By Sian Jones
As Wales enjoys a final flourish of late summer weather, it feels almost inconceivable that a second coronavirus lockdown could soon be on the horizon. Yet that’s exactly what the Welsh Health Secretary, Vaughan Gething, announced this week, as face masks finally became mandatory in Welsh shops and Wales’ own version of the ‘rule of six’ came into force. Rather chillingly – ironic, given the sweltering heat – Mr Gething stated that Wales was back in the situation it had been in in early February, just as the pandemic’s grip was beginning to take hold.
It’s also the week in which the Welsh Government, in another departure from the stance of its UK counterpart, announced its post-pandemic ambition to have 30% of Welsh workers working from, or near, their homes, citing the economic and well-being benefits. Other remote working possibilities, such as community hubs, are also being considered, said Minister Lee Waters in a statement. Many, particularly those living in more remote rural areas with limited transport connections, have seen Wales’ homeworking revolution as one of the unexpected boons of the pandemic. Others will be hopeful that less of a ‘brain drain’ to Wales’ major urban centres – Cardiff, Newport and Swansea – will provide renewed opportunities for regeneration in parts of the country that have hitherto seen little economic investment.
Meanwhile all children, across all year groups, finally returned to school – much to the relief of parents across the country. But with reports of year-groups already being isolated as new COVID cases come to light, and tests increasingly hard to come by, there’s likely to be little respite this term for parents hoping for a break from home-schooling.
All in all, this week’s reality check has marked a sombre end to what has been an unexpectedly successful summer for Welsh tourism; an opportunity for staycationers to sample the best that Wales has to offer – whether it’s stunning beaches, dramatic mountains, or top-class local food. But, as the idyllic summer sunsets give way to a cooler autumn chill, the nation – and its leaders – are readying themselves for what could be a grim winter.