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?
With Wales already set to enter Tier 4 lockdown on Dec 28th, this announcement, bringing forward the lockdown, caught many people out and it impacted on many businesses and on individuals’ Christmas and new year travel plans. Welsh Government states that the move to Tier 4 Lockdown across the whole of Wales is required due to rapidly rising infection rates of a new variant of the Covid virus, especially so in the southern parts of Wales. Infection rates in the north of Wales and in rural areas remain low but the Alert Level 4 applies to the whole of Wales.
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, or on restrictions to enter and exercise in open spaces, however many car parks in such areas have been closed, as travel to 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 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. People cannot meet up with people from other households for excericse, even in the outdoors, unless an individual is from a single household and has formed an exclusive extended household with one other household.
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 end of January. 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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