Coronavirus: Meeting loved ones outdoors in Wales 'being considered'
May. 19, 2020
Wales' health minister is considering whether people should be able to meet loved ones who are not already in their household outdoors.
The next review of the Welsh Government's lockdown rules is due next week, on 28 May.
It comes as new advice said the virus is "very likely to decay very quickly" when exposed to sunlight.
Vaughan Gething said ministers were having a "very real debate".
In Northern Ireland, groups of up to six people who do not share a household are being allowed to meet outdoors - in England people can meet one other person from outside their household outdoors.
It is not expected any decision would be made before the lockdown review is completed.
Meanwhile he admitted that a new testing system is experiencing "teething problems" - after Wales joined a UK-wide scheme allowing members of the public with symptoms to have tests at home.
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The Welsh Government's Technical Advisory Cell (TAC), in a paper published on Tuesday, said coronavirus "is very likely to decay very quickly (a few minutes) in air and on surfaces when exposed to sunlight.
"This adds to the evidence that outdoor environments are highly likely to be a lower risk for transmission," it says.
The same paper, however, said the rate at which coronavirus is reproducing in Wales "increased slightly" last week.
On 12 May, TAC said the consensus view was that R in Wales was between 0.7 and 1 - up from between 0.7 and 0.9.
The Welsh Government has said they want to keep R below one. The paper adds that whilst R is "almost certain to be under 1, it could be close to it".
Explaining the increase, it adds: "This is because the number of cases in the community is decreasing while the number in, or seeded by, care homes or hospitals remains broadly flat.
"As a result, hospital or care home cases represent a higher proportion of total cases. This means that the rate at which the overall epidemic is shrinking has slowed."
Image copyright Welsh Government Image caption Vaughan Gething spoke at the daily Welsh Government press conference
Currently in Wales people are not permitted to travel to see loved ones - and the Welsh Government has stuck to its original "stay home" advice.
Asked at the daily Welsh Government press conference if the advice was a reason to allow the public to meet loved ones outdoors, Mr Gething said the evidence was "developing".
"So we need to think about what that then means, not just about being outside, but who you are outside with and the level of contact you have," he said.
They are "active considerations", he said.
The published evidence helps to inform the "very real debate that ministers are having with our advisors on how we continue to take a deliberately cautious approach".
He added he did not want to risk "the health and safety of the people of Wales" or throw away "the hard won gains the people of Wales have delivered".
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption The original 'stay home' advice in Wales has been maintained
On Monday the Welsh Government joined a UK-wide testing portal and home testing scheme, allowing people aged five and over to be tested if they have symptoms.
But on Tuesday morning the portal showed no testing kits were available. Testing sites in Wales could also not be booked for the general public, but could for key workers.
Mr Gething said they would seek to understand "teething bumps" in the system.
"We anticipate there will be a high level of demand for home testing kits over the first few days."
"The UK government has confirmed priority will be given to home testing kits for critical workers and it will be working to increase home testing capacity for the public."
Contact testing trial
Home testing is a key part of the Welsh Government's plans for tracing coronavirus contacts.
Mr Gething announced the system will be piloted in the Cwm Taf Morgannwg, Powys, Betsi Cadwaladr and Hywel Dda health board areas.
"Each pilot will be delivered by a local authority and their staff," the minister said.
Mr Gething said the trials would run for two weeks and would be "small scale".
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