The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2021 came into force on 20 January 2021 and make amendments to the existing Welsh Regulations that have been in place since December 2020.
The Regulations discussed here supplement the existing regulations, the requirements of which are still in place.
The Regulations apply to Wales only.
Requirement to Isolate following certain International Travel
The entirety of Wales is currently under Alert Level 4 and as such no person should be leaving their home, including to travel, without reasonable excuse. However, further isolation restrictions have been put in place to combat the new variants of Covid-19 recently discovered in South Africa and South America.
Any person who is in Wales at 4am on 9 January 2021 who within the previous ten days (i.e. from 4am on 30 December 2020) arrived from a listed African country is required to isolate for ten days from the day they were last in that listed country.
The listed African countries are: Eswatini, Lesotho, Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Any person who is in Wales at 4am on 15 January 2021 who within the previous ten days (i.e. from 4am on 5 January 2021) arrived from a listed South American country, or Portugal, is required to isolate for ten days from the day they were last in that listed country.
The listed countries are: Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Portugal, Republic of Cabo Verde, Panama, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.
There is an exemption for road haulage workers who have been in Portugal only, and not any of the other listed countries, within the designated time period.
The requirement to isolate in both of these cases extends to all members of a person’s household, regardless of whether they travelled to any of the listed countries.
A person who should be isolating may leave their house for a limited and finite list of reasons set out in the Regulations, including to seek urgent medical advice, avoid injury, to fulfil a legal obligation or if required by a constable.
A failure to isolate, or to give false or misleading information to a contract tracer, is an offence, punishable on summary conviction by a fine.
Requirement of Businesses to Carry Out Risk Assessments
Previously, businesses in Wales were required to take all reasonable measures to ensure two metre distancing and minimise face to face interaction.
In addition to this requirement, regulated premises must undertake a specific assessment of the risk of exposure to coronavirus at the premises, and must consult with their employees or employee representatives in doing so. Regulated premises include public transport, hospitality venues, public services such as places of worship, personal services, leisure facilities, sports facilities and retail premises including petrol stations. Whilst some of these premises are currently closed under the Regulations, businesses should be aware of this requirement prior to reopening.
The risk assessment must comply with the obligations of Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999(3), whether or not those regulations apply to the premises and regardless of whether an assessment has already been undertaken.
Premises Licensed for Alcohol Consumption on the Premises
In addition to the above, hospitality venues that are licensed for customers to consume alcohol on the premises, must also:
- Employ an individual to control entry to the premises
- Require customers to be seated, not at a bar, whilst ordering, being served and consuming food or drink, unless at a buffet.
These restrictions to not apply to workplace canteens or educational establishments.
In addition to the requirement to carry out a risk assessment, retail premises, including businesses selling food or drink for consumption off the premises, must also:
- Take measures to control entry to the premises
- Limit the number of customers on the premises at any one time
- Provide hand sanitiser or hand washing facilities on entry and exit
- Take measures to sanitise baskets, trolleys and any similar items used by customers
- Display signs and regularly make announcements reminding customers to wear a face covering and maintain two metre distancing.
Businesses that do not comply with these requirements may be issued with either a premises improvement notice, specifying measures to be taken, or a premises closure notice.
A premises closure notice may only be issued if the measures specified in an improvement notice are not implemented, or if an enforcement officer deems it necessary and proportionate to issue in place of an improvement notice to minimise the risk of Covid-19.
If measures are implemented and improvements made, both forms of notice may be terminated by an enforcement officer.
Businesses have a right to appeal these notices. Appeals must be made to the Magistrates Court within 7 days of the notice being issued.
Pupils are not permitted to attend school except for a finite list of exceptions, including to take an exam, to reside at boarding school or if a child is vulnerable. The children of critical workers may also attend.
No student may attend a further education establishment unless it is to take an exam or it is appropriate due to a student’s vulnerability.
Welsh Ministers or the local authority may apply to the High Court or County Court for a without notice injunction upon breach of either of these regulations.
The amendments to the Welsh regulations largely relate to minimising the spread of Covid-19 at business premises and reducing the chance of new Covid-19 variants, recently discovered in South Africa and South America, circulating widely around Wales.
The Regulations are subject to regular review, and it is likely that further amendments will be made as the impact of the Welsh lockdown materialises.