LBC reporter Peter Gillibrand tweeted: “First Minister of Wales has just told @mrjamesob on @LBC that he doesn’t believe things will get back to normal this year and is now planning on how to stop the third wave of the virus… He also confirmed cases of the Nigerian #COVID19 variant in Wales.”
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has said some aspects of non-essential retail, as well as personal services such as hairdressing, could begin to reopen there from March 15, with stay-at-home restrictions eased in three weeks.
He added there were no plans to reopen gyms in Wales at present due to advice from scientists that the Kent variant of coronavirus made doing so “more challenging”.
Mr Drakeford said: “The advice that I have seen from our scientific community is that the Kent variant, which is so much more transmissible, makes gyms a more challenging sector to reopen than before the Kent variant took hold.
“So I’m afraid there isn’t a prospect that gyms and leisure centres and so on will open by the middle of March, and it may be some while after that before we can safely return to doing so, at least indoors and in the conventional way.
“The gym sector did a great job last year and did a great deal in using outdoor spaces, conducting classes outdoors, providing facilities in the open air.
“But gyms as we conventionally think of them, I’m afraid, are going to be more of a challenge to reopen this year than even last year.”
He added stay-at-home restrictions in Wales could be eased in three weeks.
Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio Wales: “I hope that this will be the last three weeks of the strict, straight, stay-at-home requirement.
“So if in three weeks time the numbers are still falling, the positivity rate is falling, the R number is below one, hospital pressures continue to reduce, then I hope we’ll be able to move beyond stay at home.
“I think it’s just at the moment too uncertain for me to be able to say whether that will be to a stay local arrangement of the sort we had last year, or whether we will be able to go beyond that.
“Of course our aim is to restore freedoms to people as fast as we’re able to do so but always provided it is safe to do so.
“As well as the good things – the vaccination programme, the falling numbers – we’ve also got difficulties as well, we’ve got new variants cropping up, we don’t know the impact that they will have on the circulation of the virus.
“The minute we begin to lift the lockdown, we know the virus will start to circulate again. It’s whether we can do that in a way that keeps it under control and creates more capacity for freedoms to be restored, freedoms for families to meet, freedom to begin the first steps of reopening the tourism sector.
“It’ll all have to be done step-by-step, carefully, and in a way that allows us always to review the evidence from any steps we take to make sure we’re not trying to do too many things too quickly.”
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