Late on Saturday December 18th, Welsh Government unexpectedly announced that all of Wales would enter an Alert Level 4 Full Lockdown with immediate effect and for an indefinite period. What does this mean for climbers, hill-walkers and mountaineers? Important updates added on 29 January.
Update From Welsh Government Review of Feb 19th
The First Minister has announced minor changes to the current lockdown measures that have some impact for sport and physical activity.
Wales remains at Alert Level 4, and everyone is required to "stay at home" unless they have a reasonable excuse. Exercise is a reasonable excuse, but there are limits on what can be done.
The main changes for sport and physical activity announced are:
As of Saturday February 20th, four people from a maximum of two households will be able to meet outdoors for exercise.
Children under 11 do not count towards this total.
Exercise should still start and end at home, so both households will need to live in close proximity to each other.
Please remember, "household bubbling" is not currently permitted, so this is strictly two households.
No specific form of exercise is prohibited, but the availability of venues imposes practical limits, as does the inability to travel by car to begin exercise.
Disabled people and those with limited mobility can travel to a more suitable location for exercise.
Additionally, the First Minister indicated that Sport Wales will begin to expand the numbers of Elite athletes permitted to train in the coming weeks.
The First Minister has indicated that the process of "reopening" the economy is likely to begin during March. From the detail of his statement and responses to questions, this is likely to prioritise outdoor activity and activity for under 18s first.
The next review will be announced on the 12 March, where we expect the current "stay at home" order to end, enabling travel for outdoor exercise once again.
In seperate new regulations, Welsh Government have introduced powers to close locations or areas of countryside to prevent risk of transmission of the virus due to large gatherings of people. Brecon Beacons National Park Authority has used these powers to close off some key areas of open land and rights of way within the National Park.
Despite the announcement of a full national lockdown in England on January 4th, the regulations in Wales are still different to the rest of the UK in some aspects, especially around travel and excercise.
In brief, this is a summary of the current restrictions:
No person may, without a reasonable excuse, leave the place where they are living or remain away from that place. Exercise is one of those reasonable excuses.
Exercise can only be carried out directly from your home and done alone or with members of your own household. Driving to a location to exercise, even a short distance is not allowed by regulations. The only exception to this is for those who need to travel to a suitable local location due to a physical or mental health issue as defined by Section 6 of the Equality Act. There are now numerous reports of Police forces across Wales enforcing this regulation, including issuing fixed penalty notices and even reporting on summons for court appearances to individuals who have travelled to honeypots to excercise (unlimited fines and a criminal record if proven guilty at court).
The BMC is not aware of any specific closures of any part of the countryside or honeypot areas other than parts of the Brecon Beacons National Park, however many car parks in most honeypot areas have been closed, as travel to excercise in those areas is prohibited.
A person living in a single household can form an exclusive extended household with one other household and be counted as part of that household and may travel to and exercise from that household only.
There are no limits or restrictions on the type of exercise or activities that are permitted but the guidance states that hazardous activities should be avoided to reduce pressures on NHS and emergency services. It is worth stressing once again the immense pressure the NHS is currently under and highlighting the need for everyone to dial back their aspirations to objectives well within their abilities.
Any travel to or from or within Wales is prohibited by regulation (apart from the reasonable excuse clauses, such as travel for work, medical purposes, education, etc.).
All holiday accommodation must close – this includes hotels, holiday cottages, bunk houses, climbing huts and campsites.
Travel in Wales without a reasonable excuse is an offence while alert level 4 restrictions are in place. The Welsh Governerment guidance state that "Travelling into, out of or within Wales to visit, check, inspect, or stay in a second home or holiday home is not a reasonable excuse". This includes climbing huts and other non commercial premises.
Meeting with any other persons from outside your household, even outdoors, for any purpose not defined as a “reasonable excuse” in the regulations is prohibited. From Feb 20th up to four people from two seperate households can meet outdoors for excericse and this is regarded a "reasonable excuse" but that excercise must start and finish from the place you are living.
All non-essential shops and businesses, including leisure facilities and gyms (including climbing walls) must close.
According to Welsh Government, these restrictions will remain in place indefinitely, until infection rates fall, and despite being reviewed every three weeks, the BMC understand that these restrictions are likely to be in place until at least the next review due on March 12th. Along with many other organisations and businesses, the BMC is pressing the Welsh Government to look again at a more regional approach as infection rates in many parts of Wales do not meet the Welsh Government’s own criteria for entering Alert Level 4. When the restrictions are eased, it will only initially be to Alert Level 3, and the BMC along with Association of British Climbing Walls and the Wales Outdoor Alliance are lobbying hard at the most senior level of government to ensure that climbing walls will be able to reopen at that time.
Covid Christmas: What do the new government rules mean for Climbing and Hill Walking in England?
The Welsh Government updated (Dec 18th 2020) and extensive regulations are The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020. The current regulations as they apply to Alert Level 4 are mainly covered in Schedule 4, which is listed from page 83 onwards.
Guidance notes and Frequently Asked Questions on Alert Level 4 on the Welsh Government Coronavirus pages.
The Police College and National Police Chiefs Council Guidance on enforcement of the regulations in Wales may also be useful.
More FAQs about the BMC and Covid-19
🌳 Can I go climbing / hill walking in England? Here's what you can and can't do in the 3rd Lockdown (January 2021)
🌳 What's the situation for climbing and hill walking in Wales? Read our full January update
😷 When and will the walls reopen? In England and Wales they're now closed for the National Lockdown. Read our walls article
✈️ I have a travel insurance question! Here's the FAQs
🏡 Do you have any advice for clubs and huts? Check out our latest clubs, meets and huts update
🛒 Is the BMC shop open? Yes - it is and BMC members get 10% off!
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