First Minister, Mark Drakeford MS
The Health Protection (Coronavirus Restrictions) (No. 5) (Wales) Regulations 2020 require a review of the coronavirus measures to be undertaken every three weeks. The most recent three-week review was due to be completed by 3 March.
The public health situation continues to improve in Wales – community transmission is reducing steadily and the omicron wave is receding.
The overall case rate – based on positive PCR tests only – has fallen to 158.7 cases per 100,000 people for the week ending 26 February. The latest results of the Office for National Statistics Coronavirus Infection Survey suggest an estimated one in 30 people were infected in the week ending 19 February.
As at 2 March, there were 820 Covid-19 related patients occupying a hospital bed – while this has remained relatively stable over the last week, this level of pandemic pressure continues to place a strain on NHS services, which are dealing with high levels of demand as a result of “normal” winter pressures at this time of year.
We have carefully considered the public health situation and the reviewed the remaining protections we have in place at alert level zero. These will remain in place during this review period.
These protections will be reviewed again at the next 21-day review, which is due to take place on 24 March. If the current public health situation remains stable, we intend to remove all the remaining restrictions on 28 March.
Today, we are publishing our transition plan, which sets out a longer term view of how we will move beyond the emergency response to the pandemic and manage Covid-19 alongside other respiratory infections to continue to keep Wales safe.
Together for a Safer Future: Wales’ Long-term COVID-19 Transition from Pandemic to Endemic, sets out how Wales will live safely with coronavirus, just as it lives with many other infectious diseases, and what that will mean for the many public health services and protections in place, including testing services.
It supports a gradual transition, 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 – we expect to encounter new waves of infection, but they 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 underway 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.