With coronavirus infection rates continuing to fall across Wales, Welsh Government has confirmed that Alert Level Four restrictions will remain in place for the next few weeks while new changes are planned.
This means that people must continue to stay at and work from home wherever possible, and that all non-essential retail, hospitality venues, licensed premises and leisure facilities must remain closed.
However, the number of people who can exercise together has increased from two to four.
Announcing the update, First Minister Mark Drakeford said that ‘modest changes’ and ‘cautious steps’ can start to be taken as long as coronavirus infection rates continue to fall.
He said: “The public health situation today has improved significantly thanks to everything we have done together over the last couple of months.
“Because you have been staying at home and following the rules, overall cases of coronavirus in Wales are now at their lowest level since the end of September – there are around 84 cases per 100,000 people.
“From tomorrow, we will change the rules to allow up to four people from two different households to exercise outdoors together, helping people who have been struggling with lockdown – this does not mean you can now drive somewhere to exercise, and it does not mean socialising – and Sport Wales will make arrangements for more of our talented athletes to resume training and playing.
“Next week, we will change the law to allow licensed wedding venues, such as visitor attractions and hotels, to re-open, but only to perform wedding and civil partnership ceremonies.
“As more people living in and working at care homes are vaccinated, we will look again at our guidance for visiting.
“Getting more children and young people back to school and college will be our priority. If the situation continues to improve over the next three weeks, our aim is for all primary school children to return to face-to-face learning from 15 March.
“We also want to get some older learners – such years 11 and 13 in schools and those doing qualifications in colleges – back on a blended learning basis, if the conditions are right.
“If we can lift the stay at home requirement, then we will also look at whether we can start to re-open some non-essential retail and close-contact services, such as hairdressing.
“For the three-week cycle after that, we will have further discussions with the tourism sector about what may be possible if the public health situation allows.”
Welcoming the announcement, the Leader, Cllr Huw David said: “We are continuing to see encouraging downward trends in coronavirus infection rates, especially here in Bridgend County Borough.
“It is particularly good to note that the total number of people receiving hospital treatment for Covid-19 has fallen below 1,800 for the first time since early December, and that the number of people with coronavirus in intensive care is 50 per cent lower than at the peak of the pandemic.
“However, we cannot let our guard down, and Welsh Government is right to be cautious in its approach. The coronavirus is still out there, and we must all continue to follow pandemic rules and guidance.”
Anyone within the top four priority groups – i.e. care home residents and staff, people aged 80 and over, frontline health and social care workers, people aged 75 and over, and people who are aged 70 and over and clinically extremely vulnerable – who have not yet received a vaccination appointment should contact Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board on 01443 562264 or by using an online form.
The form, which is available at the Cwm Taf website, asks people to identify which priority group they belong to, and to submit some contact details. They will then be contacted directly with details on how they can receive a dose of the vaccine.
To prevent abuse of the system, people are being reminded that the vaccine is free to receive – remain alert for scammers, do not hand over any money, banking details or confidential information to callers, and report any suspicious behaviour.
Mobile testing also remains available within the county borough, and residents are urged to make use of this free service if they experience any of the symptoms associated with coronavirus.
A drive-through mobile testing facility is currently available between 9am-4pm at the Halo Swimming Pool in Pyle (CF33 6RP), and a walk-through testing facility remains in place between 8am-8pm at the Bowls Hall car park off Bridgend Life Centre (CF31 4AH).
Booking for both facilities is essential and can be arranged by visiting the Welsh Government website or calling 119. People with hearing or speech difficulties can book an appointment by calling 18001119.