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Coronavirus: Two households can meet outside in Wales from Monday


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Media captionFrom Monday people from two households will be able to meet up

People from two different households will be able to meet outdoors from Monday, the Welsh Government will announce later.

They will need to stay in their local area – within five miles as a “general rule” – and remain two metres apart.

The change is part of a review of the lockdown rules in Wales.

The restriction on how far people can travel has sparked concern it will be unfair on those living in rural communities.

It has been illegal for groups of more than two people to meet since lockdown began in March.

Other parts of the UK have already loosened rules on meeting people outdoors.

In Wales, there will be no limit to the number of people from different households that can meet.

They are expected to be able to meet in gardens, as well as away from their homes.

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The restrictions have been in place in Wales since March

First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce the results of his review of the coronavirus lockdown restrictions, which takes place every three weeks, at a press conference later.

“We know people have missed seeing their families and friends over the last three months,” he is expected to say.

“From Monday, people from two different households in the same local area will be able to meet up outdoors. They must continue to maintain social distancing and strict hand hygiene.

“We are also asking people to stay local – by local we mean, as a general rule, not travelling more than five miles from home to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading as people begin to travel more.

“There will be exceptions – for example, travelling to work, to seek care and shopping for essentials if they aren’t available locally.

“Staying local will help keep Wales safe.”

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Some of Wales’ restrictions have been tougher than those in England

Andrew RT Davies, Welsh Conservative Member of the Senedd for South Wales Central, said the five mile rule was “arbitrary” and called for it to be changed.

Although he welcomed the Welsh Government’s decision to allow different households to meet, he added: “Not everyone in Wales lives in a town or city close to family and friends and this will unfairly impact on those in our rural communities.”

Plaid Cymru’s health spokesman Rhun ap Iorwerth said the people of Wales “have generally adhered well to lockdown restrictions, and understand the need to take a cautious approach”.

But he called for a clearer plan for how restrictions will be lifted. Key, he said, will be “the robustness of the Welsh test and trace scheme, due to start next week“.

The Welsh Government has not set dates for when measures in Wales could be lifted, unlike in England.

Current plans envisage a traffic light-style system of red, amber and green phases, with more restrictions lifted as they progress.

What are the current rules?

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No dates have been given for when parts of Wales’ economy, closed by lockdown, may reopen

Since late March people have been told to stay home except for work, exercise and shopping for essentials.

Wales’ exercise restrictions are more stringent than England’s – people have been told to stay local and not to drive.

Most non-essential retail has been forced to close, alongside pubs and restaurants.

Exceptions include supermarkets, garden centres and pharmacies.

Schools are closed, but some are instead providing childcare for the children of key workers.

What is happening in other parts of the UK?

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Different parts of the UK have different rules for lockdown

England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland all have their own lockdown rules.

In England they are set by the UK government, led by Prime Minister Boris Johnson. In the other three countries they are set by their different governments.

Groups of six people will be able to meet outside in England from Monday.

In Scotland people will be able to meet their friends and family outside from this Friday. People have been given “strong advice” there not to travel more than five miles for leisure.

The country’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said people from two different households will be able to meet, but must keep two metres apart. They must also remain outdoors and in groups of no more than eight.

In Northern Ireland groups of six people who do not share a household can meet outdoors.

The first minister has been dropping big hints for some time that his priority in lifting restrictions is to allow people to see friends and family if it can be done safely.

My understanding is the approach will continue to be cautious.

The strategy seems to be to make a small change and then keep an eye on the reproduction rate of the virus – the R number.

That means the rules in Wales may continue to differ from those in other nations of the UK, but Mark Drakeford believes that most Welsh voters support his cautious approach.

What is the R rate in Wales?

Coronavirus: Two households can meet outside in Wales from Monday 2

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Media captionWhat is the R number and what does it mean?

Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said that the R number – the rate that coronavirus is spreading – is the biggest factor in determining when lockdown measures can be eased.

If the R number is R2, it means a sick person is likely to transmit the virus to two other people.

The latest Welsh Government analysis suggests Wales’ R rate remains between 0.7 and 1, “but still below 1”. Officials want it to remain below one.

It is believed that an R of 0.8 would lead to 500 additional coronavirus deaths by the start of August and as many 7,000 if R reaches 1.1.

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