Closure Rationale in relation to The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020
In response to the Welsh Government’s introduction of the Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (Wales) Regulations 2020 back in March, we implemented access restrictions in the National Park in line with the timetable required of us in the regulations. Since then we have continued to review the effectiveness of the closures on a weekly basis. Our monitoring of the closures has shown that they have been and remain largely effective and we thank members of the public for their vigilance, patience and consideration for other people.
Throughout the lockdown we have participated in regular Wales-wide access review meetings and these have discussed access management under the Regulations and how colleague organisations have been responding to the lockdown restrictions. We continue to liaise with the Welsh Government and our sister National Park Authorities in Wales and Britain as a whole. The publication of the Welsh Government’s Red Amber Green traffic light system and ‘road map’ for the easing of restrictions (https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/publications/2020-05/unlocking-our-society-and-economy-continuing-the-conversation.pdf) as well as sector-specific guidance that Natural Resources Wales has produced: https://cdn.naturalresources.wales/media/691868/guidance-for-reopening-natural-and-outdoor-cultural-sites-for-recreation-final.pdf has helped us in drafting the recovery plan for the National Park. We have used this and our local site knowledge to review the sites and routes affected by the lockdown and have consulted with relevant partner organisations over this review, most recently on Thursday June 18th 2020. Our Partners have been working on their own plans and have provided additional advice, in particular where they are site owners or have a responsibility for implementing the Regulations’ We have held a series of meetings to ensure that there is a co-ordinated approach across the National Park which is aligned to steps being taken elsewhere in Wales. Relevant partners include Dyfed-Powys Police, Natural Resources Wales, The National Trust Wales, Canal and Rivers Trust, Dŵr Cymru Welsh Water, Powys County Council and Monmouthshire County Council.
The First Minister of Wales Statement on Friday 19th June 2020 advised that although the spread of infection is reducing, coronavirus still presents a threat to public health in Wales. The Welsh Government is therefore continuing to require people to stay in their local area unless they have a reasonable need to travel further, to only meet one other household outdoors and to require certain businesses, such as bars and restaurants to remain closed for the time being.
The statement went on to explain that given the improving picture, the Welsh Government will review the requirement to stay local, with a view to lifting the travel restriction on July 6th 2020 if the conditions allow. It has therefore advised local communities, local authorities, National Park Authorities and outdoor visitor attractions to use this period to prepare for reopening and welcoming visitors back to Wales. The Welsh Government will base its decision on the latest scientific and medical evidence and advice on how the virus is behaving in Wales. The current requirement to stay local and not generally travel more than five miles from home will therefore remain in place until that decision is made.
Evidence is emerging that outdoor spaces are less risky in terms of transmission as the half-life of the virus is reduced in outdoor environments compared with its indoor life on hard surfaces. As the First Minister of Wales noted the R number is remaining below 1 (0.7-0.9) which means the spread of the virus can be contained.
In light of this evidence and the increased public awareness of the virus and how it can be controlled, we have taken the decision to ease the site restrictions further and we await further advice on July 6th 2020. The majority of the Park’s Public Rights of Way network also remains open for local use. However, for the time being we continue to keep a number of car parks closed in order to discourage long distance journeys for exercise, which are still not permissible in Wales under the Regulations. The sites that remain closed are closed because our assessments have placed them at higher risk of encouraging visitors to travel and congregate beyond their locality in the Park and because of their high popularity nationally and locally, which renders them very likely to attract congregations of people and to encourage people to travel longer distances. We have been advised by Welsh Government that there is still concern that public gatherings could result in increasing transmission levels. Other sites remain closed currently because other measures must be prepared in advance (toilet services), community sensitivities need to be addressed or the site-owning organisations have signalled their preference for those sites to remain closed.
We are making preparations for further phased lifting of the restrictions across a wider range of sites during the week of Monday July 6th 2020 but these will happen only if the Welsh Government’s analysis permits us to do so. We will continue to review matters in consultation with our partners and in line with the guidance from Welsh Government and Natural Resources Wales.
For the re-opening of any sites to work, we have to rely on members of the public respecting the seriousness of the pandemic and the precautions and sensitivities that they observe, particularly in relation to maintaining social distancing and hygiene. As society has become used to social distancing and the additional behaviours necessary to keep people safe we have been able to re-open some sites. We hope people will visit responsibly and enjoy the National Park whilst being kind to people and nature and staying safe.
Whilst some sites have now been released from lockdown, the Regulations otherwise remain fully in force, and we are advised by the Police that they are still enforcing the Regulations.