image captionDr Matt Morgan: We have got to go with the data
Erring on the side of caution in the timing of reopening pubs “isn’t a bad thing”, an intensive care consultant has said.
Dr Matt Morgan’s comments came after pub gardens reopening in England on Monday led to crowded outdoor spaces.
In Wales, outdoor hospitality will not reopen until 26 April, which the Welsh Beer and Pub Association described as “a bitter pill to swallow”.
The Welsh government said it was taking “a careful step-by-step approach”.
Dr Morgan, who works at the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff, told Radio Wales: “Because I work where I work, and I see those families, and others, I think erring on the side of caution for a short period isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
“I feel it would be frustrating, of course, but things will come.
“Doing this slow and steady has absolutely helped on this particular occasion, and I want to be able to sit in a pub beer garden as much as anybody else, and I hope I will be able to, later in the summer.”
image captionJohn Turner is landlord of a pub on the Wales-England border which means he is just a few minutes away from an open pub
Dr Morgan also said the reopening of other services in Wales – including non-essential retail, which happened on Monday – was important, but needed to be done appropriately.
“We have got to go with what the data shows us, and what the data can give us reassurance around what we can do,” he said.
“Our faith in the experts who are doing that, in conjunction with the public and the politicians – this isn’t just about science, this is about the economy, it’s about mental health – it’s a really complicated calculation, and slow and steady is absolutely the right way to do it.”
One landlord, whose pub is on the border said it was “frustrating” remaining closed until 26 April when outdoor hospitality opened on Monday in England.
John Turner said two other pubs in his village – that are technically in England – had now reopened.
But Mr Turner, who runs the Dolphin Inn, in Llanymynech, on the Powys-Shropshire border, said Wales was “always two weeks behind England” and he was anxious to open again.
On Monday, the border reopened between Wales and England and people are now allowed to travel in both directions.
Once in England, you can visit a pub or cafe garden with up to six people from individual households, or any number from two households.
‘Slow and cautious is better’
However, some people have agreed with Dr Morgan’s view and expressed relief pubs remain closed in Wales.
Garfield Doc Oakleeffe (c) posted on Facebook: “After seeing the footage of the lack of social distancing when drinking in Soho, I think slow and cautious is better.”
Sian Louise said: “I know it’s horrible to not be open and I feel for businesses, I really do as I was getting annoyed with it all, but by looking how this last lockdown went and how it started I actually understand why [Mark Drakeford is] doing it slowly, because we don’t want another lockdown and we don’t want anymore people getting seriously ill either.
“Hopefully, in time we will come out better and safer by doing it gradually.”
Michelle Murphy commented: “I am so glad they are still closed. If this is what it is going to be like, no wonder they predict a third wave.”
Kerry Lea Edwards did not understand the “urgency to be back in the pub”, adding: “If it’s the social side you can meet outdoors in your garden with your friends and have a drink.
“Surely it’s not worth the risk – we will be in another lockdown before we know it, very sad.”
‘Is it safe? I think it is’
image captionJohn Turner said he was looking forward to pubs opening after “a year of being two weeks behind England”
Mr Turner said: “The firebreak [lockdown] was going to be the saviour for Christmas and then I didn’t even imagine we would miss out on Easter as well.
“An extra two weeks’ trade will be lost once again to England.”
He added that even when pubs in Wales can reopen, it could be a struggle only being able to serve outside because of “the weather element”.
While he has used some of his government support to put up a marquee, and purchase heaters and furniture, he said other pubs might not be able to keep up.
He said he was anxious to make the money back to make the new equipment worthwhile.
“People are desperate to get to the pub. I am hopeful we will be full and I’m looking forward to being busy again because otherwise it will be harder and more disappointing,” he said.
‘A bitter pill to swallow’
image captionEmma McClarkin said a lack of outdoor space was already a barrier
Emma McClarkin, chief executive of the Welsh Beer and Pub Association (WBPA), said pubs across Wales were “hugely disappointed” to not open on Monday alongside England.
She said pubs in Wales having to wait another two weeks while pubs in England were trading outdoors was “a bitter pill to swallow”.
Ms McClarkin said: “Vaccination rates continue to climb while case rates are falling week on week. Even when they will be allowed to open, we still think about 60% of pubs in Wales will be unable to because of a lack of usable outside space.
“The Welsh government need to recognise that and bring forward a package of funding as soon as possible that will prevent hundreds of Welsh pubs being lost for good.”
image captionIn England, you can meet in a pub or cafe gardens with up to six people from individual households, or any number from two households
The Welsh government said it had provided more than £2bn of funding to support businesses impacted by the pandemic, safeguarding 165,000 Welsh jobs.
A spokesperson said tourism and hospitality businesses would continue to receive cash grants this month to help them through until the reopening date in May.
“Businesses will therefore see no interruption in the flow of financial support, as we move cautiously to relax public health restrictions,” they said.
“Another £200m in additional support for business has already been earmarked in the Final Budget 2021-22.
“Ministers have had a constructive meeting with representatives from the hospitality sector and Welsh government officials will work with them on options for a further support package to be put to the new government following May’s Senedd election.”
What is the political reaction?
A Plaid Cymru spokesperson said many would question the decision not to move forward the reopening of beer gardens after scenes like those seen in Cardiff Bay, where crowds gathered to drink over the bank holiday weekend.
“A regulated drinking environment is, after all, a better and safer option,” the spokesperson said.
“Likewise, the lack of clear date on indoor hospitality remains a major problem and at the very least the government should urgently revisit its decision to delay any additional financial support until after election.”
Leader of the Welsh Conservative group Andrew RT Davies, said the Welsh government’s decision was about politics not science, and lost trade meant “lost livelihoods in Wales”.
“After a crippling 12 months for businesses, Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay seem to have a tin ear to these concerns. Welsh Conservatives would cut the border games, end the confusion, and get Wales on the road to recovery with a safe, consistent and one-nation approach,” he said.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats said: “Lockdown is frustrating but we all need to stay safe and follow the regulations.
“If we do, we will not need to enter a lockdown again and that is the the most important thing. We’ve seen before what happened when lockdowns were eased too quickly.”
What is the Covid situation in Wales?
Wales’ current overall case rate for the most recent seven-day period is currently 17.5 per 100,000 people in the past seven days and over 50% of the population have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine.
On Sunday, admissions to hospitals of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 cases were running at a daily seven-day average of 18 – this is the lowest yet recorded in the pandemic.