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image captionMark Drakeford said the changes to lockdown rules were “not electioneering”
Bringing forward the easing of some Covid restrictions has nothing to do with the upcoming election in Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The Welsh Labour leader had been accused of playing politics after changing a number of lockdown measures during the election campaign.
However, Mr Drakeford said it was “nothing to do with electioneering” and was based on scientific advice.
The Senedd election is on 6 May.
On Monday, Mr Drakeford announced new changes to lockdown measures, allowing up to six people from any households to be able to meet outside – including in private gardens – from Saturday.
Previously, dates to reopen gyms and allow people to form extended households – were moved forward to 3 May instead of the proposed 10 May.
WALES ALERTS: Get extra updates on BBC election coverage
Outdoor wedding receptions for up to 30 people will be allowed from 26 April, again a week earlier than originally planned.
The Welsh Conservatives accused Mr Drakeford of “playing politics” by changing the timetable out of lockdown during the election campaign.
However, speaking on a BBC Wales Ask The Leader programme Mr Drakeford said: “The coronavirus rates in Wales are the lowest in the UK – the vaccination rates are the best in the UK.
“That creates a context in which we could restore more freedoms to people more quickly than we had anticipated.”
WALES ELECTION: THE BASICS
What’s happening? On 6 May, people will vote to elect 60 Members of the Senedd (MSs). The party that can command the support of a majority of MSs will form the Welsh government. Find out more here.
What powers does the Senedd have? MSs pass laws on aspects of life in Wales such as health, education and transport – and have some tax powers.
Mr Drakeford said he would announce more changes for the hospitality sector at Friday’s Welsh government lockdown review briefing.
However, he would not be drawn on whether he would follow England’s lead and allow pubs and restaurants to open indoors on 17 May.
Currently, no date has been set for the reopening of indoor hospitality in Wales, but it could be in time for the Spring Bank Holiday at the end of May.
“I want to do it in the orderly way that we do,” Mr Drakeford said, speaking about any proposed changes.
“That decision will lie the other side of the election, but I will set out what a Labour government would do in the three weeks that follow the election, as we have regularly given a forward signal to indoor hospitality to the rest of the tourism industry and other things about what we think the public health context would now allow.”
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Mr Drakeford said a Welsh Labour government was “leaving the options open” on income tax rates.
He previously said a Welsh Labour government would not raise rates of income tax until “at least” the economic impact of coronavirus has passed.
When asked when he would consider increasing the tax, Mr Drakeford suggested he might lower it: “We are leaving the option open when we get past the current period.
“We will look to see when the recovery is under way what the circumstances are. We didn’t raise income tax in the last five years”.
On the pre-Christmas lockdown, Mr Drakeford said it was the “hardest decision” he had to make last year.
He said the government “took a lot of flak for it” and had “no support from the opposition parties”.
In fact, Plaid Cymru and health professionals had called on him to introduce the lockdown earlier.
Ask The Leader with Mark Drakeford can be seen on the BBC iPlayer.
Note: This lookup covers national elections in Scotland and Wales, the Hartlepool by-election, as well as council and mayoral elections in England and Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections in England and Wales. There may be parish council elections or council by-elections where you are. Check your local council website for full details.Last updated: April 20, 2021, 10:19 GMT
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