People in Wales will be able to meet people from other households from Monday, June 1, the Welsh Government has announced.
The announcement will allow many to meet family and friends for the first time since lockdown was announced on Monday, March 23.
Members from two households will be able to meet, however they must abide by the two-metre social distancing guidance, and not travel further than five miles.
What will I be allowed to do?
From Monday, June 1, you will be able to meet family or friends from one other household in a public place.
It must be outdoors, and you must observe social distancing. You cannot travel further than five miles to do this.
Why five miles?
The decision to restrict people to five miles has been met with opposition, with concerns risen that it continues to stop people seeing their families and has a disproportionate impact on people who live in more isolated or rural places.
The decision has been made to limit the likelihood of the virus being transmitted from one area to another.
Mr Drakeford said: “The more locally you stay, the more any spread of coronavirus is contained. People need to see it through a scientific lens. This is a guide and not an invitation.”
The First Minister confirmed the decision will be reviewed again in three weeks-time.
What if my family and friends live further away?
If friends or family live further than five miles away, you will not be able to meet them within these new guidelines.
For example, a household living in Caerphilly town could not travel to meet a household in Blackwood, which is eight miles away. They could however meet that same household in an open outdoor space in Ystrad Mynach which is within five miles of both.
Mr Drakeford did suggest that an element of judgement may have to be used by the public, however when asked by Caerphilly Observer whether somebody from Caerphilly could meet a family member in Bargoed, Mr Drakeford said: “Exercising judgement does not mean regarding five miles as ten-miles. It remains the safest means to contact your loved ones via phone, email or Skype.
“You may feel this is rough justice, but this is only for the next three weeks. If we are able to do this the right way and the virus and R-number isn’t higher than it is today, we will have some further headroom to do more in a future period.”
Can I meet friends in my garden?
Yes, providing they’re only from one household, haven’t travelled further than five miles, and you observe social distancing.
They would not however be allowed to enter your house to use a toilet for example or stay overnight. The visitor can walk through your house to access your garden.
Why aren’t we allowed to meet indoors?
Mark Drakeford was forceful in explaining how the virus survives much longer indoors than outdoors.
The latest research suggests the virus may last just minutes outside, especially in hot weather, while it can exist on some surfaces indoors for up to three days.
Why such modest changes?
The modest changes, which some have described as “over-cautious”, are believed to be guided by the fact that the rate of transmission in Wales is still quite high.
The R-number (the rate at which the virus is being transmitted in the community) remains high at 0.8. A slight increase to an R-number of 1.0 would risk a spike in new cases of coronavirus.
Talking about the Welsh Government’s cautious approach, Mr Drakeford said: “With extra freedom comes extra responsibilities. I think people in Wales are comfortable with the cautious approach we are taking.”
What if I am shielding?
If you are shielding because of underlying health problems, you should remain isolated, meaning you should continue to not meet people from other households.
Mr Drakeford confirmed that the current period of shielding runs until mid-June. Wales’ Chief Medical Officer will write to those shielding in June to inform them of the Government’s next steps.
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What if I am living with somebody who is shielding?
You will be able to meet people from different households, even if you live with somebody who is shielding.
When asked whether people who are living with somebody who is shielding can meet other households, Mr Drakeford told Caerphilly Observer they can. He added however that people should continue to be conscious of the risk of contracting the virus while outside their own home.
When is the next review?
The next review in Wales is due on Thursday, June 18. It will consider the following:
- Reopening non-essential retail
- Increasing capacity for childcare and public transport to support a wider return to work
- Facilitating moving house to boost the housing market
- Reopening outdoor sites, including outdoor markets, sports courts, outdoor showrooms and outdoor museums
- Reopening facilities for non-professional elite athletes to train safely.
What have opposition parties said?
Senedd Member Andrew RT Davies, who speaks on rural affairs for the Welsh Conservatives, said: “The First Minister is in danger of giving with one hand and taking away with another by imposing this arbitrary five mile travel rule. It must go.
“Not everyone in Wales lives in a town or city close to family and friends and this will unfairly impact on those in our rural communities.”
Plaid Cymru’s Delyth Jewell, Senedd Member for South Wales East, said: “While I welcome the Welsh Government’s cautious approach in lifting restrictions, I am confused by the five mile travel limit as it seems arbitrary, and could have a disproportionate effect on people living in our rural communities.
“Plaid Cymru has been urging the government to allow families to meet in outdoor areas to help people’s wellbeing in this very difficult period.
“I’m really not sure where this five mile figure has been plucked from. I’d like to see any scientific evidence this is based on.
“For our more rural communities, five miles is a very short distance. I’d urge the government to allow more flexibility in this rule.”
What did Caerphilly MS Hefin David say?
Hefin David, Senedd Member for Caerphilly, said: “I’ll be providing a full update to my Facebook page later this afternoon.
“If any resident of the Caerphilly constituency has any questions or is looking for clarification then they can post them there or email me. I’ll then update the page or respond to emails early next week.”
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