Many will have gathered around their TV screens on the evening of Sunday, 10 May to listen to the Prime Minister’s televised address regarding changes to the COVID-19 lockdown in England, where he laid out a “conditional plan” for easing the restrictions.

Boris Johnson’s announcement came hot on the heels of statements by the First Ministers of Wales and Scotland at the end of last week and ahead of the planned statement by Arlene Foster in Northern Ireland on the 12 May. 

Whereas the Celtic nations have stuck with the slogan stay home, protect the NHS, save lives “, the UK Government’s messaging for England has evolved somewhat to stay alert, control the virus, save lives”. 

The coronavirus data released on Monday, 11 May is as horrific as it is astonishing. The number of confirmed UK cases has hit 219,182, with the total number of deaths being 31,855. More than five per cent (11,344) of those confirmed cases are in Wales. 

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Statistics from the UK’s national public health agencies published by the BBC on the 10 May confirm that my local council, Rhondda Cynon Taff, has amongst the highest number of cases per 10,000 in the whole of the UK. Little wonder then, that as I sit in my front room working, living as I do only a mile from Wales’ largest hospital, I am listening to an almost uninterrupted chorus of ambulance sirens. 

What is becoming increasingly apparent from the various statements over the course of the last week is that the devolved nations are creating a different pathway as the lockdown is very gradually eased, from the one in England. 

As I posted on Twitter (@SianWRees) over the weekend, the advice from the Welsh Parliament is as follows: WALES is at R0.8. Stay at home REMAINS. Essential journeys ONLY. 2m rule CONTINUES. Shielders to CONTINUE shielding. Exercise allowed more than once a day. Garden centres, libraries and recycling centres to reopen slowly. 

So, what are the key differences between policies in England and those here in Wales?

Work: Mr Johnson’s encouragement to those who cannot work from home to go to work as of Wednesday, will not be implemented here in Wales.

Education: Whereas Mr Johnson announced that primary schools in England may be ready to reopen in stages from 1 June onwards, Wales’ Minister for Education Kirsty Williams has announced that this will not be the case in Wales and will publish more information this week. 

Meeting friends and family: Guidance in England allows two people from different households to meet in outdoor settings like parks as long as they maintain the two-meter rule. No such guidance has been issued in Wales. 

England has stated that places of worship will reopen under the third step of the Government’s plan, no earlier than 4 July if the data proves that it is safe to do so. Wales has not yet issued a date for the reopening of places of worship. 

Driving: Whereas in Wales, only essential journeys are allowed, households in England will be permitted to drive to other destinations such as parks and beaches. 

Public transport: Residents in England should still avoid public transport if possible, because of social distancing measures. Those in Wales should avoid all non-essential journeys.

Hospitality and retail: The Prime Minister hopes to reopen at least some of the hospitality industry in England, but this will happen by July at the earliest, after some shops and schools.

Exercise: In Wales, exercise is allowed more than once a day. However, from Wednesday, people in England will be able to spend more time outdoors for leisure purposes including unlimited amounts of outdoor exercise. They will be allowed to sit in parks and play sports with people from the same household. 

It is critically important as lockdown is eased over the coming months that all residents of the UK are attentive to the advice of the UK Government, and that they ensure that (in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland) they are following the directives set out by the devolved parliament or assembly. 

This is a time whereby differences in messaging slogans could potentially cause confusion. It is therefore essential to keep up with various guidance in order to both safeguard our health and remain within the law.

The people of Wales would dearly love you to visit our beautiful nation, but not until it is deemed safe and legal to do so. No announcement regarding permission to cross the border from England into Wales has been made and you may well be turned back by Welsh police for attempting to visit either a beach, a scenic destination or a second home here. The NHS here in Wales is under immense strain, as it is across the UK. The possibility of having to treat additional numbers of people is unimaginable. 

Part of our Christian witness (as ever) during this season is to remain respectful of the guidance laid down by each nation’s assembly or parliament. It is also a time to pray for those in authority who carry the weight of making decisions which affect us all. 

1 Timothy 2 reminds us that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people, for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth”.

Image: Snowdonia National Park, Wales, by Tim Felce 

The NHS here in Wales is under immense strain, as it is across the UK. The possibility of having to treat additional numbers of people is unimaginable.