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Most COVID restrictions expected to end in Wales next month under new plans

Most COVID restrictions expected to end in Wales next month under new plans

First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford has set out plans for the next stages of lockdown easing in Wales, with most remaining restrictions expected to be removed next month.

Mr Drakeford confirmed on Wednesday that Wales will first move fully to alert level one next week on 17 July - the move had been expected to take place earlier but was paused four weeks ago as a result of the spread of the Delta variant and to allow time for more people to be vaccinated.

From 17 July, groups of up to six people will be allowed to meet indoors in privates homes and holiday accommodation, while organised indoor events will be allowed with up to 1,000 people seated and up to 200 people standing. Rules limiting the number of people who can meet in outdoor public places or at events outdoors will also be removed.

In addition, groups of up to 30 children will be allowed to visit children's residential activity centres, ice rinks will be allowed to reopen and employers will be specifically required to provide comprehensive information to their employees regarding risks and mitigations identified in COVID risk assessments. 

Speaking about the changes, the First Minister said;

"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 one for indoor spaces from 17 July 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 zero, which will have fewer legal restrictions but which will still need all of us to take steps to protect ourselves."

Ministers are hoping that the country will be able to transition to a new alert level zero from 7 August. At alert level one, there will be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet others in any setting - other measures are set to include;

  • All businesses will be allowed to reopen, including nightclubs
  • Measures such as social distancing will be for each organisation to consider

A number of mitigations are though set to remain in place;

  • Government advice will continue to state that people should work from home wherever possible
  • Face coverings will continue to be a legal requirement indoors in most public places including in retail, healthcare and on public transport - but with the exception of education and hospitality settings.
  • The Welsh Government will continue to advise against all but essential international travel.

The Welsh Government has said it currently has no plans to introduce mandatory requirements for COVID-status certification in any more businesses, though this will be available as a tool for event venues and nightclubs should they wish to use it. An updated version of the Government's Coronavirus Control Plan setting out how the country can move to the new alert level zero has now been published online.

Speaking to the Senedd on Wednesday afternoon, Mr Drakeford said,

"The rising tide of cases has not translated into higher rates of serious illnesses, hospital admissions and deaths in the same way it did during the first wave or in the Winter - that is because of vaccination"

"I want to put on record again my thanks to all those people who have worked so hard to plan and run this highest successful programme"

Leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said that the Government was "quite right to identify that we are still in the middle of many challenging periods of time that we are going to face with the COVID crisis", though said he "personally would of liked to have seen greater speed and greater urgency in bringing some of these measures forward, but I appreciate the difficult decisions the Cabinet have had to take".

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