

“It is thanks to the efforts of everyone in Wales that we have slowed the spread of coronavirus but we can’t stop now. We need to do all we can to protect ourselves and our loved ones from the virus and to keep Wales safe.”

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