Drakeford announces timetable for easing further restrictions
Wales will take its next step towards a future with fewer Covid-19 legal restrictions the First Minister has announced today.
Mark Drakeford today set out a longer-term plan for the summer, which will see Wales will move fully into alert level one from 17 July.
The changes mean up to six people can meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation, and organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 seated and up to 200 standing.
The changes were paused four weeks ago because of the emergence and spread of the delta variant across the UK and to enable more people to be vaccinated in Wales.
And there will be further changes to the rules outdoors as Wales takes the first careful step towards a new alert level zero.
Alert level zero is set out in an updated Coronavirus Control Plan, which is published today. If the public health situation allows, Wales will move to this level on 7 August.
First Minister Mark 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 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.”
‘Alert level one’
From 17 July, Wales will move fully to alert level one, including:
- Up to six people can meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation.
- Organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 seated and up to 200 standing.
- Ice rinks can reopen.
- Wales will also take the first step into alert level zero as the limits on the numbers of people who can meet in public places or at events will be removed. Outdoor premises and events will also have greater flexibility around physical distancing.
Also from 17 July other changes include:
- New rules for children’s residential activity centres so children in groups of up to 30 can visit.
- A specific requirement for employees to provide comprehensive information on the risks and mitigations identified in the COVID risk assessment with their employees.
- If Wales moves to alert level zero on 7 August, all premises would 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. These will determine what reasonable measures are needed to be put in place to keep workers and customers and visitors safe.
There will also be no legal limits 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 at alert level zero from 7 August, with the exception of hospitality settings.
The First Minister 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.”
The First Minister has 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.
Responding to the First Minister’s statement on lockdown restrictions, Welsh Conservative leader, Andrew RT Davies, said: “Welsh Conservatives welcome this long-awaited clarity from Labour ministers, and we are pleased that they have listened to our calls to publish a detailed plan for easing restrictions and restoring freedoms in Wales.
“Whilst we regret the Welsh Labour Government has been the last government in Britain to publish a plan, it is a case of better late than never, and the lifting of restrictions will ensure we can get our economy and public services on the road to recovery.
“Thanks to the hugely successful vaccination programme, we have made great progress in restoring our normal way of life, with the link between cases and hospitalisations severely weakened.
“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 say in place for at least another three weeks, and Labour ministers in Cardiff Bay sitting on £1.2billion 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 judgement when going about our lives.”