Police may be asked to stop England residents escaping to Wales to avoid lockdown

Police may have to take action to stop residents of England “escaping” to Wales for an evening in a pub or restaurant when the month-long English lockdown comes into force from Thursday, the Welsh government has said.

The first minister, Mark Drakeford, said police forces on both sides of the border would have a role to play to make sure English residents do not illegally cross the border when the Welsh hospitality industry reopens next week after Wales’ 17-day “firebreak” lockdown ends.

Drakeford said that while Welsh residents will be able to travel around the country once the firebreak finishes, they will not be able to cross the border to England or travel abroad without good reason. English residents will not be able to travel to Wales apart from for essential purposes.

Asked if this was the “hardest” the border had ever been, the first minister said: “That may well be the case, for several centuries at least.”

Drakeford’s government was taken by surprise by the UK government’s decision to impose an English lockdown, learning of the plans not from Westminster but from leaks to British newspapers.

The first minister said: “We have to consider the impact the English lockdown will have on the next steps we take in Wales. We need to do this because we share a long and porous border. Every day on a non-lockdown day almost 150,000 people crisscross this border to work, visit family, shop and to travel.

“It is really important as we open up Wales doesn’t become an escape for people seeking to circumvent the tighter restrictions imposed by the prime minister.”

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The first minister announced a range of national measures that will come into force when the firebreak ends on Monday.

These include two households being allowed to form a “bubble”, up to 15 people being permitted to take part in an organised activity indoor and up to 30 an outdoor one.

New national restrictions are due to come into effect in England on Thursday, after MPs vote on them, and remain in place at least until 2 December.

What can I leave home for?

  • For childcare or education, where it is not provided online.
  • To go to work unless it can be done from home.
  • Outdoor exercise either with household members or with one person from another household.
  • For all medical reasons and appointments.
  • To escape injury or harm, such as domestic abuse.
  • To provide care for vulnerable people or volunteer.
  • To shop for food and essentials.
  • To see people in your support bubble.
  • Children will still be able to move between homes if their parents are separated.

Government say the list is not exhaustive, and other permitted reasons for leaving home may be set out later. People could face fines from police for leaving their home without a legally permitted excuse.

Can different households mix indoors?

No, not unless they are part of an “exclusive” support bubble, which allows a single-person household to meet and socialise with another household.

Parents are allowed to form a childcare bubble with another household for the purposes of informal childcare, where the child is 13 or under.

Can different households mix outdoors?

People are allowed to meet one person from another household socially and for exercise in outdoor public spaces, which does not include private gardens.

Can I attend funerals, weddings or religious services?

Up to 30 people will still be allowed to attend funerals, while stone settings and ash scatterings can continue with up to 15 guests.

Weddings and civil partnership ceremonies are not permitted except in “exceptional circumstances”. Places of worship must remain closed except for voluntary services, individual prayer and other exempt activities.

Can I travel in the UK or abroad for a holiday?

Most outbound international travel will be banned. There is no exemption for staying away from home for a holiday. This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions.

Which businesses will close?

Everything except essential shops and education settings, which include nurseries, schools and universities, will close.

Entertainment venues will also have to close. Pubs, restaurants and indoor and outdoor leisure facilities will have to close their doors once more.

However, takeaway and delivery services will still be allowed, while construction and manufacturing will stay open.

Parents will still be able to access registered childcare and other childcare activities where reasonably necessary to enable parents to work. Some youth services may be able to continue, such as one-to-one youth work, but most youth clubs will need to close their doors.

Public services, such as jobcentres, courts, and civil registration offices will remain open.

There is no exemption for grassroots organised team sports. Elite sports will be allowed to continue behind closed doors as currently, including Premier League football matches.

Aaron Walawalkar

Premises such as restaurants, cafes, pubs and gyms will reopen – but the full details were still being worked on in the light of the UK government’s announcement.

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The Welsh government said people in Wales should avoid non-essential travel as much as possible though there will be no legal restrictions on travel within the country for residents. This means that Welsh residents will be allowed to go on holiday within Wales.

As expected, all schools will reopen and churches and other places of worship will resume services.

Drakeford said on Monday there was “good evidence” that most people in Wales were so far obeying the country’s “firebreak” rules.

He said local lockdowns that preceded the firebreak had slowed the epidemic down but it is too early to judge the impact of the 17-day mini lockdown.

Drakeford said the measures that were being taken were designed to avoid another lockdown in Wales this year, adding: “By doing everything we’re doing and provided we behave in the right way we are confident we can get through to Christmas without needing to go through this again.”

The first minister also said that his government was establishing a new central “test, trace, protect” team that could be deployed to areas where there were particularly acute outbreaks.

He admitted the speed with which Covid-19 had returned had been faster than expected. More than 1,000 people are in hospitals in Wales with the virus but Drakeford insisted that the NHS was coping and was still able to treat people for other conditions.

Calling on people not to try to get around the rules, Drakeford said: “Rather than us asking what we can or can’t do, we need to ask ourselves what should we be doing to keep our families safe.”

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