Welsh government accused of ‘playing politics’ by speeding up lockdown easing | UK news

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The easing of the lockdown in Wales is being accelerated, with a range of indoor activities for adults and children to be allowed earlier than expected and a date set for when pubs, bars, cafes and restaurant could serve indoors.

Hospitality firms and workers, exercise enthusiasts and families fond of a trip to soft play areas will cheered by the move.

Political opponents, however, accused the Labour-run government of “playing politics” at the height of the Welsh parliamentary election campaign, arguing that the first minister, Mark Drakeford, was making capital out of the timing of the positive announcements.

Drakeford is to appear at a media briefing in Cardiff on Friday to spell out how lockdown is being eased.

Though Boris Johnson has given a Covid press conference this week, as has the Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, Drakeford’s opponents in Wales said he should have left what were bound to be popular announcements to his chief medical officer, Frank Atherton.

First minister of Wales, Mark Drakeford, with Labour’s leader, Keir Starmer, and AONB partnership chair, Andy Worthington, during a walkabout in Llangollen for Welsh Labour’s Senedd election campaign
The first minister of Wales Mark Drakeford (left) listens as Labour’s leader Keir Starmer (centre) talks with AONB partnership chair Andy Worthington, during a walkabout in Llangollen for Welsh Labour’s Senedd election campaign. Photograph: Peter Byrne/PA

The Welsh Conservatives leader, Andrew RT Davies, said: “So much more detail could have been announced prior to the election period, such as on hospitality, gyms and other economic and social activities, but Labour chose to play politics.

“This latest review announcement should be led by the chief medical officer not the first minister, in what is a blatant attempt to influence May’s election.”

The Tories made clear they were not suggesting the government was cynically making decisions on how the lockdown should be eased to win votes but the were concerned about the timing and manner of the announcements.

The Welsh government is confirming that from Monday 26 April:

  • Outdoor attractions such as funfairs, theme parks and swimming pools will be able to open

  • Outdoor hospitality will be allowed

  • Outdoor organised activity for up to 30 people will be permitted but only run by a responsible individual or an organisation such as a football, rugby, tennis or cricket club

  • Outdoor wedding receptions for up to 30 people can go ahead

From Monday 3 May:

  • Gyms, other fitness facilities and leisure centres will be allowed

  • People will be able to form an extended household with one other household

Also from 3 May (rather than the later scheduled date of 17 May):

  • Supervised indoor activities for children such as soft play areas will be allowed

  • Indoor organised activities for up to 15 adults, for example, exercise classes and swimming lessons, can re-start

  • Community centres can reopen

The first minister said it was “his assessment” (but it will be for the new government to confirm after the Senedd elections on 6 May) that from Monday 17 May:

  • Bars, pubs, cafes and restaurants will be able to serve customers indoors (in line with England)

  • All tourist accommodation, indoor entertainment and attractions will open

Drakeford said: “The sacrifices we have made continue to show results. By us all working together and sticking to the rules, combined with our vaccination programme, mean we continue to make progress. Rates of the virus continue to fall and the public health situation is improving.”

Ryan Davies, who owns and runs Llanerch Vineyard hotel, in south Wales, said he was relieved that Wales’ hospitality industry was set to welcome guests inside at the same time as England. “We are more than ready to welcome guests back with more indoor dining and drinking spaces, and we are looking forward to a strong summer trade,” he said.

Hafta Ichi
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Welsh government accused of ‘playing politics’ by speeding up lockdown easing | UK news

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