RADNORSHIRE pubs are raring to go once again with the news that Wales plans to move to alert level zero by the end of the month.

First Minister Mark Drakeford made the announcement at lunchtime today, with the latest public health data suggesting cases of coronavirus have started to recede from their previously very high levels. The full move to alert level zero will be dependent on the public health situation continuing to improve.

From tomorrow (January 15) the number of people who can be present at outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500.

From next Friday, January 21, Wales would move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities. If the downward trend continues, then from Friday, January 28, the nation would also move to alert level zero for all indoor activities – nightclubs will be able to re-open and the rule of six in pubs and restaurants, including table service and the two-metre physical distancing rule, would no longer be required.

The news has been broadly welcomed by boozers in the middle of Powys – with many landlords and ladies seeing a 50 per drop in profits over a quieter than usual Christmas period.

“It’s about time,” said Tony Jones, who runs the Roast Ox Inn, in Painscastle, between Builth Wells and Hay-on-Wye.

“We’re definitely down by at least 50 per cent. The two-metre rule is what crucifies us. If you cannot cope with table service and six to a table restrictions then you shouldn't be operating.”

Over in Rhayader, Elan Hotel landlord Martin McDaid is at least grateful that normal service could resume ahead of another crucial period for the industry.

“It’s good news for us with the Six Nations starting in February,” he said. “The 5th would have been a huge headache for hospitality to manage [had things remained the same].

Champions Wales start their campaign in Dublin against Ireland.

“We will have to crack on now hope that no more restrictions are placed upon us,” added Martin, who bemoaned the lack of financial aid from the Welsh Government.

“The supposed financial support we are able to claim is a disaster as we don’t again meet their criteria at 60 per cent of reduction in trade. Most people I talk with, including us, are only down 50 per cent.”

County Times: The Radnorshire Arms in PresteigneThe Radnorshire Arms in Presteigne

Across the shire, there was little cheer for Radnorshire Arms landlord John Rivers over Christmas, with pubs in Presteigne and other border towns so close to – and yet so far away from – the freedom enjoyed by rival businesses in England.

“I think for our trade it’s a good thing in terms of business coming through the door,” he said.

“We lost a lot of business over Christmas with people coming across the border to see family but the restrictions put them off staying with us. If people can just use a little common sense and be sensible and honest we should all be OK.”

First Minister Mr Drakeford said: “I want to thank everyone for following the rules we have had in place since Boxing Day to help keep Wales safe while the fast-moving omicron variant has surged through our communities.

“I also want to thank everyone involved in our vaccination programme for the enormous efforts to give almost a third of the population a booster since the start of December – this has been vital in increasing our protection against omicron.

“The actions we have taken together have helped us to weather the omicron storm. We can now look more confidently to the future and plan to start gradually removing the alert level two restrictions, starting with the outdoors measures.

“But the pandemic is not over. This is a fast-moving and volatile variant, which could change suddenly. I urge everyone to continue to follow the rules and have your vaccines to keep Wales safe.”

From January 21 Wales would move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities. Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events, outdoor hospitality would be able to operate without additional reasonable measures, while the Covid Pass will be required for entry to larger outdoor events.

If the downward trend continues, Wales would move to alert level zero for all indoor activities a week later. Nightclubs will be able to re-open; working from home would remain important but no longer a legal requirement; businesses, employers and other organisations must undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread; while the Covid Pass will be required for entry to nightclubs, events, cinemas, concert halls and theatres.

The self-isolation rules for all those who test positive for Covid and the face covering rules for most public indoor places will remain in force after January 28.

The three-weekly cycle would be re-introduced from February 10, when the Welsh Government will review all remaining measures at alert level zero.