Remaining Covid restrictions lifted in Wales - but face masks to stay

  • Watch the report by Richard Morgan

Nearly all of Wales' remaining Covid restrictions have been lifted after the first minister announced the country will move to Alert Level Zero.

This means there are no limits on meeting with others indoors and all businesses can reopen including nightclubs - but face coverings remain a requirement in most indoor places.

One nightclub manager preparing to reopen on Saturday described the last year as a "dark period of the industry."

Bruno Costa, who works at Tiger Tiger in Cardiff said: "I'm excited after such a long time to see people having fun.

"We've all been sad that we can do what we love.

"We've had to stop doing what we love and find other jobs, other things to do. Now we can finally return to doing what we love. It's super exciting."

As night fell on Saturday, queues could be seen outside some nightclubs in Cardiff city centre.

Wales is now on the "final lap" of the pandemic almost 17 months after lockdown, Mark Drakeford said.

Speaking during the Welsh Government's press conference on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford said the public can have "some confidence" that we are now beyond the worst of the virus.

Making the announcement, Mark Drakeford described it as a "significant step forward", but some "important protections" will continue to be in place throughout the summer.

However, he did warn the changes did not mean a "free-for-all".

This includes ensuring people continue to isolate for 10 days if they have Covid-19 symptoms or a positive test result.

Face masks will still need to be worn on public transport, shops and in healthcare settings, but will no longer be required in hospitality settings such as restaurants and cafes.

It will be the first time in Wales that all businesses have been open since the pandemic began in March 2020.

Face coverings will be required in indoor spaces - apart from hospitality settings Credit: PA

Businesses open to the public and workplaces must carry out a risk assessment and continue to take "reasonable measures to minimise the risk of exposure to coronavirus," the first minister said.   

Mark Drakeford said the move "does not mean the end of restrictions and a free-for-all" Credit: PA

As Wales sees its biggest easing of coronavirus measures since the pandemic began, the First Minister dismissed talk of so-called "Freedom Day".

Ahead of his press conference, he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: "We don't use that language here in Wales because it's not all over.

"Hundreds of people every day are still falling ill from coronavirus in this third wave and while vaccination has fundamentally altered the relationship between falling ill and hospitalisation, it hasn't eliminated it."

He also said that he does not "expect" lockdown restrictions to be reinstated in Wales but added that the Welsh Government will act to protect people's lives again if needed.

He announced that 82% of adults in the country have had both doses of the vaccine, while the incidence rate of Covid-19 is now 130 cases per 100,000 people.

"Our high vaccination rates, some of the best in the whole of the world, have helped to weaken the link between coronavirus infection, serious illness and hospitalisation," he said.

"Having reached this important milestone, we now need to carefully monitor the impact of lifting so many restrictions and we therefore do not expect to make any further changes at the next review."

Alert Level Zero: The Covid rules explained in Wales

Meeting indoors

From 6am on 7 August, will be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet, including in private homes, public places or at events.

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What businesses can reopen?

Any businesses currently still closed will be able to re-open. This includes nightclubs and other entertainment venues.

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What about self-isolating?

From midnight on 7 August, adults who are fully vaccinated and children and young people under the age of 18, will no longer need to isolate if they are identified as close conatcts of someone who has coronavirus.

This was announced by the First Minister last week.

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Social distancing

It's not yet clear whether or not the 'two-metre rule' under which businesses are obliged by law to ensure social distancing in the workplace will be dropped.

Welsh Government sources say that it is one of the final details being discussed.

In its announcement, the government says premises and workplaces will have "more flexibility" about which "reasonable measures they take" to minimise the risk of the virus.

"These should be tailored to their risk assessment and their specific circumstances".

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Reacting to the announcement of the move to Alert Level Zero, leader of the Welsh Conservatives Andrew RT Davies said he is "relieved" but also called for a Wales-specific inquiry into the handling of the pandemic.

“People are ready to meet loved ones as they once did and businesses need to get on the road to recovery.

“As we approach the very end of restrictions, we must look not only towards the strongest bounce back possible but giving justice to those who have suffered from the virus and lockdown.

"This is why there must be a Wales-wide inquiry into the Labour Government’s handling of the pandemic – an inquiry the First Minister is still inexplicably avoiding.”

Plaid Cymru also said "now is the time" to have a detailed review into the Welsh Government’s handling of the pandemic, "while events of the last 18 months are still fresh in Welsh minds."

Rhun ap Iorwerth said, "The lifting of restrictions is where we all want to head, after an 18 months that has weighed heavily on us all.

"Government has to take responsibility for its actions – good and bad. As Wales gains more freedom, now is the right time to reflect on what we did right, and what must change, to ensure that we never have to repeat the last 18 months."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a UK inquiry would commence in spring next year Credit: PA

On holding a specific inquiry into Wales' handling of the pandemic, the Welsh Government previously said it would support an independent inquiry into the four nations of the UK's approach to the handling of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health minister Eluned Morgan said, "The First Minister has already informed the Senedd that he agrees with the UK Prime Minister that a public inquiry that he said that he would commence in spring of next year should deal with the UK as a whole.

"As part of that, it will look separately at what happened in Wales. We believe - and this is the belief of the UK Prime Minister too, it appears - that this is the best possible arrangement for Wales."