‘So excited to see actual people’: Welsh cry freedom as 17-day ‘firebreak’ ends today

Freedom was embraced by Welsh families today as the country came out of its 17-day firebreak coronavirus lockdown – but newly reopened businesses warned the English they were not welcome for now.

The restrictions were finally lifted after the government imposed the strict shutdown last months against a backdrop of rocketing Covid-19 cases.

It prompted early celebrations from some Welsh residents who said they were ‘so excited to see some real people’ and ‘get back to the new normal this week’.

But people from England – where a national lockdown is still in place – have been warned not to break the rules and try to sneak across to nearby border towns.

One pub vowed to check every customer’s ID to see if they were supposed to be in Wales and turn them away if they were not.

The firebreak lifting now means schools, places of worship and all businesses can now reopen again.

Free travel is allowed – within Wales – and groups of 30 or 15 can take part in organised activity.

Gareth David Jones hailed the end of the shutdown and said he would be taking to the streets to celebrate.

He said: ‘Lockdown officially over here in Wales.

‘6am and jogging! I’ve not jogged for years – wish me luck.’

A Twitter user called Deb added: ‘I’m going back to face to face yoga this evening as Wales lockdown is lifted, so excited to see actual people other than school people.’

She added to a friend: ‘Will be able to get back to the “new normal” this week, which will be way better than lockdown. Have a great week all.’ 

Wales will follow a 'basic set of national restrictions' when it emerges from its 17-day lockdown, Mark Drakeford has revealed

Wales will follow a 'basic set of national restrictions' when it emerges from its 17-day lockdown, Mark Drakeford has revealed

Wales will follow a ‘basic set of national restrictions’ when it emerges from its 17-day lockdown, Mark Drakeford has revealed 

Welsh Twitter users were overjoyed with the country coming out of lockdown and posted their celebrations online.

Welsh Twitter users were overjoyed with the country coming out of lockdown and posted their celebrations online.

Welsh Twitter users were overjoyed with the country coming out of lockdown and posted their celebrations online.

But businesses in Wrexham, which is just a few miles into Wales, said they feared English trying to sneak over for drinks and meals out.

Matt McHale, who runs the La Baguette sandwich shop, told The Guardian: ‘It’s bound to happen. The border is so close. Chester is only 25 minutes away and Liverpool isn’t very far. I don’t see how the police will be able to stop people crossing.”

Mark Finlay, the operations manager for pubs and bars including the Fat Boar in Wrexham, said they would be asking people for ID and turning them away if they were not living in Wales. 

Labour First Minister Mark Drakeford welcomed the new phase of freedom but urged people to still be vigilant. 

The country's stringent 'firebreak' ends tomorrow and will see shops, gyms, schools and places of worship reopen. Pictured: a deserted shopping centre in Newport

The country's stringent 'firebreak' ends tomorrow and will see shops, gyms, schools and places of worship reopen. Pictured: a deserted shopping centre in Newport

The country’s stringent ‘firebreak’ ends tomorrow and will see shops, gyms, schools and places of worship reopen. Pictured: a deserted shopping centre in Newport

The number of coronavirus cases in Wales has started to plateau over the last four days

The number of coronavirus cases in Wales has started to plateau over the last four days

The number of coronavirus cases in Wales has started to plateau over the last four days 

Rules of the ‘new normal’ in post firebreak Wales 

Four people groups from different households allowed to join up in cafes, pubs and restaurants.

Non-essential shops, as well as gyms, hairdressers and places of worship can reopen again.

Supermarkets can restart selling non-essential items.

A ‘bubble’ with one other household can be formed and they can meet inside home.

Alcohol sales are still restricted to a 10pm curfew.

Travel in Wales is reopened but not outside the country unless for essential reasons.

Social distancing of two-metres still in place and face masks in enclosed public places. 

Work from home if you can.

Groups of 15 people can take part in organised indoor activity and and 30 outdoors, if Covid-secure. 

Schools for all years to completely reopen.  

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He said: ‘We all need to think about our own lives and what we can all do to keep our families safe. We need to stop thinking about the maximum limit of rules and regulations.

‘Coronavirus is a highly infectious virus – it thrives on contact between people. To keep each other safe we need to reduce the number of people we have contact with and the amount of time we spend with them.

‘There will be a new set of national measures from today, which will follow up all the hard work and sacrifices which have been made during the firebreak.

‘We cannot go back to the way we were living our lives and throw away all that hard work.’ 

The country’s health minister, Vaughan Gething, has urged people to use these services wisely in order to avoid ‘throwing away’ the progress made in lockdown and having to go into another one.  

Mr Gething announced that Covid-19 case rates are ‘levelling off’ and that mass testing will be considered in high infection areas such as Merthyr and the valleys. 

And he added that the full benefits of the firebreak lockdown wouldn’t be known for at least two weeks.  

Wales’s firebreak was initiated because the number Covid patients in the country’s hospitals is at its highest since the peak of the pandemic in April. 

The lifting of restrictions will come four days into England’s fresh nationwide lockdown and further underscore the different strategies being adopted across the Union. 

Mr Gething warned that treatments for cancer, heart and stroke issues could be affected if coronavirus infections go up again.   

But he told the BBC: ‘We think we’re starting to see a plateauing, a levelling off, in the rates of coronavirus across the country.

Wales firebreak was plunged into chaos when supermarkets cordoned off non-essential items

Wales firebreak was plunged into chaos when supermarkets cordoned off non-essential items

Wales firebreak was plunged into chaos when supermarkets cordoned off non-essential items

A woman sits on a bench in the town centre wearing a face mask in a quiet street in Newport this weekend

A woman sits on a bench in the town centre wearing a face mask in a quiet street in Newport this weekend

A woman sits on a bench in the town centre wearing a face mask in a quiet street in Newport this weekend

‘It’s still at a high rate which means that there’s still a reservoir of coronavirus within our communities.’

Welsh Conservatives are pushing for local lockdowns in high infection areas in the hopes of avoiding another ‘draconian’ firebreak lockdown.  

However Mr Gething said: ‘If we breach trust with the public and extend the end of the firebreak, having been clear it would come to an end, I don’t think people would be prepared to trust the government again and go along with what we want people to do.’

Wales has seen 5,224 coronavirus cases in the last week and 2,033 people in the country have died from the disease.  

Figures from Public Health Wales show that coronavirus numbers have been starting to plateau for the last four days.  

Mr Drakeford is hoping that the UK Government will stick to its plans of having all four nations meet to discuss a single approach to the Christmas period.  

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