Does Wales have a roadmap out of lockdown?

Does Wales have a roadmap out of lockdown?

It is “impossible” to give a date for the end of lockdown restrictions, one of Wales’ top doctors says.

Dr Chris Jones, deputy chief medical officer, said there was a “real risk” of a third wave of Covid-19 cases if restrictions eased too quickly.

He was speaking after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a plan to end lockdown in England, by 21 June.

The Conservatives have called for the Welsh Government to produce a roadmap for the end of the Covid lockdown.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales Breakfast, Dr Jones said there were “probably greater risks” now than at previous points in the pandemic because of the more transmissible variants.

He told Claire Summers that opening schools “has a definite effect on the R-rate”, and how the new variants will affect infections is “uncertain”.

“It is absolutely impossible in my view to say that on any one date in several months, that this will be the situation,” he said in response to a question about Mr Johnson’s announcement.

“I think we have to take things step by step.”

He said all the UK’s chief medical officers “share the same view about the risks associated with relaxing restrictions,” but added politicians had “very difficult decisions” to make.

But he said “messaging to the public” was “very important”.

“To send the message that everything is going to be back to normal in a few months time, I think, is almost too open,” he said.

“We are not out of the woods yet. There is a real risk of a third wave if restrictions are eased too quickly.

“We hope, from our cautious approach and step-by-step approach, will minimise the risk of that.”

England is so far the only UK nation to publish a firm plan to come out of lockdown, contingent on Covid case rates continuing to decline.

Mr Johnson set out a four-stage plan beginning on 8 March, with “at least” five weeks between each of the stages to allow time to assess the impact of relaxing some restrictions to be felt, and prepare for the next stage if possible.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, is due later to set out the country’s own roadmap.

However, Northern Ireland has renewed lockdown measures until 1 April.

Children in England are due to return to the classroom on 8 March.

In Wales, Foundation phase children, aged three to seven, are returning to school this week.

If conditions regarding the virus continue to improve, all primary years will be back in school on 15 March, along with pupils in exam years 11 and 13, and some pupils in years 10 and 12 who are due to sit exams.

However, Education Minister Kirsty Williams said not all of those secondary-age pupils would be back in full time, which she hopes will happen from 12 April.

From 8 March in England, one nominated person will be able to visit a care home resident, but there is no date for this in Wales, where care home visits remain banned.

Care Forum Wales is working with the Welsh Government to “formulate a safe policy for visiting”.

This is one of the areas where Wales could be moving more quickly than England.

On Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said some non-essential shops and hairdressers could reopen on 15 March.

But this has raised questions over prioritising this when large numbers of secondary pupils will remain unable to return to the classroom.

England is due to reopen all shops on 12 April.

Since Saturday, people in Wales have been able to exercise in groups of four, but only from a maximum of two households, and it must be exercise rather than “socialising”, Mr Drakeford said.

In England, from 8 March people can exercise with one other person not from their household, but they will also be allowed to meet outdoors on a park bench for a chat, for example, expressly for the purpose of socialising.

Then from 29 March, people in England will be able to meet in groups of up to six people from different households, or two groups from two households. They will be able to do this in private gardens as well as public spaces.

Discussions have been ongoing in Wales with the tourism sector about a potential reopening at Easter.

The country is again likely to be ahead of England on this, although no firm date has been mentioned yet, and Mr Drakeford said it would not be opened “in one go”.

Mr Johnson’s roadmap has holidays in self-contained accommodation used by one household being allowed from 12 April at the earliest, which misses the school holidays completely.

Mr Drakeford has talked of easing the stay at home requirement at the lockdown review on 12 March, if cases continue to decreased.

However he has said there could be a “stay local” requirement in place, as there was in the arrangements during the autumn for people to remain in their local authority area.

Mr Johnson has said the stay at home rule in England will end on 29 March but people should stay as local as possible.

At present, only certain elite athletes in Wales are allowed to train together.

No dates have been mooted so far to allow people to get together for sport, including more individual distanced pursuits like golf or singles’ tennis.

There are also no plans to reopen gyms.

In England, outdoor sports venues and formally organised outdoor sports can resume from 29 March. Gyms will be able to open from 12 April at the earliest.

Currently in Wales, only register offices and places of worship are open to perform marriages and guests are limited to the number who can be accommodated in the venue under the 2m social distancing regulations for different households.

From 1 March, licensed wedding venues will be able to reopen for ceremonies.

In England, six people can currently attend but ceremonies are limited to those in exceptional circumstances, such as those who are terminally ill.

From 8 March, all weddings with six people will be allowed. This will expand to 15 people on 12 April and 30 people on 17 May.

Not any time soon in Wales, in a nutshell. There has been no date mooted, and Mr Drakeford said closures were unlikely to be revoked in the next six weeks.

In England, people will be able to visit outdoor seating in restaurants and pubs from 12 April, and move indoors from 17 May.

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