New Covid-19 Regulations and Guidance
Thank you to those constituents who have contacted me about the new Regulations and Guidance in Wales. This is my response to correspondence and can I urge you to use the links and check the guidance and question and answer section provided by the Welsh Government. Thanks
THE LATEST POSITION IN WALES
Thank you for writing to me about the latest revision to the Covid-19 regulations and related guidance in Wales. I am fully aware from personal experience that the situation remains difficult and it is not easy for any of us.
Please refer to the Welsh Government website here for all the latest guidance on this issue. There is a short question and answer guide that you can find here. I can provide the following response about the new Regulations.
As a general rule whatever you were able to do before you can continue doing now, and the new relaxation means that as from the 1st June we can once again meet family and friends, but are guided to “stay local” and follow the social distancing advice.
As the local Member of the Senedd I am disappointed we have not made more progress by now but I have to trust that the Welsh Government are advising us all in a way that provides the best opportunity to keep making progress against this horrible virus. In spite of the frustrations we may feel caution and a policy of “stay local” is still being urged for the next three weeks.
The Science and Incremental Change
The Welsh Government carried out their review using the latest evidence from the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) and the advice of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales (CMO). The Welsh Government say we have passed the first peak of infection and rates continue to fall, this is very gradual and it is still too early for any significant lifting of requirements or restrictions where the risks of increasing rates of transmission are high.
Advice from SAGE and the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) is that modifications to lockdown measures can have a cumulative effect, and should therefore be incremental, and carefully monitored. The report of TAC on the R rate in Wales is available here
As a result the Welsh Government say it is an improving situation and the latest evidence on the transmission of the virus means they have been able to consider some adjustments to the Regulations to come into force on Monday 1st June.
The areas in which changes can be made most safely are those that take place outdoors. SAGE advises that the risk of infection is substantially diminished outdoors, particularly when well-ventilated and in sunshine. However a lower risk does not mean no risk, and it essential that physical distancing of 2m is maintained and large groups do not congregate.
Priority to meeting family and friends outdoors
With the limited room for manoeuvre the Welsh Government has prioritised allowing people to meet outdoors, where there is a low risk of infection if 2m physical distancing is maintained.
The amended Regulations will allow members of two separate households to meet outdoors at any one time. This will include meeting in private outdoor spaces such as gardens, but the First Minister is clear that this comes with a higher risk of infection and the Welsh Government will provide guidance on precautions that can be taken to minimise these risks.
To allow more outdoor activity the Welsh Government are also amending the requirement to ‘stay at home’ to one to ‘stay local’.
This means that as long as you are within your local geographical area and are outside, you will no longer be subject to the numerous restrictions that apply today.
You will not, however, be able to meet outside with members of more than one household, and social distancing and good hygiene practices should continue to be followed
The Welsh Government say that people who can work from home should continue to do so.
The same restrictions as now will apply when a person wants to travel outside their local area. The Welsh Government will provide guidance to help people to understand how to interpret ‘local’ in this context, using five miles as a guide but recognising this is a flexible concept which can vary depending on people’s circumstances. The Q+A link may answer your questions about this.
The First Minister says that he appreciates this does not allow people with loved ones outside their local area to meet, unless they are providing care to a vulnerable person. He is to revisit this again during the next review on 18 June.
Other issues in the Regulations
To remedy an issue within current restrictions, the Welsh Government will bring forward a minor amendment to the regulations to ensure weddings and civil partnerships can take place where one partner is terminally ill.
They will also work with Further Education providers to ensure that learners that need to complete practical elements of their study can do so as soon as possible.
The Welsh Government has also signalled that non-essential retail businesses should use the next three weeks to begin to prepare to reopen. The Welsh Government will assess whether conditions are right for these businesses to reopen, in light of the medical and scientific advice at the next review period.
Further information on the next phase for schools and further education will be published next week.
Possible Next Steps
The Welsh Government said they will also reassess the options in relation to the following matters at the next review on 18 June:
- Reopening managed outdoors sites (e.g. outdoor markets, sports courts, outdoor showrooms, and outdoor museums),
- Enabling non-professional elite athletes, such as our Olympic athletes, to train safely,
- Reopening more of the housing market,
- Re-opening non-essential retail subject to physical distancing requirements (e.g. high streets),
- Increasing capacity for childcare and public transport to support a wider return to work.
To facilitate these changes the Welsh Government will be working with transport operators, local authorities and others to ensure people can travel safely and that our public spaces, such as our high streets, facilitate the physical distancing that will be required for some time to come.
In making these changes, the First Minister has emphasised that there is a personal responsibility on all of us to recognise the risks that the virus presents to ourselves, our families and our wider communities.
We must each act with consideration and respect for others and ensure that we observe the measures which remain in place. Please think not only about what you can do but also about what you should do.
Thank you for emailing me. I hope this response answers your query or highlights the guidance that can help. My key point is that as we move from “Stay at home” to “Stay local” we all have to assume some personal responsibility for applying the guidance to our circumstances.
Take care and keep safe
Dawn Bowden MS