Coronavirus restrictions will remain with us until at least August 7, the Welsh Government has confirmed.
England will see virtually all of its legal restrictions lifted on July 19, but Wales will not follow suit, opting to take a more cautious approach with case numbers rising.
Wales will move into Alert Level One from July 17 and if the public health situation allows, the Welsh Government has said the country will move to Alert Level Zero on August 7. This means most legal restrictions will be lifted and replaced with guidance and advice.
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 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 Zero, which will have fewer legal restrictions but which will still need all of us to take steps to protect ourselves.”
From July 17 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. Ice rinks can also reopen. 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.
If Wales moves to Alert Level Zero on August 7, all premises would be able to open and most – but not all – restrictions will be removed and replaced with an 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 August 7, with the exception of hospitality settings.
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The First Minister added: “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.
Caerphilly Senedd Member Hefin David welcomed the easing of restrictions and said: “It is clear from what the First Minister is saying that Wales is taking a gradual and more cautious approach to removing restrictions.
“There still remain concerns about variants and their impact on the effectiveness of vaccines. Therefore it makes sense to take time to fully assess the situation to move to Alert Level Zero after August 7.”
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