The Welsh First Minister has advised against unnecessary journeys, while a quarter of the population is under local lockdown
Only travel if it is essential: that was Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford’s advice on Tuesday night, lending a major blow to tourism and hospitality businesses in the country.
“Please think carefully about making journeys, only travel when you need to do so, the fewer people we meet and the fewer journeys we make the safer we all are,” he said in a message to the nation.
There are no further restrictions on Welsh accommodation providers or visitor attractions as it stands, but the Government advice could deter visitors and make it tough for businesses to stay open.
Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s today programme on Wednesday that it was “a difficult balancing act” given that tourists from England are an important part of the economy, but they needed to take into account the public health needs as well.
“Unnecessary journeys should be avoided. Journeys for work and journeys for other important purposes can still go ahead in Wales.”
The Welsh Government is issuing much of the same advice for Wales as was set out by Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday. This includes a message to work from home, face coverings on public transport, in shops and enclosed public spaces, and a 10pm curfew for hospitality businesses (which comes into force on Thursday).
However, Wales has gone further on some vital points. The rule of six, for example, under general UK Government advice is as follows: “When meeting friends and family you do not live with (or have formed a support bubble with) you must not meet in a group of more than six, indoors or outdoors.” In England, this number includes children.
In Wales, people can only meet socially indoors with people who they live with or who are part of their extended “bubble”. The Welsh Government advice states: “Meetings or gatherings indoors are limited to six people from the same extended household, not including any children under 11.”
So what does this all mean for Britons who have booked holidays in Wales, or who are planning day trips in the country? Here we detail the latest rules.
What are the current restrictions in Wales, and can I visit?
There are no national restrictions in Wales that legally prevent travel. However, local lockdowns are in place in Blaenau Gwent, Newport, Caerphilly, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil. A Welsh Government spokesperson told Telegraph Travel: “Travel in and out of these areas is limited to essential travel only – unfortunately, this would not include travelling for a holiday.”
They added: “Tourism is massively important to Wales and there are no legal restrictions on people travelling to parts of Wales which are not under these local restrictions. We are not telling people they shouldn’t come to these parts of Wales but we are asking people to think very carefully about making journeys.
“People should not travel if they are unwell with symptoms of Coronavirus and to check (gov.wales/coronavirus) for latest information about the area they are planning to travel to.”
What are the rules in areas under local lockdown?
Blaenau Gwent, Newport, Caerphilly, Bridgend, Rhondda Cynon Taf and Merthyr Tydfil are under lockdown. Some 850,000 people, more than a quarter of the Welsh population, are now living in local lockdown. Cardiff, the Vale of Glamorgan, Swansea, Carmarthenshire, Anglesey, Conwy, Denbighshire and Flintshire are also being monitored.
Family and friends cannot meet in these areas and overnight stays are effectively banned.
No one is allowed to enter or leave the areas under local lockdown without a “reasonable excuse”. The borders are effectively closed, with travel only permitted under certain exceptions, such as travelling to work if you are not able to work from home, to school and to buy food or medical supplies. See the Welsh Government website for the full list of exemptions.
What can I do on a trip to Wales?
Welsh tourism and hospitality businesses, including museums and galleries, have been allowed to reopen under a phased return.
Holidaymakers are not being blamed for spikes in cases in some parts of Wales. “Coronavirus remains at its lowest levels in the holiday areas of Wales,” Mr Drakeford said at a Welsh Government update on Thursday.
“The visitors we have had so far have been people who have acted responsibly and helped us to keep Wales safe,” he added.
As it stands, for areas where a local lockdown is not in place, accommodation providers, visitor attractions and hospitality businesses can continue to operate while following the rules on face coverings, group gatherings, table service and 10pm closures. Off licences and supermarkets can also not sell alcohol after 10pm.
Yet, given the First Minister’s advice against non-essential travel – and the quarter of the Welsh population being under local lockdown – it may be all but impossible for many businesses to continue as normal.
Ashford Price, co-chair of the Welsh Association of Visitor Attractions (WAVA) and chairman of the National Showcaves Centre for Wales told Telegraph Travel: “The statement ‘only essential travel’ [by the First Minister] will curtail potential visits to attractions,” adding “this news will mean the end of the season for some.”
Mr Price said that even before the announcement, 63 per cent of WAVA members needed financial help to survive to Easter 2021 and 88 per cent were planning redundancies.
Can I stay overnight in Wales?
Provided it is in an area not under local lockdown and you follow coronavirus restrictions, such as the rule of six, then yes.
Hotels, campsites and self-catering providers in Wales have welcomed back guests since July.
The national rule of six restrictions do, however, add caveats to overnight stays, particularly in self-catering accommodation. Groups of more than six are not permitted to meet indoors and so groups of family or friends larger than this cannot congregate in the same accomodation. This also means parties and get-togethers over this number are in breach of the law.
If a group of more than six people were to stay in the same hotel room, this would also be illegal. Camping is also affected where it breaks the rules on socialising.
However, bookings can be affected by local lockdowns. For example, around 4,000 holidaymakers were asked to vacate Trecco Bay holiday park in Porthcawl south Wales on Wednesday when the site operator Parkdean announced it was closing at 6pm. Parkdean chief executive Steve Richards said he made the decision due a local lockdown coming into effect across the local authority, Bridgend county borough.