Posted: Sat 30th May 2020

Updated: Sat 30th May

Welsh Government criticised over ‘arbitrary’ five mile lockdown meeting rule

North Wales news and information
This article is old - Published: Saturday, May 30th, 2020

New guidelines which limit people to travelling five miles to safely meet friends and family have been described as “Cardiff-centric” and impractical for rural communities by a North Wales MS.

The new Welsh Government rules will allow people from two different households in the same local area to meet outdoors from Monday onwards – with “local” being confirmed as within a five mile radius.

According to First Minister Mark Drakeford in Friday’s daily briefing, a lack of significant improvement in the “R number” meant that lifting of lockdown rules would have to be limited at this point.

He added that social distancing and hand hygiene would still have to be adhered to when meeting outdoors, and “not generally” travelling more than five miles to stop coronavirus from spreading.

This, he said, would need to be adhered to “carefully and sensibly” with people using “their own judgement” in regards to the “geographies of Wales”.

But opposition parties have described the “arbitrary” five mile rule as favouring those living in town and city centres, at the expense of those based in the countryside and more spread out areas.

In a letter to the First Minister, Plaid Cymru Ynys Môn MS Rhun ap Iorwerth claimed that this new rule was “impractical”, fearing that it would further isolate those in rural communities.

He said: “I’d previously urged Government to look at allowing families to meet in the open air, on the grounds of welfare, as long as it was based on science and risk management.

“It is not clear where the figure of five miles comes from, nor is it clear how this rule can be effectively governed.

“What is of greater concern is that in rural parts of Wales, including my constituency, five miles is a very small area. “Many people who consider themselves to live close to family or friends, would still be unable to see them.

“To have a plan that disproportionately favours those in city centre locations is both unfair and is another Cardiff-centric policy from a government which seems intent on ignoring the needs of rural Wales.

“There is a very different understanding of what ‘local’ means in different parts of Wales, and I appeal to the First Minister to allow more flexibility to reflect the geographic realities of Wales and its communities.”

Conservative MS and former Welsh party leader, Andrew RT Davies, described the five mile rule as “arbitrary” and said the First Minister was in danger of “giving with one hand and taking away with another”.

Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie added: “This news mean that families might be able to see loved ones for the first time in almost 70 days. My thoughts go out to those 130,000 shielded who are still instructed to stay home because they are particularly at risk from the virus.

“Whilst the Welsh Government’s Technical Advisory Cell (TAC) has been publishing evidence since the beginning of May – critical is the specific scientific evidence that has informed the Welsh Government’s decision to limit how far people can travel.

“The Welsh Government has been notably more cautious and slower in its approach to lifting the lockdown in Wales compared to the rest of the UK.

“In its decision making, it is incumbent on the Welsh Government to undertake an analysis of the public health impacts that an overextended lockdown and its consequential economic effects could have in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford, clarifying the new guidelines, conceded that people would have to “use their own judgments in terms of local geographies”.

“The further you travel, the greater the risk that’s posed to yourself and others of Coronavirus ending up in parts of Wales where we’ve succeeded in keeping it to a minimum,” he said.

“If you can manage within the five mile radius for food and medicine, that’s what you should do. If your bit of Wales means you have to go further, use your judgment and use it carefully and soberly.

“Coronavirus has not gone away and remains 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 and ae more mobile, we need to reduce the risk of Coronavirus spreading from one community to another and creating new hotspots.

“Sadly people continue to die every day in Wales, these changes are emphatically not an invitation to act as though the crisis were over.

“The best way to reduce your risk of contracting Coronavirus remains to have as little contact with other people as you can and to stay as local as possible.”

By Gareth Wyn Williams – Local Democracy Reporter

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