The Welsh Government’s daft 5-mile rule shows they don’t understand rural communities
Charlie Evans, Deputy Chairman of the Carmarthen West & South Pembrokeshire Conservative Association
In the latest round of easing the lockdown, Nicola Sturgeon in Scotland has allowed groups of eight from multiple households to meet in outdoor spaces whether on private property or public spaces. Boris Johnson has done similar in England for groups up to six people.
But predictably, the Welsh Government is doing its own thing, allowing two households to meet with no group size limit (which seems sensible) – but imposing a bizarre 5-mile radius rule.
In practice, this means that under their guidelines you can go and buy a wheelbarrow from Charlie’s Stores 20 miles away but you cannot travel six miles to sit in your mum’s garden.
Welsh Conservative MS Andrew RT Davies was quick off the mark in pointing out how daft the rule was when ITV News caught a whiff of it last night. Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats also expressed concerns.
The orchestrator of it thinks that too but will still press on with it anyway, backpedalling slightly in the face of criticism to call it a “rule of thumb”. The First Minister himself, however, conceded that the rule was unfair.
This absurd rule shows us something we had long expected – that this Labour Welsh Government’s horizons don’t extend much further than built-up areas in the south-east of the country.
In rural communities, most people have to drive more than five miles to do their food shopping. If you live in Angle you are likely to shop in Pembroke or Pembroke Dock which is allowed under the guidelines, but you wouldn’t be allowed to stop off in Pembroke to have a cuppa with your mum in the garden while you are there.
If you live in Llandarog you could take a drive to Wyevale Garden Centre in Carmarthen, 6.7 miles away, to pick up some compost but you couldn’t see your grandparents in Tregynwr.
We are nearly three months into lockdown with families and partners separated. Babies are rolling around living rooms across the nation whose grandparents have never set eyes on.
The national mood is low. Yet with this policy, the Welsh Government has poured salt into that wound by favoured those families in cities and urban towns over the rest.
At the heart of this policy is this: the Welsh Government doesn’t trust us. They don’t trust us to apply some good old-fashioned common sense in this national effort to tackle Coronavirus.
They are forgetting that people understand perfectly well how the coronavirus spreads. That they can sit in someone’s garden safely at a 2m distance without going over to hug them. It is people who have made this lockdown work, not the government, and it is people who will continue to make it work as the government’s guidelines are eased.
After all, the rules have always been essentially unenforceable – beyond the police committing illegal foot patrols by intruding onto private land – so we’ve been depending on people’s common sense anyway.
The danger of the Welsh government’s managerialism is that people will stop taking the lockdown seriously. If some rules are obviously absurd people will start treating them all with contempt. Once you’ve broken one, because it’s daft, it’s easier to justify breaking others.
This policy is an insult to the millions of people living in rural areas and remote towns who have been patient and honoured the rules of lockdown in these last three months in our collective effort against coronavirus.
It appears most of the alfresco family reunions have unfortunately been put on ice in Wales due to the micro-managerialism of Mark Drakeford and the Welsh Government.