Wales accelerates easing of Covid restrictions as new infections fall

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the vaccine programme is going ‘strength to strength’.

Coronavirus restrictions
Coronavirus restrictions

Two households will be able to meet indoors a week earlier than previously planned, as the Welsh Government moves to accelerate parts of its programme for the easing of coronavirus restrictions.

The reopening of gyms and leisure centres, and outdoor organised activities are also set to be brought forward amid a drop in new Covid-19 infections.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said the “improvements” in the public health situation and the ongoing vaccination programme meant changes could be made to previously announced plans.

Easing the lockdown in Wales
(PA Graphics)

The Welsh Government said on Thursday that coronavirus cases in Wales had dropped from 37 to fewer than 21 per 100,000 this week, while the number of people with Covid-19 in hospital beds was 89 – the lowest figure since September 22.

Under the changes to the timetable, organised outdoor activities for up to 30 people will be able to tale place from April 26 instead of May 3.

Wedding receptions for up to 30 people will also be permitted outdoors from April 26 – again a week earlier than previously announced.

The reopening of gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities will now be allowed from May 3, brought forward a week from May 10.

This will include for individual or one-to-one training, but not exercise classes.

An extended household rule will again allow two households to meet and have contact indoors from May 3, rather than May 10.

All dates are “subject to the public health situation remaining favourable” and will be confirmed at a review of coronavirus regulations on April 22, the Welsh Government said.

Mr Drakeford said: “The public health situation in Wales continues to improve thanks to everything you are doing to help us control this awful virus.

“Cases of the virus are falling and our incredible vaccination programme continues to go from strength to strength.

“Last week, we set out our programme to further reopen the economy and relax the restrictions we have lived with for so long, as part of our careful, step-by-step approach to keeping everyone safe.

“This week, because of the improvements we continue to see, we can bring forward some of our plans.

“This is only possible because of the efforts everyone is making to protect themselves and their loved ones.”

Other relaxations of restrictions are still set to go ahead from Monday.

This includes the return of children to schools, all post-16 learners back at further education and training centres and university campuses reopening for blended face-to-face and online learning.

All remaining non-essential retail and close contact services will reopen.

Restrictions on travel in and out of Wales are also set to be lifted, but people will not be able to journey to countries outside of the Common Travel area – the UK, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and Ireland – without a reasonable excuse.

Restrictions on political canvassing will be removed, so long as it is done safely, and wedding “show-arounds” by appointment will be allowed.

From April 26 outdoor attractions, such as funfairs and theme parks, could be allowed to reopen – the date for which has not been changed.

Outdoor hospitality, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants, is also set to resume from the same unchanged date.

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