Major easing of Covid rules in Wales - but some to stay until at least August
Wales' First Minister has announced a major easing of coronavirus rules from this weekend - but some restrictions will remain in place until at least August.
Mark Drakeford confirmed Wales will move fully to Alert Level One from 17 July, meaning 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, and ice rinks can reopen.
There will be no limit number of people permitted to gather outdoors, and social distancing will no longer be a legal requirement outdoors - but will remain in place indoors.
Face coverings will continue to be required by law in most indoor public places and on public transport, as previously announced.
In another change from 17 July, children in groups of up to 30 - for example, the Urdd, Brownies and Scouts - can visit residential activity centres.
The First Minister has also confirmed that people 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, which come into effect on 19 July.
However, Mr Drakeford said he "much regretted" the decision by the UK Government to remove the self-isolation requirement, calling it "the removal of a defence" against the risks of Covid.
But he added that because the vast majority of international travel to and from Wales is via England, it was "untenable" not to do the same.
"We continue to advise against all but essential travel abroad and we continue to strongly recommend to people to holiday at home this summer," he said.
An updated Coronavirus Control Plan, published today, also looks ahead to a new 'Alert Level Zero' for Wales, which could come in later this summer.
A move to this level means all premises, such as nightclubs, would be able to open and most – but not all – restrictions will be removed.
There would also be no legal limits on the number of people who can meet others indoors, including in private homes.
If the public health situation allows, Wales will move to this level on 7 August, the Welsh Government said.
But after 7 August, people should continue to work from home where possible, while a Covid-19 risk assessment must be carried out when it is "necessary" for them to return to the workplace.
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.Mark Drakeford, First Minister for Wales
“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.”What are the Covid rule changes announced for Wales from 17 July?
Up to six people from different households can meet indoors in private homes and holiday accommodation.
Previously you had to form an extended household or 'bubble' in order to see people at home - and your extended household could not change.
Up to six people from different households are already able to meet in 'regulated indoor premises' - for example, cafes, restaurants, pubs and visitor attractions.
Organised indoor events can take place in Wales for up to 1,000 seated and up to 200 standing, and ice rinks can reopen.
However, nightclubs and adult entertainment venues will remain closed until at least August.
From July 17 social distancing will no longer be a legal requirement outdoors. Instead, risk assessments will be carried out to ensure people's safety.
Social distancing remains a legal requirement indoors.
People who have been fully vaccinated 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 announcement, Plaid Cymru deputy leader Rhun ap Iorwerth said: “The important thing is that Welsh Government doesn’t follow the ill-judged timetable being set by UK Government in lifting all restrictions during a period of increasing cases.
"I want a clear path towards the lifting of restrictions over coming weeks, but for now I look forward to clearer confirmation that people will be required to wear face masks in all indoor close contact settings including shops.”
But Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies called it "a case of better late than never," adding: "The lifting of restrictions will ensure we can get our economy and public services on the road to recovery.
“There will never be a perfect time to lift all restrictions and sadly no date will come with zero risk... 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.”