Mark Drakeford MS, First Minister
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 10 February.
Community transmission rates appear to be falling but overall rates remain high at more than 410 cases per 100,000 people, based on positive PCR tests. The latest ONS Coronavirus Infection Survey results also suggest cases are declining.
The pandemic continues to cause pressure on the NHS, with more than 1,110 Covid-19 patients in hospital, although there has been a reduction in the number of new admissions and more people are being vaccinated – and boosted – every week, thanks to the incredible efforts of our vaccination teams around the country.
Coronavirus is still prevalent across Wales – and the UK. Wales will remain at alert level zero but we can cautiously and gradually begin to relax some of the protections which we have in place as these are no longer proportionate to the level of risk we face.
We therefore intend to begin removing the restrictions, starting with the domestic Covid Pass and face coverings, over this three-week cycle, taking into account the public health situation.
From 18 February, all venues previously covered by the domestic Covid Pass regulations – large indoor and outdoor events, nightclubs, cinemas, theatres and concert halls – will no longer need to restrict entry to vaccinated individuals or those who have a negative test (or are medically exempt). Guidance will set out that venues can still choose to use the domestic Covid Pass on a voluntary basis as part of their coronavirus risk assessment and reasonable measures.
The international Covid Pass will continue to be integral to arrangements for safer international travel. Travellers will need to check the relevant countries’ rules for entry, including any different requirements for children.
From 28 February, adults and children aged 11 and over will no longer be required to wear face coverings in most indoor places, with the exception of health and social care settings, all retail settings and public transport. We will continue to recommend face coverings are worn in our guidance.
We have also updated our guidance today to make it clear adults can remove their face coverings when they are interacting with babies and small children at baby and toddler groups.
Following the review due by 3 March, we intend to publish a transition plan for living with coronavirus once all legal restrictions made under the emergency health protection legislation are removed.
And following the three-week review due by 24 March, subject to the public health situation at the time, we hope to be able to remove the legal requirements to wear face coverings in the remaining indoor public settings and public transport and for businesses and organisations to undertake specific coronavirus risk assessments and take reasonable measures to minimise risks. Employers will still be obligated by other laws, such as the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, to keep staff and the public safe.
The pandemic is not over. This is why we are continuing to retain some important protections, including face coverings in health and care settings, on public transport and in retail, self-isolation requirements and specific coronavirus risk assessments and reasonable measures requirements in regulated premises.
With increasing numbers of people vaccinated and thanks to everyone’s efforts in Wales, we can look forward to brighter times ahead.