BRITS could enjoy be enjoying holidays in Wales as early as April, the country’s First Minister declared today.
Mark Drakeford revealed he’s talking to hotel, pub, and restaurant bosses about a “cautious” reopening in time for Easter.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford raised hopes for Easter holsCredit: Getty Images – Getty
He told BBC Breakfast: “Here in Wales numbers of people infected with Coronavirus continue to go down.
“If that can be sustained over the weeks to come then we can see a pathway into the Spring in which we will be able to restore freedoms to people that they’ve had to go without while we’ve been in this second wave.
“We’ve got Easter at the beginning of April this year, it’s always a very important moment for our tourism and hospitality industry.
“We’re talking with them about what might be possible around the Easter period, but it’s all very much caveated that the current progress that’s being made can continue and that in a careful and cautious way we look to reopen things.
“Those are amongst the dates we’re using in our conversations with businesses and workers here in Wales.”
It came as…
Mr Drakeford said much would depend on whether any new variants of Coronavirus from abroad set back vaccination efforts.
He insisted any reopening of society must be done in a careful way so “we don’t allow the virus to get away from us again”.
And he later warned people looking to book a break in Wales should do so “knowing the uncertain world we are living in”.
The First Minister cautioned tourists against expecting the usual holiday experience if they do make the trip.
He said: “Nobody can offer them a guarantee. When we reopened tourism last year, we didn’t go from nothing to everything in one go.
“Our first steps were to reopen self-contained accommodation, where people had all their own facilities and that self-contained accommodation was occupied by people in your own family group.
“Nobody should think for a moment that that will mean a wholesale reopening of that industry.
“Anybody who is booking ahead needs to do so in the full knowledge that the improvements that we are seeing at the moment, nobody can guarantee that things will continue in that way.”
Whether or not people from England will be able to travel to the country for holidays will depend on how quickly Boris Johnson eases lockdown restrictions there.
The PM previously eyed Easter as a time for reopening the economy but has recently taken a more cautious approach, insisting it’s “too early” to say if restrictions will end in Spring.
Scotland, meanwhile, has adopted harsh restrictions on travel under Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership.
Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said unlocking the country will be done ‘step by step’Credit: refer to caption.
Wales has offered hopes of a holiday to locked down BritsCredit: Alamy
Mr Drakeford was speaking after Wales hit its target of offering coronavirus vaccines to everyone in its first four priority groups.
He said the milestone is a “truly phenomenal effort” which has so far seen 684,097 people receive their first dose.
England is set to pass the same landmark by Monday, and will then aim to jab all over 50s by the end of April.
Mr Drakeford’s comments will give encouragement to lockdown-skeptic Tory MPs who are pressuring the PM to ease restrictions.
Boris Johnson is set to unveil a roadmap for ending the current lockdown in a major speech on February 22.
His plan is set to include the reopening of schools on March 8 and allow for outside drinking and dining in May.
But there is still chaos over whether Brits should book holidays this summer, either at home or abroad.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has already planned a trip to Cornwall, but Transport Secretary Grant Shapps says people shouldn’t be thinking about a getaway.
Today the Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said she hasn’t booked a break because “I haven’t had time and obviously I’ve been following very carefully the guidance”.
And she also said any rolling back of restrictions will only happen “step by step”.
She told Sky News: “Of course we want to move out of lockdown, but we’ve got to do it at a safe pace.
“We’ve got to ensure we don’t put at risk all the hard work we’ve put into place over January and previous months.
“We want to look at schools. March 8 will be date I suspect parents across the country will be watching with bated breath.
“That’s the date we’ve said if we can, if the data allows it, we’re going to start unlocking schools and so from that many, many things will flow.”
And she insisted the PM will balance out doom-laden warnings from scientists with the needs of the economy, which shrunk by a record 9.9% last year.
She said: “Whilst the scientists medics are concentrating on the medical repercussions of this pandemic, the PM has this very difficult balancing act of keeping us all united in wanting to stick to the rules, but also an eye on the economy.
“It’s right that we should set out a roadmap. People need to have some idea of what they can expect over the coming months and of course part of that is looking at the impact on the economy but also critical services such as schools.
“We have to give the public some idea of where we’re going with this.”
Separately it has emerged summer staycations in Scotland and the reopening of pubs could happen soon, according to one leading public health expert.
Professor Linda Bauld said holidays abroad will be “off the cards for a while” but she is hopeful people will be able to take breaks domestically if progress against coronavirus continues.
She also voiced hope that pubs and restaurants will open up again in the next few months, and “people should be hopeful that we’re not going to be stuck in this situation indefinitely”.
However she said measures such as mask wearing and social distancing are likely to continue for some time to control the virus.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has advised people against booking holidays abroad and has also urged caution over booking trips domestically.
Mr Johnson is under growing pressure from his own MPs, including members of the Covid Recovery Group, to plot a way out of the lockdown.
But scientists advising the Government have warned that reopening schools alone will push the R-rate back above 1 and insist curbs on normal life will be needed until Christmas.
Sage expert Sir Jeremy Farrar said Covid infections must be cut from the current 750,000 to just 9,000 “before we can think about lifting restrictions”.