By Sian Jones, Associate Partner
Temperatures are rising, spring flowers are in full bloom, the sun is sparkling on the sea, but Wales remains resolutely closed to all comers – with little prospect of that changing any time soon.
Opinion on Wales’ continuing strict lockdown is divided. With scientists raising concerns about a ‘second wave’ of coronavirus infections, many feel it’s far too soon to be opening the floodgates, and welcome the Welsh Government’s cautious approach. It’s certainly true that, compared to England’s overcrowded beaches, Wales’ coastline remains relatively tranquil.
Others, however, were dismayed when the First Minister, Mark Drakeford, announced last Friday that, although two households could now meet in each other’s gardens, people were expected to ‘stay local’. That meant, said Mr Drakeford, travelling no more than five miles from home.
That might suit those living in South Wales’ urban centres such as Cardiff and Newport, argued the Welsh Conservatives in response, but does little for those living in remote rural communities, where the nearest village can be tens of miles away. And while driving to take exercise anywhere is not permitted, cyclists can take trips of 40 miles or more. For the rest of us, a trip to the nearest garden centre might be as exciting as it gets for quite some time to come.
“Running to people’s houses, sitting in gardens close together, having a beer and it all breaking down – that’s definitely not what we are proposing in Wales,” said Mr Drakeford in his press conference last week. Some might argue that what people drink in their gardens should be out of scope of the Welsh Government’s powers. But, in these strange times, no freedoms can be taken for granted any more.
There was progress announced today, however, when Education Minister Kirsty Williams announced – contrary to expectations – that Welsh schools would reopen on 29th June, with the school day operating in a staggered fashion to allow for smaller groups of pupils. Unlike in England, this will include all year groups, but only a third of pupils will be in school at any one time. The summer term will be extended to July 27th, with the October half term extended by a week. There will, however, be no fines for parents who choose not to send their children back, and the long summer holiday will still take place.
So, what about that much-anticipated summer break, and hopes of visiting friends and family on the other side of Offa’s Dyke (and vice versa)? With local police keeping a keen eye on entry and exit routes into Wales, the ‘Visit Wales- Later’ mantra remains a reality.