Earlier this week, the Prime Minister made a raft of announcements related to easing coronavirus restrictions in England.
This included relaxing the 2 metre rule to 1 metre ‘plus’ and announcing that hospitality, tourism and some other businesses can reopen on 4th July, alongside some other changes.
Whilst the Prime Minister’s announcement relates singularly to England, it does raise questions about how we ease out of lockdown around the UK, including here in Wales.
This news will be welcomed by many businesses across the border and there will be inevitable pressure on Welsh Government to review how we can reopen more of Wales in a way that keeps Welsh businesses competitive with their English counterparts as well as ensures the safety of employees, customers and business owners themselves.
We understand that these are difficult decisions for Welsh Government, but these are pressing times for Welsh businesses.
Hospitality and some tourism firms may now be wondering why businesses in England have a firm and immediate plan for when and how they are able to reopen, whilst Welsh businesses are still waiting on a similar intervention from Welsh Government. Scottish Government has now also made an announcement on reopening pubs and restaurants.
So far, the First Minister has announced only that self-contained accommodation and outdoor attractions in Wales can plan to reopen, with the final decision due at the next review date on 10th July. The First Minister has stated that during this three week period, the 5 mile rule will be reviewed, and tourism firms can begin taking bookings for the 13th July onwards, as long as they know that they do so at their own risk.
However, that leaves a large part of the tourism industry, as well as pubs, restaurants and all of those in the hospitality industry, still with no guidance as to when they might be able to reopen. These are all firms who are either wholly or at least partly reliant on trading during the summer months, and who are currently facing a huge amount of uncertainty as they look at how they can possibly make something out of the coming months.
It is vital that Welsh tourism firms are not put at a disadvantage compared to their counterparts in the rest of the UK when it comes to being able to open up for visitors. Welsh Government has to make some difficult decisions, but this must be balanced alongside a need to provide the firms that are crucial to Wales’ economy with the confidence and certainty that they need to navigate the coming months.
We reiterate the call we made last week for the First Minister to introduce a timeline for reopening hospitality firms, as well as those tourism businesses that were not covered by the recent Welsh Government announcement.