Coronavirus restrictions in Wales will be further relaxed from Saturday but face masks will still have to be worn on public transport and in most indoor public places, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.
The nation will move fully from alert level two to alert level one on 17 July – bringing it more broadly in line with England and Scotland.
There will also be a further relaxation on 7 August, if cases remain low, to a new level zero which will see most coronavirus restrictions gone, Mr Drakeford added.
But even after 7 August face masks will be retained for some settings.
From Saturday, up to six people can meet and organised indoor events can take place.
We will relax the restrictions around children’s residential activity centres and ice rinks will be able to reopen too.
— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) July 14, 2021
The changes are as follows.
From 17 July:
- Up to six people can meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation
- Organised indoor events can take place for up to 1,000 people seated and up to 200 standing
- Limits on the numbers of people who can meet outdoors, as well as the legal requirement to social distance, will be scrapped
- Ice rinks can reopen and children in groups of up to 30 can visit kids’ residential activity centres
From 7 August:
- All premises, including nightclubs, will be able to open and most – but not all – restrictions will be removed
- There will be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet others
- Face coverings will continue to be required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, with the exception of hospitality settings
- Indoors social distancing measures will be replaced with a requirement for firms and venues to assess the COVID risk
The first minister also confirmed that those who are fully vaccinated will no longer need to self-isolate on their return from an amber list country, in line with the position in England and Scotland.
Announcing the changes, Mr Drakeford warned there was still a risk the third wave “could cause real harm”.
Mr 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.”
On Monday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid announced that all remaining restrictions on social contact will lift in England as planned on 19 July. The legally-mandated mask requirement for indoor spaces is also being axed, although wearing them will remain a condition of using public transport in London.
The same is happening in Scotland but with “certain modifications” to the rules kept in place and face masks remaining mandatory.
The news in Wales comes after Mr Drakeford delayed the decision to move the country to alert level one by four weeks at the COVID last review.
Wales was kept at alert level two meaning people could only meet in groups of six at indoor venues and in groups of up to 30 outdoors, while home visitors were limited to a three-household bubble.
Working from home and social distancing outside of your household were also compulsory.
Andrew Davies, leader of the Conservative group in the Senedd, said: “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.”