The Welsh Government has confirmed the essential travel restriction on public transport will be lifted from Monday 17 August, opening up trains and buses to more potential passengers.
The essential travel message was introduced to prioritise the travel of key workers, as well as those with no alternative mode of transport.
The lifting of the restriction comes as the number of coronavirus cases continues to fall. It is the latest in the Welsh Government’s step-by-step approach to making changes to coronavirus restrictions.
Over recent months the Welsh Government has provided funding to support public transport, helping to make up for the inevitable loss of revenue. Most recently this included in last week's announcement of £10m to support the bus industry in providing more services.
The requirement to wear a face covering on public transport in Wales remains in place, although there are some exceptions such as being unable to wear one because of a physical or mental illness.
Lee Waters, Deputy Minister for Economy and Transport, said: “As we continue to carefully ease restrictions we are able to lift the essential travel message that was in place to allow our key workers to travel safely. But with the virus still in circulation it’s essential that people act responsibility when using public transport. This will involve planning journeys to avoid busy periods if possible, and washing or sanitising hands at the start and end of each trip. Face coverings are mandatory on public transport and could lead to passengers being refused travel if they are not being worn.”
James Price, Chief Executive of Transport for Wales, said: “The safety of colleagues and customers is our top priority and we’ve increased our safety measures on our trains, buses and at our stations. At our railway stations there are one-way systems, clear instructional signs, hand sanitiser facilities, extra staff and cleaners.
“I’d like to reinforce the message that it is now mandatory to wear face coverings on public transport and those failing to comply with the rules, who are not exempt, will be refused travel and could be fined by the British Transport Police. These measures are to ensure the safety of other customers and our colleagues and we expect people to take personal responsibility to comply.”
The changes come as the Welsh Government introduces new enforcement powers to make sure all premises follow COVID rules.
People in Wales people will be able to see more of their family and friends as part of the next review of the country’s coronavirus restrictions, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced on 14 August.
The intention is that from Saturday 22 August up to four households will be able to join together to form a single extended household. The changes will also allow meal following a wedding, civil partnership or funeral will be allowed for up to 30 people indoors if social distancing can be maintained.
However, the Welsh Government will not be making any changes to the rules on people meeting indoors with people who are not part of their household or extended household. This means that people should only visit pubs, restaurants or other places indoors with people from their household or extended household.
Amendments to the regulations will also come into force next week to make it obligatory for hospitality businesses and other high-risk settings to collect contact details of customers. Collecting this information is essential for Wales’ test trace protect strategy for testing the general public and preventing the spread of coronavirus. Placing this in the regulations will make it clear to managers of premises and to customers that collecting information of this sort is a requirement, not an option.
First Minister Drakeford said: “Wales has come together to tackle the spread of this virus and the action we have taken together has made a real difference. The number of cases continue to fall and this means we will be able introduce new changes to allow up to four households to come together and form an extended household.
“These are cautious, step by step changes. We are learning from what is happening across the UK and outbreaks are mainly linked to people meeting others inside the home. That is why it is so important we don’t invite people outside our extended households into our homes. We have made so much progress and we mustn’t jeopardise this. That means we are not at a point where we should be visiting anyone’s home at any time. Regulations on meeting outdoors were recently changed to make it easier to do, and this remains by far the safest way to meet.
“There are also indications from other parts of the UK where pubs opened earlier than Wales that outbreaks have been linked to those places. If we are to avoid introducing local lockdown measures that could require the whole sector to close, it is vital we can quickly respond to any outbreaks. Providing our contact details when attending these premises will mean people can be contacted quickly by our Test Trace Protect teams if they may have been exposed to coronavirus.
“Only by us all doing our part and taking personal responsibility for our actions can we continue to tackle the scourge of coronavirus. For individuals, this means keeping a 2-metre distance from others, washing our hands often and wearing a face covering on public transport. For businesses this means taking action to protect customers, including taking their contact details so we can identify any outbreaks. While many businesses are being careful to collect contact details, there are too many reports of this not happening. As a result, we will be bringing in new regulations next week to make this compulsory.
“This pandemic is far from over and we all still have a duty to do our part to keep Wales safe.”
The Welsh Government recently strengthened the powers local authorities have to enforce the regulations. This enables enforcement officers to issue a Premises Improvement Notice to highlight breaches and specify measures that need be taken on premises to comply with the law.
Where a Premises Improvement Notice is not complied with, or if there is a serious breach, premises can be closed by issuing a Premises Closure Notice. Where notices are issued signs will be displayed in a prominent place to inform people that improvement is needed or that a premises has had to close.
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