First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced minor changes to Wales’ lockdown restrictions, but confirmed stay-at-home restrictions will remain in place in Wales for a further three weeks.
Speaking at the Welsh Government press briefing on Friday (February 19), Mr Drakeford confirmed up to four people from two separate households will be allowed to meet up outdoors for exercise from Saturday (February 20).
He also confirmed that from March 1, licensed wedding venues will be able to reopen, but only for wedding and civil partnership ceremonies.
The First Minister said that cases of coronavirus are at their lowest level since the end of September – while one in three adults in Wales has had a coronavirus vaccine.
He said Welsh Government is on course to achieve its target of vaccinating people in priority groups 5,6,7,8 and 9 come April, should there be no issues with supply.
The First Minister also said Welsh Government will consider reopening schools for all primary pupils from Monday, March 15 if the public health situation continues to improve.
The next review of the regulations in three weeks will also consider the restrictions around non-essential retail and close contact services, such as hairdressers.
Responding to the announcement, Darren Hughes, director of the Welsh NHS Confederation, said: “It is clear that we need to lift restrictions slowly and carefully.
“While we all want to see an end to restrictions, the NHS in Wales is still coming under high levels of pressure. We need the capacity to be able to look after you and your families and get the Welsh population vaccinated as quickly as we can.
“The NHS in Wales recognises how important it is to get children and students back to school, but this needs to be done cautiously to ensure we don’t see an impact on infection rates.”
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What have the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru said?
Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies welcomed “aspects” of the announcement, particularly the return of children to the classroom, but said: “I do regret the lack of additional financial support and a roadmap to recovery for businesses across Wales who are frantically trying to plan their survival.
“I acknowledge specific dates would not be possible but windows of opportunity could’ve been provided for firms who need to prepare both financially and logistically.”
He added: “This is a difficult balancing act for governments and politicians of all colours, but with the roaring success of the British vaccination programme, it’s important we provide hope and a roadmap forward for the Welsh public.”
Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said: “We cannot ignore the mental health crisis which has been brought about as a result of the pandemic. It’s vital that everything possible is done to enable gyms to be among the first facilities to reopen.
“Loneliness and isolation are also a real challenge for many people, and we hope that the government will put a sharp focus on when and how it will be safe to return to extended household bubbles.
“Travel restrictions should be eased with caution and the sensible approach would be to reintroduce the “stay local” message for as long as necessary.