Wales lockdown: Shops and hairdressers could open from mid-March, Drakeford says

Welsh ministers will discuss easing some coronavirus lockdown restrictions on non-essential retail in the coming weeks, Mark Drakeford has said.

The first minister said hairdressers could be among the shops to reopen as early as 15 March, but warned any easing would be gradual.

“I don’t believe it will be a wholesale reopening, we are going to do things in the way that Sage and the WHO recommend – carefully, step-by-step, always assessing the impact of any actions that we take,” he told BBC Breakfast.

He added: “I will set out today some discussions that we will have with non-essential retail over the next couple of weeks to see how we might begin the reopening of non-essential retail.

“If it is possible from 15 March to begin the reopening of some aspects of non-essential retail and personal services such as hairdressing then of course that is what we would want to do.

“But it will be, as I say, in that careful step-by-step way and always making sure that we are carefully monitoring the impact of any lifting of restrictions on the circulation of the virus.”

He said the devolved government would also work with tourist companies to look at easing of rules around Easter.

Additionally, all primary school children in Wales will return to face-to-face teaching from mid-March provided the coronavirus situation in the country “continues to improve”, with Covid-19 cases at their lowest level since September, Mr Drakeford said. The youngest are set to go back on Monday next week.

Some secondary pupils and college students may be able to return to class from 15 March.

Wales, like the rest of the UK, is currently under a stay-at-home order which is to remain in place for the next three weeks.

It comes as Boris Johnson faces a tug of war between scientists and some Conservative MPs over when and how to roll back lockdown rules in England.

Right-wing Tories claim there will be no justification for “unnecessary restrictions” after over-50s are vaccinated in April, even though new variants of Covid-19 will still be free to spread among young people, who could end up stricken by “long Covid”.

The PM has pledged his roadmap, to be unveiled on 22 February, will be “cautious but irreversible”. He aims to reopen schools on 8 March, and has said pubs and restaurants will likely be the last businesses to emerge from lockdown.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said any easing of lockdown will be gradual; she is due to unveil her plans next week. Northern Ireland’s lockdown has been extended to 1 April, but primary-age children will return to school from 8 March.

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