Politics

Coronavirus in Wales: Up to 30 can meet outdoors and gyms to reopen


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Groups of up to 30 people will be able to meet while social distancing outdoors in places like Cardiff Castle from Monday

Up to 30 people can meet outdoors and children under 11 will not have to social distance in Wales from Monday.

Swimming pools, gyms, leisure centres and indoor play areas, including soft play, can reopen from 10 August.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the new guidance for children was because of their lower rates of transmission.

Licensed wedding venues will be able to reopen from Monday, but receptions will need to be outdoors.

Up to 30 people will be able to meet outside regardless of how many households they are from. More may be able to meet indoors from 15 August.

Mr Drakeford said he “would like to offer more opportunities for people to meet indoors” but wants more data on the infection rate in Wales before confirming it.

“It is the most risky thing you can do,” he told BBC Radio Wales Breakfast.

“People would have heard this morning freedoms in the north of England being reversed in relation to people meeting indoors because of the evidence that the virus is being spread by households meeting indoors.

“We hope not to be in a position of having to reverse decisions in Wales so we will wait another couple of weeks.”

Meanwhile, indoor bowling alleys, auction houses and bingo halls will be able to resume trading on Monday, alongside indoor pubs, restaurants and cafes – providing there is social distancing.

The Welsh Government has said action will be taken against businesses who are not observing social distancing rules and Mr Drakeford explained that in a week’s time local authorities will be given new powers to able to intervene “more decisively and more swiftly”.

What about Wrexham?

The news comes as health officials deal with a spike in cases in Wrexham. Mr Drakeford also said he had discussed not relaxing rules in that part of Wales.

However “weighing it all up and knowing that the Wrexham spikes are contained to particular sites at the moment, we think it’s right to allow people in Wrexham to benefit from these steps ahead as well as everybody else”, he said.

“If we need to, we’ve always said, we would take local action and we review that very carefully every day.”

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The move is the latest in the easing of Wales’ restrictions

When lockdown was imposed in March any gathering of more than two people became illegal.

In June that was eased, and people from two different households were allowed to meet outside.

Ministers have been more relaxed about activities outside after scientific advice said the virus was likely to decay quickly when exposed to sunlight.

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Scientific advice says coronavirus is likely to decay quickly in sunlight

The Welsh Government has been slower than other parts of the UK in lifting restrictions, and Welsh Labour ministers have emphasised a cautious approach.

But as coronavirus cases fell some of the most severe lockdown rules – including the travel ban and the enforced closure of non-essential shops – were removed.

At the same time measures such as contact tracing have been stepped up, with the hope that more testing will allow outbreaks to be isolated and stopped in their tracks.

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Children under the age of 11 will not need to keep 2m apart

The Welsh Conservatives called earlier in the week for people to be able to meet in larger groups, for theatres and bingo halls to be reopened and for indoor weddings to be permitted.

The party’s Darren Millar said freedoms “have or are being safely restored in other parts of the UK and people in Wales should be able to enjoy them too”.

Plaid Cymru said any easing of restrictions needed to be accompanied by a “robust mechanism to stamp out coronavirus outbreaks”.

Rhun ap Iorwerth said recent turnaround times for tests did not fill him with “confidence that Welsh Government will be able to quickly react to new outbreaks”.

The coronavirus lockdown in Wales is controlled by the Welsh Government, while the UK government in London has been dealing with the equivalent rules in England.



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