Welsh Government names date when all legal Covid restrictions are set to be lifted in Wales

Wales is set to remove all legal coronavirus measures by Monday, March 28, should the public health situation remain stable, the First Minister has confirmed.

It means it will no longer be compulsory to wear face coverings in shops, on public transport, or in healthcare settings on that date and self-isolation will not be required by law.

There is no announcement yet on whether testing for Covid-19 will remain free but the Welsh Government has indicated that the country will “gradually move away from universal and routine” testing.

Read more: Coronavirus infection rates, cases and deaths for all parts of Wales on Thursday, March 3

On Friday the government will release its longer-term plan for how to live safely with coronavirus and transition beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We’ve been living in the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic for two long years. It has touched all our lives – across Wales families and communities have made many sacrifices to keep themselves and their loved ones safe. People in Wales have followed the rules.

“But sadly too many families have experienced the pain of losing a loved one or a close friend. My thoughts are with them all.

“As we publish this longer-term plan there is no doubt we have reached a significant moment in this pandemic and we can look to the future with growing confidence that the next year will be one in which we have a different relationship with the virus.

“This has been made possible by the hard work of everyone and by the efforts of all the health and care staff, public sector workers, and volunteers who have done so much over the last two years.

“But the pandemic isn’t over – this virus is full of nasty surprises and we are likely to see fluctuations in global patterns of infection for several years. We need to be ready to respond quickly to any future outbreaks or new variants as we learn to live safely alongside coronavirus in the long term.

“We have learned so much over the last two years and we need to harness this as we look forward to a safer and brighter future together.”

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Wales will remain at alert level zero for the next three weeks with the current level of protections in place. But the government confirmed all legal measures could be removed from March 28 if the public health situation remains stable.

The Welsh Government plan, called Together for a Safer Future: Wales’ Long-term Covid-19 Transition from Pandemic to Endemic, sets out a gradual transition away from emergency measures. It states it is “based on evidence” and “with the protection of everyone, especially the most vulnerable, at its heart”.

The plan sets out how Wales’ response to coronavirus will change under the two core planning scenarios: Covid Stable and Covid Urgent.

Covid Stable is the most likely scenario with Wales expected to encounter new waves of infection but those are not expected to put unsustainable pressure on the NHS thanks to the effectiveness of vaccines and other pharmaceutical treatments, such as new Covid-19 antivirals.

The plan sets out a gradual, phased approach towards the long-term management of the virus under Covid Stable, including:

  • Supporting people to maintain behaviours we have all become familiar with to help reduce the transmission of all respiratory infections, not just coronavirus.
  • Vaccination boosters in spring for the elderly and most vulnerable adults and a regular Covid-19 vaccination programme from the autumn.
  • Test, Trace, Protect programme gradually moves away from universal and routine symptomatic and asymptomatic testing and the requirement to self-isolate to a more targeted approach aimed at vulnerable people.
  • Adaptation of public services including, for example, using local risk assessments and outbreak control plans.
  • Businesses and other employers to build on the elements of infection control they have put in place to protect staff and customers.

Contingency planning is also under way to enable the Welsh Government and other public services to quickly respond to a Covid Urgent scenario – such as a new variant which evades the vaccine – if necessary.

The next three-weekly review of the coronavirus regulations will be carried out by March 24 when the remaining legal measures at alert level zero will be reviewed.

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