COVID-19: Wales first minister confident of lockdown roadmap as virus ‘is in a relatively benign position’

The first minister of Wales has expressed confidence in the country’s roadmap out of coronavirus restrictions, telling Sky News that COVID is in a "relatively benign position" there.

"We have a good level of confidence that we will be able to achieve all of those dates," Mark Drakeford said about the Welsh government’s plan to ease COVID-19 measures.

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"The level of coronavirus in Wales is the lowest in the United Kingdom and the rates of vaccination are the highest.

"All of that means that the virus, at the moment, is in a relatively benign position."

Cross-border travel between Wales and the rest of the UK will be allowed from 12 April, he confirmed at a government briefing later.

Meanwhile, pubs, restaurants and cafes could reopen outdoors from 26 April.

Mr Drakeford also revealed that 57% of adults in Wales have received their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

"It is because of those efforts that I am able to say today that we will meet our next vaccine milestone early," he said.

"By Sunday we will have offered a vaccine to everyone in the first nine priority groups – that’s everyone over 50; all adults with an underlying health condition and a great many unpaid carers.

"By Sunday, a minimum of 75% of those in each priority group will have received a first vaccination."

Under the Welsh government’s plan for easing restrictions:

From 12 April:
• All pupils in Wales will return to schools for face-to-face education, all post-16 students will return to further education and training centres, and university campuses will be able to open for a mixture of face-to-face and online learning for all students
• All remaining shops can reopen
• All remaining close contact services can resume, including mobile services
• Travel into and out of Wales from the rest of the UK and the Common Travel Area will be allowed
• Viewings at wedding venues can resume by appointment
• Outdoor canvassing for elections can begin.

The Welsh government is also planning further easings of lockdown rules in April and May, but warned these will only happen "should public health conditions remain favourable".

These include, from 26 April:

• Outdoor attractions, including funfairs and theme parks, will reopen
• Outdoor hospitality can resume, including at cafes, pubs and restaurants.

From 3 May:

• Wedding receptions with up to 30 people can take place outdoors..

From 10 May:

• Gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen. This will include individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes
• Two households will be able to meet indoors.

From 17 May:

• Children’s indoor activities, community centres and organised indoor activities for up to 15 adults – including exercise classes – will be able to resume.

However, this step will have to be signed off by the new Welsh government, following elections on 6 May, along with the possible reopening of indoor hospitality ahead of the bank holiday at the end of May.

Mr Drakeford said the government would continue its "careful, step-by-step approach" to lifting measures.

"I do now want to look further ahead, to the next review cycle – at the end of April – and into May, to help us all plan for the future," he said.

"All of these dates are provisional and are, of course, subject to the public health situation at the time.

"We are dealing with a very different virus this time. It is fast-moving and unpredictable. I want to be able to carry on with this programme of unlocking restrictions."

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