Most Covid-19 rules set to be lifted in Wales on August 7
Facemasks are to remain mandatory in Wales as most coronavirus restrictions will be lifted over the coming weeks, the First Minister has said.
Mark Drakeford said Wales will move fully into alert Level 1 from July 17 – following a four-week pause due to the rise of the Delta variant.
It means up to six people can meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation, organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 people seated and ice rinks can reopen.
And if infection levels remain stable and vaccination rates continue to rise, Wales will move to Level 0 on August 7.
Nightclubs will be allowed to reopen and limits on the number of people who can meet indoors will be lifted and replaced with a requirement for workplaces to carry out Covid-19 risk assessments.
But face masks will still be required in most indoor public places, except in pubs and restaurants and schools.
Mr Drakeford warned that going abroad on holiday this year “puts others at risk” after announcing Wales would follow England in allowing double jabbed travellers returning from amber list countries to not self-isolate, although they would have to take a PCR test.
Vaccination certificates will also be available to people in Wales who need them, such as for foreign travel or to visit venues, but would not be compulsory.
“Life will have returned very substantially to how it was before the coronavirus pandemic began,” Mr Drakeford told the Senedd.
“But here in Wales, we will not abandon all those measures which have done so much to keep us all safe.”
Mr Drakeford said he was “reasonably confident” the vaccination programme has weakened the link between infections and serious illness.
“But there is still a risk that this third wave of the pandemic could cause real harm – either direct harm from the virus or indirect harm from, for example, people having to isolate,” he said.
The country’s incidence rate is currently 145 cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 people – the lowest in the UK – and it also has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world with 73% of adults having received both doses.
On Tuesday, there were 69 people in Welsh hospitals with Covid-19.
Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government briefing facemasks would continue to be mandatory to partially to reassure those who are clinically vulnerable.
“The needs of the clinically vulnerable have been very much in the forefront of the discussions that we’ve had inside the Welsh Government,” he said.
“We will go on making sure that they have the best advice, that they have help when they need it, and that we can do what we can to give them the confidence of knowing that they live in a country where people are still prepared to do things that help to keep them safe.
“The pandemic is not over and the virus continues to spread across Wales, which makes it really important for everyone to say yes to vaccination and to do everything we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe.
“Even though vaccines have weakened the link between the virus and hospitalisation, we are seeing young, fit people suffer from long Covid, which, for some, has a major impact on their lives.
“We have the headroom to continue to gradually remove restrictions, but each and every one of us has a really important part to play to keep Wales safe as we head into the summer.”
Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Conservative group in the Senedd, said: “There will never be a perfect time to lift all restrictions and sadly no date will come with zero risk, but, with the vaccines working, we need to start the important job of rebuilding the Welsh economy.
“We have to learn to live with this virus, and we must all continue to carefully manage the risks and exercise personal judgment when going about our lives.”
Rhun ap Iorwerth, Plaid Cymru’s health and social care spokesman, welcomed the easing of restrictions but said he was pleased Wales was not moving as fast as England.
“We can’t ignore the incredible steps being taken by Boris Johnson for England, and the pressures on Wales, and the pressures on you, to set a similar timetable,” he told the First Minister in the Senedd.
“I’m pleased, once again, that we in Wales are refusing to follow that agenda over the border.
“I am pleased, however, that we are moving towards lifting some restrictions – it’s the right thing to do. It’s a good thing to move towards normality.”
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