In recent days, it has been confirmed that the whole of England, and Scotland respectively, will join Wales in a form of national lockdown, with the aim to slow the worrying rise in Coronavirus cases and protect the population from the virus, and the NHS from reaching capacity.
Through the recent changes in restrictions and guidance within the whole of the UK, you could be forgiven for getting confused as to what applies to us here in the Vale of Glamorgan and Wales as a whole, with the Twitter account for the Welsh Government even taking to the social media site to remind ITV Journalist, Robert Peston, and those reading his tweets, that when he referred to new announcements from Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding a "national lockdown" that these announcements only affected those in England.
So what is "Alert Level 4" (which is what we're in here in Wales) and what does it mean? We've put together a handy guide to try and explain.
In General, Alert Level 4 means that:
As at all alert levels, face coverings continue to be mandatory in the indoor public spaces that remain open (subject to certain exemptions and exceptions), including on public transport and in taxis, and people must self-isolate when told to do so by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect.
When Can I Leave Home?
Though people in Wales have been asked to stay at home, there are some reasons to leave the house which are permitted. These are:
While outside their home, the Welsh Government has said that individuals must try to minimise their time outside and stay at least 2 metres apart from anyone they do not live with.
In regard to shielding, the advice to those who are "Clinically Extremely Vulnerable" has changed. You are advised that you should no longer attend work or school outside the home if you fall within this group and have previously received letters from the Chief Medical Officer for Wales. The Welsh Government will be sending a letter out as soon as possible to confirm this advice to you.
Furthermore, the Welsh Government has stated that "the regulations in place act to reduce the circulation of the virus and by sticking strictly to the rules, people who are vulnerable will reduce their risk of exposure." Further reductions in risk can be achieved by:
Seeing Other People
Largely, while Wales is in Alert Level 4, individuals must not meet up with anyone they do not live with, except in very limited circumstances such as providing or receiving care. Adults living alone or those in a household with a single responsible adult can form a support bubble with one other household.
Restrictions do not differ depending on whether you are indoors or out, or whether you - or anyone in your potential party - has had the coronavirus vaccine.
Residents of Wales are still able to exercise, with the Welsh Government saying you can "leave home as often as you like to exercise as long as you do so from home and alone or with members of your household or support bubble".
There are no legal limits on the form of exercise you choose, nor the length of time or distance you travel while exercising, but your activity should start and end at home. Parks and playgrounds will remain open.
People who have tested positive or have come in to close contact with someone who has had a positive test for coronavirus will be required by law to self-isolate for 10 days when told to do so by NHS Wales Test, Trace, Protect. This notification will come through a phone call, text message or email. Failure to do so can lead to you being issued a fixed penalty notice or criminal prosecution.
The Welsh Government also strongly advises you to self-isolate if you are notified through the NHS Covid-19 app that you should do so. However, there is no legal duty to do so because the privacy and anonymity protections on the app mean that it does not collect any personal details.
Furthermore, if you have symptoms of COVID-19, however mild, you should follow the general self-isolation guidance and should arrange to have a test (although again this is not covered by the legal duty).
Initially, the Welsh Government said that both primary and secondary schools would remain open as normal after the Christmas holidays, but on Monday 4th January it was announced that schools and colleges across Wales will move to online learning until January 18th. Children of critical workers and vulnerable learners, as well as for learners who need to complete essential exams or assessments will still be able to attend in person.
What Happens If I Don't Follow The Guidance?
In regard to this, the Welsh Government have said:
"Most of what is set out in this guidance reflects requirements in the Regulations, which is the law and so may be enforced by the police or local authority enforcement officers. However, even when things are permitted, we ask you to think carefully about what is the most sensible thing for you to do to protect your family, friends and your community, rather than thinking about what the law allows you to do. The purpose of moving to alert level 4 is to do everything we can to slow the spread of coronavirus and protect people’s health, so every individual contribution counts towards that collective effort.
"Where you breach the law, you may be told to go home or removed from where you are and returned home. You could be asked to pay a fixed penalty notice of £60. This will rise to £120 for the second breach and continue to increase for further breaches. For more serious offences, penalties start at £500. Or you could have criminal proceedings brought against you, and if found guilty, you will have to pay a fine."
For a full list of the frequently asked questions on Alert Level 4, you can find out more on the government's website, here.