Holidaymakers and day-trippers will be able to head to Wales from the rest of the UK from next month, Wales’s first minister has announced.
Mark Drakeford said the country’s five-mile travel restriction would be lifted from 6 July as long as coronavirus was still under control at that point. In a surprise announcement on Friday morning, he said the Welsh tourism industry should prepare to reopen self-contained accommodation.
Non-essential shops will open on Monday in Wales and Drakeford called on people to behave in a socially responsible way and not to crowd together outside and inside stores.
He also announced an easing of some restrictions on places of worship, the housing market, and outdoor sports. As part of the biggest unlocking of regulations to date in Wales, the government announced:
The enabling of private prayer in places of worship where social distancing is maintained and gatherings do not take place;
Restarting the housing market by enabling house viewings to take place in vacant properties and house moves where a sale has been agreed but not yet completed;
Lifting the restrictions on outdoor sports courts but social distancing must be maintained. No contact or team sports will be allowed;
Enabling non-professional elite athletes, including Olympic and Paralympic hopefuls, to resume training.
The Welsh government has been coming under pressure from the tourism sector and some opposition politicians to say more about when holidaymakers can expect to head back to beaches and mountains.
Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live, Drakeford said: “We’ll use the next three weeks in a step-by-step way to reopen areas of activity in Wales.
“On Monday of next week non-essential retail will reopen; on Monday the following week, schools will reopen. On Monday 6 July, provided the virus is still under control, we will lift our ‘stay local’ instruction here in Wales and at that point the tourism economy will reopen in Wales.”
Asked if that meant people could come to visit Wales, he said: “Absolutely, from 6 July. I have got to just caveat it by saying we will have to be sure that the virus is still under control at that point. Provided it is, the stay local restrictions will be abolished and people inside Wales and from outside Wales will be able to travel.
“I will be saying to the tourism sector that they should use the next three weeks to prepare so that beyond that self-contained accommodation will be able to reopen in Wales so people will be able to travel to holiday cottages or static caravans or hotels that are organised on a self-contained basis. People will be able to take bookings in Wales from 13 July onwards.”
Asked again if it meant summer holidays in Wales were back on, he said: “Provided it can be done in a way that maintains social distancing, observes all the rules that we have in place. It won’t be like going back to the way things were last year because the virus is still here in Wales. We look forward to welcoming people.”
Drakeford said there was a chance there would be local outbreaks. “It’s inevitable everywhere that as lockdown restrictions come to be lifted there will be local outbreaks. Our test, trace, protect system allows us to identify those really quickly and if we need to take local action then we are in a position to do that.”
He said the scenes of shoppers collecting in crowds in England when non-essential shops reopened on Monday were “very distressing”.
The first minister said: “Our non-essential retailers have had three weeks to prepare for this. I’ve been very cheered with the way individual store owners have taken this very seriously.”