Wales set to reopen non-essential shops from Monday

Wales will allow all non-essential retail businesses to reopen from Monday, First Minister Mark Drakeford will announce on Friday.

Shops will be allowed to welcome customers as long as they can take “all reasonable measures” to keep to the two-metre distancing rule.

Unlike in England, where shops have been trading since Monday, social distancing is written into law in Wales, and compels all employers to make provisions for their workers to keep two metres apart.

On Thursday, health minister Vaughan Gething told the government’s daily press briefing he did not want to see a repeat of scenes in England where crowds of people were pictured standing close together outside stores.

He said: “I don’t want to see a repeat of crowds bunched together outside shops in complete breach of what social distancing guidance is supposed to deliver.

“I don’t want to see workers put at risk, I don’t want to see shoppers put at risk.”

The Welsh Government says the change is part of the most “comprehensive package of measures” announced in Wales yet to further unlock the coronavirus restrictions, and moves many areas of activity into the “amber zone” of its lockdown traffic light system.

But the country’s five-mile travel rule will remain unchanged for now following cabinet discussions this week, though a further review on it is expected by July 6.

Plaid Cymru’s shadow health minister, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, said though the announcement on shops was welcome, more clarity was needed on what else could be lifted in the months ahead.

He said: “Three weeks ago, the First Minister asked non-essential shops to prepare to reopen safely. What we need to know now is which businesses and which sectors will be given guidance next to prepare for safe reopening in three weeks’ time.

“I’m calling on the First Minister to relax restrictions as fast and as safely as possible, and to consistently test and challenge the decisions they take as we move towards a new normality.”

Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said Mr Drakeford needed to provide the tourism industry with “certainty and a plan” by giving a timetable when their businesses could resume.

He said the First Minister had “spooked” the industry by saying tourism would be likely to be restricted to “self-contained accommodation” such as cottages and holiday homes until next year.

Mr Hart told the PA news agency: “If that was serious, that would mean they would have to start laying off straight away.

“What businesses are saying to us is they’ve had no income since last October, let alone since March, and we’re unlikely to have money anytime soon.

“They want to hear from the Welsh Government exactly what its thoughts are around tourism and leisure and to give, if they can, an indication of what the sort of timescales are likely to be.”

He added: “I’m the first person to absolutely accept that the science is the science and you need to tread carefully with that. But it’s perfectly possible for them to give, as the UK Government gave, an indication of what the plan looks like.

“Everyone is grown up enough to know that it can change. But if businesses are going to be able to make any money in this year at all, they need to be able to start planning for that now.”

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