The Welsh Government has announced that all of Wales will enter a "fire-break" lockdown for 17 days from 6pm on Friday October 23, hugely affecting the outdoors community and Welsh climbing centres. Our access team investigates.
This is hugely disappointing and frustrating news for all who are active and involved in the outdoors but it is clear that the government in Wales consider this to be the best course of action at this time to slow the spread of the virus. The direct headline message from the government is “stay at home”.
In a widely anticipated move, the First Minister for Wales announced on Monday October 19th that all of Wales would once again be subject to full and very strict lockdown rules, this time for a period of just over two weeks, from Friday October 23rd until Monday November 9th. These new rules apply to everyone in Wales (and anyone visiting Wales) and effectively prohibit all travel for recreational purposes, within, to or from Wales and prohibit exercising with anyone from outside your household.
The guidance on the type of activity allowed and the rules on driving to exercise have been clarified in the regulations, published late on October 21, The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 3) (Wales) Regulations 2020 .
The clear message we received at a Welsh Government briefing was that everyone needs to stay at home for the period of this lockdown, unless leaving the home for very limited permitted reasons.
What does this mean for climbers, hillwalkers and mountaineers?
According to the Welsh Government Guidance and the Regulations, you should only be outside of your home for very limited reasons, which includes in addition to the usual exemptions for obtaining food, medical care and for carrying out critical work, “to exercise, alone or with members of your household. We encourage this to be done locally”. They also state “Whenever you leave home, you should try to minimise time spent outside of the home, and ensure you stay at least two metres away from anyone you don’t live with or are in a permitted “bubble” with”.
Part 2 Section 3 of the Regulations states "(1) No person in Wales may, without a reasonable excuse, leave the place where they are living or remain away from that place".
A "reasonable excuse" under the Regulations includes the "need to to excercise alone or with other members of that persons' household"
You must not meet up with anyone you do not live with, either indoors or outdoors, except in very limited circumstances such as providing or receiving care. However, if you are an adult living alone or are a single parent household, you can form a temporary extended household with one other household. This will allow you to spend time with the people in that household as if you lived with them.
All retail outlets other than those selling essential goods such as food or medical supplies will have to close as will all leisure centres, gyms and climbing walls.
In addition, all tourist accommodation, hotels, campsites, hostels, climbing huts and similar will also have to close on Friday October 23.
Which exercise or outdoor activities are permitted?
The WG guidance states that exercise is important for physical and mental health, and you can leave home as often as you like to exercise as long as you do so from home and alone or only with members of your household (and/or a carer).
WG state that there are no legal limits on the type of exercise or activity permitted, but in practice this is constrained by other restrictions that have been imposed such as the closure of leisure centres, gyms and swimming pools. As one of the purposes of the restrictions is to reduce pressure on the Welsh NHS, WG also ask people to avoid activities that involve a significant degree of risk (for example swimming or other exercise at sea, or in lakes, rivers or other waterways).
The BMC specifically made the point to WG that risk is highly subjective and that for experienced users the risks from mountaineering, rock climbing or hillwalking are actually statistically very low.
I’m an outdoor instructor – can I work?
The Welsh Government states that "people must work from home where possible" but the guidance also states that work that cannot be carried out from home is permitted, however, at the time of writing we do not know how the rules on work will affect the teaching or instruction of outdoor activities. It may depend on whether the clients are also working (e.g. attending a NGB or first aid course required for their employment). We will update on this when clarification is obtained.
Are there any limits on how far I can run or cycle for exercise?
The guidance states that there are no limits on the distance you can travel during exercise, though the nearer you stay to your home, the better. Your exercise should start and finish from your home and you should exercise alone or with a member of your household.
Can I drive somewhere to exercise?
The guidance states that exercise should be undertaken locally –should be from home or as close as possible to the home and also say that, In general, this should not involve people driving to a location away from home for this purpose. No journeys of any significant distance should be taken, for example, just in order to exercise in the countryside or at beauty spots.
However, under another heading, the guidance contradicts the above statement by stating that you should not be driving to get to somewhere to exercise, and the need to carry sports equipment isn’t regarded as a justification on its own for driving in these circumstances. This will mean in practice most people cannot do these things for the period of the lockdown.
The published regulations now state in Part 3 Section (3) (4a) exercise must start and finish at the place where the person is living.
Can locals access national parks etc for exercise?
There is nothing to suggest that there will be any restrictions on local people accessing National Parks and other publicly accessible sites for exercise if they can do so, directly from home. However, driving for the purpose of carrying out excercise is effectively forbidden by regulations which states "exercise must start and finish at the place where the person is living, unless where, for reasons of physical or mental illness or impairment, or a disability (within the meaning of section 6 of the Equality Act 2010(1)), the person needs to exercise in another place, exercise must take place in an area local to the place where the person is living.
Do these rules only apply to residents of Wales and are there travel restrictions?
The rules apply to anyone who is in Wales, whether resident or travelling here. Travel is limited to essential travel only, for example, for caring responsibilities or for work purposes where people cannot work from home. Regulation 5 states "5 (1) No person living outside Wales may, without a reasonable excuse, enter or remain in Wales".
Can I drive to my club hut to carry out essential repairs?
The BMC asked the WG officials this question but did not receive a clear response. We believe that if travelling to carry out genuine urgent repairs or emergency works, then this would be permitted but travelling to carry out routine inspections or maintenance that can be delayed would not be allowed.
Can I go on holiday in Wales or the rest of the UK?
No. Travelling into Wales for a holiday is not one of the permitted reasons under the Regulations.
What will the police do?
The police in Wales will engage with people, explain what they need to do and encourage them to comply. But WG state that police forces have been given powers and they will use them – the restrictions will be enforced if people don’t respond. The coronavirus regulations include provisions for a fixed penalty notice to be issued for most types of breaches of the regulations, carrying a fine of £60; this is increased to £120 for a second offence and continues to double for repeated offences, up to a maximum of £1,920. If prosecuted, however, a court can impose any fine (it is not limited).
Welsh Government has issued a frequently asked questions document on its guidance which appears to be updated daily and late on October 21st the Regulations behind the guidance were published.
The BMC will keep this information updated as more information and clarification is obtained
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