Almost all coronavirus restrictions in Wales will be lifted next month but it will remain the law to wear a face mask on public transport and in most indoor settings, 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.
If infection rates then remain stable and even more people are vaccinated, Wales will move to Level 0 on August 7.
Mr Drakeford set out a detailed plan to see the legal restrictions eased and freedoms restored.
From July 17, 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 up to 200 standing, and ice rinks can reopen.
Mr Drakeford said: “We are entering a new phase of the pandemic. Cases of the virus have risen sharply since the Delta variant emerged six weeks ago but, thanks to our fantastic vaccination programme, we are not seeing these translate into large numbers of people falling seriously ill or needing hospital treatment.
“We can be reasonably confident that vaccination 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.
“We can move to alert Level 1 for indoor spaces from July 17 and go further for outdoor spaces because we know the risk of transmission outdoors is lower.
“We are also publishing plans for a new alert Level 0, which will have fewer legal restrictions but which will still need all of us to take steps to protect ourselves.”
The country’s incidence rate is currently 147 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.
On Tuesday, there were 69 people in Welsh hospitals with Covid-19.
If Wales moves to alert Level 0 on August 7, all premises will be able to open and most – but not all – restrictions will be removed and replaced with the ongoing requirement for all organisations and businesses to carry out Covid risk assessments.
There will also be no legal limit on the number of people who can meet others indoors, including in private homes.
Face coverings will continue to be required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, with the exception of hospitality settings.
Mr Drakeford said: “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.”
Mr Drakeford also confirmed that people who have who have been fully vaccinated in the UK will no longer need to self-isolate if they are returning from an amber list country, in line with the position in England and Scotland.
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.
“With some restrictions set to stay in place for at least another three weeks, and Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay sitting on £1.2 billion of unallocated funding, it’s vital this is now used to support those businesses still affected.
“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.”
Level 0 would reduce the two-metre distancing rule to one metre in indoor public spaces. Nicola Sturgeon is set to announce whether Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions can be eased as planned on Monday. The First Minister has said she hopes to move the whole country to Level 0 from July 19, depending on the latest case numbers, hospital admissions and the vaccination rollout. Level 0 would reduce the two-metre distancing rule […]
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