Residents of Bridgend County Borough are being urged to ‘stay local’ and to remain alert following the latest review of lockdown measures by Welsh Government.
With Alert Level Four conditions still in place, the First Minister has indicated that he intends to oversee a gradual easing of restrictions, and that this will be dependent on coronavirus infection rates continuing to fall across Wales. But he has also warned that people must not get complacent.
Announcing the review, First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “As soon as the rules are relaxed and people begin to mix again, there is a risk infections will rise.
“So, if relaxations are too great and happen too quickly, there is risk of a new wave of infections. In that case, measures would need to be re-imposed to protect people’s health and save lives.
“The Welsh Government approach will be careful, cautious and phased, starting with schools.”
From Saturday 13 March, the stay-at-home requirement will be replaced with ‘stay local’, using the five-mile radius which was previously in use. This is expected to remain in place until 27 March.
It will mean that four people from two households will be able to meet outdoors, including in gardens, and that outdoor sports facilities, including tennis courts and golf courses, can reopen.
Indoor care home visits will be able to restart for single designated visitors, but please check with care homes as individual circumstances may differ depending upon conditions at each home.
From Monday 15 March, hairdressers and barbers will re-open for appointments.
All primary pupils and those in years 10 and 12 will return to school. Students in exam years and those doing similar qualifications in colleges will also return, and there will be in-school check-ins for all other pupils.
From 22 March, non-essential retail, such as garden centres, will begin to re-open. This will begin with shops that are currently open being able to sell non-essential items once more.
From 27 March, the ‘stay local’ message will end and people will be able to travel anywhere in Wales. Self-contained accommodation and libraries can re-open, and organised children’s outdoor activities will be able to restart.
If the public health situation continues to improve, Welsh Government will consider reducing the current alert level from four to three.
From 12 April, all pupils will return to school after the Easter break, and it is anticipated that all shops and close-contact services, such as beauty salons, should also be able to open.
The First Minister has also confirmed that an additional £150m is being made available to top-up non-domestic rates grants for all businesses who are unable to open yet.
This means that hospitality, tourism, leisure and non-essential retail businesses, which must remain closed, will be eligible for an additional payment of up to £5,000 to help them meet ongoing operating costs while they cannot trade.
If the public health situation continues to improve, Welsh Government anticipates that throughout Spring, further measures will be relaxed at each three-week review, and hopes remain high that household bubbles can be extended and outdoor hospitality can reopen in April.
Welcoming the update, the Leader, Cllr Huw David said: “A careful, cautious approach is both right and sensible if we are to avoid creating a situation where people let their guard down and expose themselves and others to the coronavirus.
“After all of the hard work and sacrifice that has been made, the last thing we want is do is to create the kind of situation in which a third wave of Covid-19 can spread and threaten to overwhelm our hospitals.
“Latest statistics show that across Wales, infection rates are at their lowest level since mid-September, with around 43 cases per 100,000 people.
“In Bridgend County Borough, we are closing in fast on having carried out more than 50,000 vaccinations, but we all need to remain vigilant as even someone who has been vaccinated can still carry and spread the virus.
“I hope that people will continue to take precautions, and will observe the ‘stay local’ directive while continuing to use mobile testing facilities and participate in the community testing initiative.
“The council is currently looking at the latest update from Welsh Government, and will be making further announcements as we all settle into the ‘stay local’ phase of the pandemic response.”