The Welsh Government published the plan, called Together for a Safer Future: Wales’ Long-term Covid-19 Transition from Pandemic to Endemic, on Friday (4 March).
Wales will remain at alert level 0 for the next three weeks, but all legal restrictions will be dropped on 28 March if the situation stays stable, First Minister Mark Drakeford announced in a press conference.
UKH executive director for Wales Dave Chapman said: “The hospitality sector was hit first, hardest and longest by the pandemic and so we welcome this shift to a more long-term focus and more sustainable way of living and working.”
However, he urged the Welsh Government to remove its guidance to continue to work from home, in order to revive “once-vibrant high streets,” as footfall still remained low in towns and city centres.
The plan sets out how Wales’s Covid response will change under two core planning scenarios: Covid Stable and Covid Urgent.
Covid Stable, deemed to be the most likely scenario, will be if Wales encounters new waves of infection but they do not put unsustainable pressure on the NHS. This scenario includes encouraging businesses to build on the elements of infection control they have put in place to protect staff and customers.
The Covid Urgent response will be enacted if the Covid situation becomes overwhelming, for instance, if a new variant cannot be controlled by the vaccine.
“Business is by no means back to pre-pandemic levels yet and, as we approach the second anniversary of the first lockdown, the Welsh hospitality sector still faces huge challenges,” Chapman said.
It's not over yet
He continued: “Businesses remain fragile and are carrying large amounts of debt. With costs rising across the board and a VAT rise due this April – just as the wider cost of living crisis is set to bite – businesses in the sector still need support.”
At the very least, Chapman believed the UK Government needed to commit to keeping VAT at 12.5% beyond April.
In today’s press conference, Drakeford said: “As we publish this longer-term plan, there is no doubt we have reached a significant moment in this pandemic and we can look to the future with growing confidence that the next year will be one in which we have a different relationship with the virus.
"But the pandemic isn't over – this virus is full of nasty surprises and we are likely to see fluctuations in global patterns of infection for several years. We need to be ready to respond quickly to any future outbreaks or new variants as we learn to live safely alongside coronavirus in the long term.”