First Minister explains new five mile rule in Wales and answers cross border question
Residents in Wales are being urged to “stay local” when new guidance allowing two households from the same local area to meet outside comes into place on Monday.
Earlier today First Minister Mark Drakeford outlined the next stage of easing the lockdown measures in Wales, which for the first time allow people to meet with other households provided that social distancing measures are kept, that you stay outside and stay local.
In this case staying local means not travelling more than five miles from home to see another household.
People can drive further than five miles however for shopping and to pick up essentials, such as medicine. Welsh Government have published a range of ‘FAQ’ style Q&A for common questions about today’s information – viewable here.
Speaking at this afternoon’s Welsh Government press conference, First Minister Mark Drakeford was asked why a five mile radius was being applied for meeting up with another household and not for travelling to the likes of a supermarket.
He was also questioned on how this would impact on those in more rural communities who are already isolated from others.
Mr Drakeford noted that it was important to reduce the risk of coronavirus from spreading from one community to another and therefore creating new hotspots.
He said: “By local we mean not generally traveling more than five miles and that is to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading.
“That five minute rule of thumb will have to be applied carefully and sensitively by people using their own judgment in the different geographies of Wales. This is so important, because the need for care is clear, coronavirus has not gone away. It remains names a silent spreader.
“You can be infectious without ever knowing that you are ill. We are putting five miles into guidance because as people go outside more and are more mobile, we need to reduce the risk of coronavirus spreading from one community to another creating new hotspots.”
He added:”We are offering that guidance to people in Wales but saying clearly, that people will have to use their own judgment in local geographies.
“If you had to travel a longer distance than five miles now to get food or medicines, you will be allowed to do that under the stay at home regulations and you are allowed to do so under the stay local regulations as well. But what I’m asking people to do is to use that judgment seriously and soberly.
“The further you travel, the greater the risk that is posed to yourself of coronavirus ending up in parts of Wales where we’ve succeeded in keeping it to a minimum. Nobody I think wants to do that.
“If you can manage within the five mile radius for food and medicines and essential things that’s what you should do.”
However it was acknowledged that the changes in the legislation would mean that there would be still be many people in Wales who are unable to see their family and friends for another at least another three weeks.
Asked if people could use their own judgment and perhaps travel further than five miles to meet a family member who lives in the same local authority, Mr Drakeford urged people to stick to the regulations being put in place.
Mr Drakeford said: “I want to say to people that exercising your own judgment does not mean regarding five miles as 10 miles, unless you have to do that because you can’t get medicines and you can’t get food. That is an essential purpose.
“It remains the safest way to contact someone who is close to you, and who is part of your loved ones, to do it by telephone to do it by email to do it by Skype, and only do it in face to face in the very limited circumstances we have described here.
“But I do want to say to those people, I really understand that if you are just the other side of a border, you will feel that this is rough justice, and other people are being able to do things that you can’t.
“This is for the next three weeks. If we’re able to do this in the right way, and the virus and the R rate at the end of three weeks isn’t higher than it is today, we will have some further headroom to do more things in a future period.
“So this is not forever, this is for the next three weeks. That’s why it’s so important that everybody does it carefully. That’s why it’s so important that everybody does it properly. Because in that way, we have the best chance of getting to the end of this three week period and to be able to do more for people who are not going to be in the position that others are as a result of today’s changes.”
In terms of those who live on the Wales and England border, the First Minister was asked how far people could travel under the new guidance and if it discourages people from visiting Wales.
Mr Drakeford noted that if people living on the border “can travel into England within our rules, if they can get into England while staying local, then once they are in England they’re subject to the rules and regulations that apply in England. That would mean that they will be able to travel further and see other people.”
This also means that those travelling into Wales from England are then expected to follow the Welsh guidance on travel.
He added: “We’ve given people that rule of thumb of five miles and that would apply to anybody coming into Wales as well as people living in Wales
“I am hugely grateful to police forces in Wales for the sensitive way in which they have enforced these regulations.
“They tell me that when somebody does come across our border – maybe not understanding that the rules are different here – that when someone is stopped, the standard response is to listen carefully to the advice, to do it in a very civilised way, to appreciate that the rules are different here and to turn around and go home.
“That’s the way we want the rules to be applied, through conversation by education and doing it in a way that just explains that things are different, and most people appreciate that and respond very positively to it.
“Our advice to people in England has been for weeks now, visit Wales later.
“We’re very keen to see visitors in Wales, we have always have been a hugely welcoming country to people from elsewhere. But now is not the moment to do it. But time will come, where we will look forward to welcoming you back to Wales, but visit Wales later, not now.”
Today’s announcement however has been criticised by members of the Welsh Conservatives, who have argued that the five mile rule is cruel for those living in rural communities.
Darren Millar MS, the Welsh Conservative Spokesperson for Covid Recovery, said: “Now that we have more detail on the First Minister’s plan, it’s clear that his roadmap to easing lockdown is more confusing than Spaghetti Junction.
“First it was being able to visit people within a five-mile radius, then we were told that this is a ‘rule of thumb’ and that we should ‘use our judgement’.
“We would support the Welsh Government’s policy, if it met the needs of the people of Wales. However, it is a cruel rule that lacks compassion and is confusing, and it doesn’t acknowledge the straightforward common sense of Wales’ residents.
“So, today we are telling the First Minister and his Labour colleagues to scrap this cruel rule before it is introduced on Monday.“
Welsh Government have published a range of ‘FAQ’ style Q&A for common questions about today’s information – viewable here.
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