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Wales to end all Covid regulations as country looks forward to ‘brighter future’

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the end of the final Covid-19 restrictions. (Welsh Government/PA)
Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced the end of the final Covid-19 restrictions. (Welsh Government/PA)

Mark Drakeford has said Wales can look forward to a “brighter future” as he announced plans to lift the last remaining Covid-19 restrictions.

The legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will end on Monday May 30, the Welsh Government said.

But the First Minister urged people to keep taking steps to protect their health as the country moves beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.

He repeated the warning the four UK chief medical officers issued this week about the risk of new variants.

Mr Drakeford said: “The pandemic has had a profound impact on all our lives, everyone has made sacrifices and changes over the last two years.

“But it is thanks to all your efforts that we can move beyond the emergency response while still living safely with this virus.

“I want to thank everyone for all you have done to protect yourselves and your loved ones.

“You have followed the rules and you have kept Wales safe.

“This three-week review of the coronavirus regulations is a significant milestone, we are completing our careful and gradual transition away from legal protections and away from the emergency response to the pandemic.”

He added ministers would “remain alert to the threat of new and emerging variants”.

During a press conference on Friday, Mr Drakeford said that despite the legal requirement on health and care settings being lifted he would “continue to strongly recommend it to protect vulnerable people and staff working there”.

“Continuing to take simple steps, including staying up to date with vaccinations, self-isolating if you have Covid-19 symptoms and maintaining good hand hygiene, will be important in helping us all to enjoy a safer and brighter future together,” he said.

Coronavirus
A herd of goats takes advantage of quiet streets in Llandudno, north Wales, during the lockdown (Peter Byrne/PA)

Mr Drakeford said the end of the regulations would also mean an end to the three-week reviews and to the public press conferences.

He said: “All these measures are on hold in case we see another pandemic wave later in the autumn or winter, as we saw last year and the year before.”

While he said the government was prepared to bring back testing and contact tracing should there we an increase in cases, he said they are focused on preparing for the autumn booster vaccine programme with an aim to “manage coronavirus as we would manage any other seasonal illnesses”.

Ending his speech he thanked the people in Wales once again for helping keep the country safe.

And said: “Let’s enjoy the summer together, as we plan and prepare for whatever the future may bring.

“Diolch o galon i chi gyd.”

The latest results from the ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey are said to show the percentage of people testing positive for coronavirus in Wales is falling.

The number of Covid-19 related patients in hospitals has also fallen to less than 650 and is at its lowest level since December 2021.

Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Russell George MS said he was “delighted” at the news while criticising what he claims was Labour’s “overreaction” to the Omicron variant.

“Not only do we need to remember all those who lost lives and loved ones to lockdowns and the virus itself, but learn the lessons of the pandemic about how we can counter another one and assess the impact of deploying harsh emergency restrictions on our population,” he said.

He joined his colleagues in calling on the Welsh Government to carry out a Wales-specific inquiry, accusing them of being “scared of scrutiny”.