First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced that all of Wales’ remaining Covid laws are set to end later this month.
From Monday, March 28, then provided the public health picture remains stable it will no longer be compulsory to wear face coverings in shops, on public transport, or in healthcare settings and self-isolation for people who test positive will not be required by law.
You can follow all the latest news as well as analysis and reaction with our ongoing coverage here.
Read more: See all our Covid news in one place here
This is Mark Drakeford’s speech in full:
“Thank you for joining me as we complete the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations.
“Today I will as usual provide an update about the outcome of the review and the latest public health situation in Wales.
“I also want to share details of our new plan to safely live with coronavirus in the future.
“Our relationship with the virus is changing thanks to the very high rates of vaccination we have and because of everything that you’ve done to control the spread of the virus and to keep Wales safe.
“This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over but it does mean that the way we can manage coronavirus is changing.
“I’m going to start with a couple of familiar slides, which show how the public health situation has changed since the new year.
“This first slide shows the overall case rate in Wales. It’s based on positive PCR tests and it shows that enormous spike, the Omicron wave, that started to affect us in the second half of December and continued into January.
“Since then the case rate has steadily been falling. The trend is clearly downwards. It’s the lowest at any point on the timeframe measured on the slide. On this measure we have around 160 cases per 100,000 people in Wales.
“But we need to look at a wider range of measures than just this to understand how the pandemic is behaving in Wales.
“The Office for National Statistics publishes a regular Coronavirus Infection Survey and it gives us a good indicator of levels of infection in Wales and the rest of the UK.
“This slide shows the results of the latest ONS survey across the UK – Wales is represented by the red line.
“It too shows the number of people testing positive for Covid-19 falling in Wales.
“In the latest survey the results suggested around one in 30 people in Wales had coronavirus at the end of February.
“Levels of infection were lower in Wales than elsewhere in the UK and those levels continue to be on that gradual downwards trajectory.
“We’ve also seen falls in the number of positive cases reported in Welsh universities and a reduction in the number of school pupils absent due to Covid-19 in recent weeks.
“The number of people in hospital with Covid-19 is stable at around 830.
“While it’s good news that this figure isn’t rising at this level, still with nearly 1,000 people in a hospital bed associated with Covid-19, the pressure continue to be felt across the NHS and there are some serious knock-on consequences on other health services and treatments.
“The public health situation has improved thanks to the efforts we have all made together over recent months.
“The result is that, in this latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, Wales can remain at alert level zero.
“Protection from vaccinations is very high thanks to the incredible success of our vaccination programme and people’s willingness to be vaccinated.
“Almost 6.9m doses of the vaccine have been delivered since the programme was launched and that’s only just over a year ago. All of that has saved thousands of lives and significantly weakened the link between catching the virus and that becoming a serious illness.
“We will be topping up people’s protection further by offering older and the most vulnerable people a spring booster vaccine. And we’ll be offering the vaccine to all five to 11-year-olds.
“And as I say at each of these occasions if you haven’t yet had a vaccine or haven’t completed your course it’s never too late to come forward in Wales.
“That combination of high vaccination rates and improving infection levels means we are able to think about moving beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.
“This does not mean the pandemic is over but it does mean that we are able to think now about how we can live safely with the virus – just as we live with other infectious illnesses.
“Today we have published a plan which sets out how we can do this while ensuring we can respond quickly if a new variant emerges or if we have another pandemic wave which puts unsustainable pressure on the NHS.
“If the public health position remains favourable we will start this transition by removing the legal underpinning of the measures we have lived with for the last two years and we’ll remove the legal requirements from March 28.
- The legal requirement to wear face coverings will end;
- The legal requirement to self-isolate will end, and;
- The legal requirement for businesses to carry out a specific Covid risk assessment and take reasonable measures will end.
“I want to be clear that the ways we have learned to behave and which have kept us safe during the pandemic will continue to be important after March 28.
“While we have moved away from legal requirements the Welsh Government will continue to provide guidance to make it clear that we should self-isolate if we are ill, for example, if we are ill with the virus.
“Businesses and employers will be subject to the general health and safety requirements.
“And schools will continue to operate using the national framework and, for now, we recommend face coverings are worn in indoor communal areas by all staff and secondary school-age students.
“As part of living safely with coronavirus we will also be making changes to testing.
“Between the end of this month and June we will gradually move from PCR and lateral flow tests being available to everyone to those tests being targeted towards the most vulnerable people and the most vulnerable places. We will do this in a phased and gradual way.
“From March 28 the routine use of PCR tests for the general public will come to an end. Lateral flow tests instead will continue to be available to order for free online for anyone with symptoms.
“PCR testing will continue to be used to test patients admitted to hospital, to test health and social care staff, care home residents, and others in vulnerable settings.
“We will maintain a level of testing for surveillance and our TTP service will continue to operate above and beyond what is available now in England where the UK Government has, in a cliff-edge way, is dismantled its testing capacity.
“As we approach the second anniversary of the pandemic we can look to the future with growing confidence that the next year will be one in which we have this very different relationship with the virus.
“As we move beyond the emergency response I know that some people, especially the most vulnerable and those who have been shielding, will be anxious about this process. But I want to be clear that the plan that we have set out we will go on protecting your health and wellbeing as we live safely with the virus. And by acting in that way and drawing on the lessons of everything we have been through over the last two years, together we will keep each other safe.
“Diolch o galon i chi gyd.
“I will now take questions from journalists. As usual, all answers will be broadcast live on our social media channels.”
To get the latest news, whether it’s about Covid or crime or key updates for your area, sent straight to your email inbox click here .