People in Wales will be putting themselves at risk of contracting coronavirus if they travel to England to visit beer gardens next month, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The Welsh Labour leader said people should “think very carefully” before going into England for a pint when hospitality businesses reopen for outdoor service from April 12, two weeks before Welsh businesses can do the same.
Mr Drakeford was speaking on Thursday after announcing new dates for Wales’ roadmap out of lockdown, including lifting travel rules on April 12, reopening outdoor hospitality from April 26, and reopening gyms on May 10.
He told the PA news agency that rates of Covid-19 in Wales are the lowest in the United Kingdom and that any unnecessary trips over the border to visit a pub, cafe, or restaurant put people at risk of picking up the virus.
Mr Drakeford said: “[Covid rates] are higher in England and the highest in the north-west of England.
“You would definitely be visiting somewhere where the risks were higher. We know there is a variant of this virus in Bristol, which so far we’ve managed to keep out of Wales completely.
“My message to people thinking about travelling across the border, in that couple of weeks before things are opening in Wales, is to think very carefully about it.
“You really will not have long to wait before you’re able to enjoy exactly the same sorts of things in Wales where the current state of the virus is more benign.”
Mr Drakeford said he considered bringing forward the reopening of outdoor hospitality in line with England’s date, but was warned by scientific and medical advisers that doing so risked a rise in transmissions.
“The advice was clear cut. The risks of doing so outweighed any rewards because we are opening such a lot of things on April 12 in Wales already,” he said.
“The advice was we really did need to wait two weeks to see whether those actions were having the effect of driving the virus numbers up again.”
Mr Drakeford admitted his frustration at being asked questions “as though England is always the template and everybody else has to be judged against what goes on there” when it came to comparing timings with Wales.
“Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England all have separate contexts and numbers. The numbers of people in Wales with coronavirus is lower and vaccination rates are higher than in England. They are not the standard against which everybody else is judged.”
Mr Drakeford will confirm at a press conference on Thursday the reopening of all close contact services and shops from April 12, completing the phased reopening of non-essential retail.
The last domestic travel restrictions will also be lifted to allow people to move between Wales and the rest of the United Kingdom and Common Travel Area.
All school pupils and post-16 learners can return to face-to-face teaching, and university campuses can reopen for blended face-to-face and online learning for all students from the same date.
Viewings at wedding venues can also resume by appointment, outdoor canvassing for the May 6 elections in Wales can begin, and planning will also start for a small number of outdoor cultural and sport pilot events of between 200 and 1,000 people, including a potential stadium event.
The Government’s Coronavirus Control Plan says organised outdoor activities and outdoor wedding receptions for up to 30 people can take place from Monday, May 3.
A week later, on May 10, gyms, leisure centres and fitness facilities can reopen for individual or one-to-one training but not exercise classes.
Rules will also allow two households to meet and have contact indoors.
The Government also said that, under the next administration, children’s indoor activities, community centres, and organised indoor activities for adults for up to 15 people, can resume from Monday May 17.
After May 17, considerations could be made to enable indoor hospitality and remaining visitor accommodation to reopen in advance of the Spring Bank Holiday.
Thursday’s events will play out on a day when Northern Ireland takes its next gradual steps out of lockdown.
Up to six people from no more than two households can now meet outdoors in a private garden.
Ten people, from no more than two households, are able to participate in outdoor sporting activities.
Golf courses can reopen, although clubhouses must remain closed.
Click-and-collect purchases are also now allowed from garden centres and plant nurseries.