WALES will relax rules on outdoor exercise by allowing four people from two different households to work out together from tomorrow.
The move by the country’s First Minister Mark Drakeford will pile pressure on Boris Johnson to ease restrictions for cooped up people in England.
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Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford revealed the new plan todayCredit: Getty Images – Getty
It comes despite Cardiff announcing its stay-at-home message will remain in place for at least another three weeks.
Mr Drakeford said under the new relaxed rules people should exercise “from their own front doors” and not stray far.
He said: “We know the mental health impact of having to remain at home, if four people can meet up for exercise we hope that’s a marginal easement.
“This does not mean that it is permissible for people to drive somewhere to exercise and it does mean exercise, not socialising.”
The news came amid a flurry of announcements as Wales charted its gradual path out of lockdown.
Primary school children will be back in the classroom on Monday and non-essential shops and hairdressers could reopen within three weeks.
The “cautious” timetable for rolling back restrictions will further add to calls from Tory MPs for Boris Johnson to speed up the easing of curbs in England.
He announced kids between three and seven will return to school from Monday, with all other primary years plus secondary students in exam years set to return on March 15 if the data stays positive.
Schools in England aren’t due to go back until March 8 at the very earliest.
The stay at home measures will stay in place for another three weeks, however, he said.
But from tomorrow, four people from two different households will be allowed to exercise outdoors together to help those struggling with lockdown, he announced at lunchtime.
Mr Drakeford told a press conference: “This does not mean that it is permissible for people to drive somewhere to exercise and it does mean exercise, not socialising.”
Cases of coronavirus in Wales are at the lowest level since the end of September – and the R number is still below one.
The next review will be held in the week of the 8 March – and getting kids back to school will be the priority.
He added: “If things remain on track, our aim still be for all children returning to face to face learning from the 15 March.”
Almost 840,000 people in Wales had received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, equivalent to one third of the country’s adult population.
And they are on track to hit the target of vaccinating all over 50s by the end of April too.
He revealed Cardiff is locked in talks with retailers and contact professions like hairdressers about a possible reopening of their businesses in the middle of next month too “if the health data allows”.
Ministers are also looking at how to safely restart weddings from March 1 – and care homes too.
And he would be in talks with the hospitality industry about allowing some accommodation to reopen again too – hopefully in time for Easter.
A third of Wales have had their first vaccine dose
Primary school children will return in Wales on MondayCredit: Getty Images – Getty
Mr Drakeford revealed he’s also set to hold talks with business chiefs about reopening non-essential shops and personal services like hair dressers within weeks.
He said: “I don’t believe it will be a wholesale reopening. We are going to do things carefully, step by step, always assessing the impact of any actions that we take.
“If it is possible on the 15th of March to begin the reopening of some aspects of non-essential retail and personal services such as hairdressing then of course that is what we would want to do.
“But it will be in that careful step by step way and always making sure we are carefully monitoring the impact of any lifting of restrictions on the circulation of the virus.”
How Wales will unlock
Wales will start to unlock from February 22, when school children aged 3-7 return to the classroom.
The number of people who are allowed to exercise together outside will also double from two to four from tomorrow (Saturday 19 Feb), although work outs will have to remain local.
The stay at home message is set to be dropped on March 15 when other primary schoolchildren, and those secondary pupils in exam years, will also go back.
On the same day non-essential shops and contact services like hairdressers are expected to reopen on a limited basis.
Self-contained holiday lets, including B&Bs and hotels with room services, will be allowed to welcome back holidaymakers from the start of April if case numbers stay low.
There are plans to reopen training opportunities for elite athletes, and to allow licensed wedding venues to resume small services (from next week).
Welsh ministers are also working over plans to ease strict rules around care home visits.
But they’ve warned gyms and indoor leisure centres aren’t due to reopen any time soon, although outdoor exercise classes could return sooner.
The Welsh First Minister even offered hope to families dreaming of an early getaway, by unveiling plans to allow self-catering holiday lets to reopen in time for Easter if conditions allow.
He said: “I know that would be a boost to the industry and a big boost to hundreds of thousands of families in Wales for whom going down the caravan for a few days or a break would be a very welcome prospect.
“What we will work on is the possibility, and it is only that, of some limited reopening around Easter of self-contained accommodation only.
“Places where people don’t mix with other people, where there aren’t shared facilities.
“We can bring that forward to Easter if conditions allow. I know that will be huge relief to many many hundreds and thousands of families in Wales.”
His remarks will provide further ammunition to Tory MPs who are pushing the PM to announce an ambitious roadmap for ending the lockdown in England.
No 10 will make final decisions on how to reopen the economy after spending today poring over the latest data on infection rates and the effect of vaccines.
The PM will then announce his decision to the nation on Monday afternoon.
He will be buoyed by the first “real world data” from Britain’s vaccines rollout that shows they are cutting Covid transmissions and infections by two-thirds.
The figures from Public Health England show just one dose of both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs has that effect on all age groups, according to the Telegraph.
And separate data today reveals cases are falling most rapidly amongst the oldest, who were the first to receive the vaccine, with care home outbreaks falling by 38 per cent in the space of a week.
The statistics appear to vindicate Britain’s decision to delay the second dose of the jab to protect as many people as possible.