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Lockdown restrictions could be eased in Wales next week, says First Minister

Mark Drakeford told the Senedd the pandemic regulations would be reviewed next week, which could pave the way for non-essential retail to reopen.

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Closed shops in Barry Island, Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)

Closed shops in Barry Island, Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)

Closed shops in Barry Island, Wales (Ben Birchall/PA)

It may be possible to further lift some of the lockdown restrictions in Wales, if the number of new cases continues to fall, the First Minister has said.

Mark Drakeford said the Welsh Parliament was looking at easing the measures currently in place at the end of next week, when a further review of the regulations will take place.

Currently people from two households can meet outdoors, as long as they do not travel more than five miles, and observe social distancing.

The rules are looser in England, where you can now meet up to six people from separate households, in outside spaces. Non-essential shops have also been allowed to start trading again from June 15.

Public Health Wales said a further nine people had died after testing positive for Covid-19, taking the total number of deaths to 1,419, while the total number of cases increased by 38 to 14,518.

On Wednesday, Mr Drakeford told a plenary meeting that a key indicator of whether the restrictions could be eased would be the reproduction level, or R number, and how the virus was circulating in Wales.

“I share that hope that people in Wales have that we will be in a position at the end of next week to further lift some of the restrictions we’ve all had to abide by over what is now nearly three months,” he said.

“As we go into this week, the figure is around 50 new confirmed cases every day, and that number continues to fall.

“So, your chances of meeting somebody, as you leave your own home, who is suffering from coronavirus, is about an eighth of what it was when we went into lockdown.

“We will continue to have to emphasise to people, is that as they exercise those freedoms, they have to exercise them really carefully.

“Because even if there are only 50 new confirmed cases a day, you have no way of knowing, as you leave your home, whether you are going to be in contact with one of those 50 people.”

Mr Drakeford told Senedd members the Welsh Government was hoping to be able to resume parts of the tourism industry before this year’s season ends, but it had to be done with “community consent”.

“If it is possible then, beginning with self-contained accommodation, where people are not sharing kitchens and toilets and showers and so on, seems to be a sensible and safe way of thinking about how we can resume activity in the tourism industry,” he said.

“So, as we move, if we are able to, to allow tourism to resume in Wales, people who travel to those communities can be sure that they would be welcome, and that the industry will once again be demonstrating to people everything that Wales has to offer.”

Ken Skates, the minister for the economy, told the Welsh Government daily briefing he would “absolutely” like to see non-essential retail reopening in Wales from June 22.

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(PA Graphics)

(PA Graphics)

Press Association Images

(PA Graphics)

“It would be a very welcome boost to the economy but it is entirely dependent on the R number and the number of infections,” he said.

“This is why the people of Wales have welcomed the sensible and cautious approach taken by the Welsh Government.

“If we do have that headroom when we consider the June 18 review point, then non-essential retail would be foremost in our minds.”

Meanwhile, business support grants worth more than £680 million have reached businesses across Wales to help them respond to the financial challenges of the pandemic.

PA