FROM TODAY, Monday, March 28, it will no longer be the law to wear a face mask in shops or on public transport in Wales.

Self-isolation after a positive coronavirus test will also no longer be legally required from today, however, it is still “strongly advised”.

It is also advised that anyone with symptoms self-isolates, but it is no longer a legal requirement.

Two key legal protections will remain in place as coronavirus cases have risen sharply in recent weeks, driven by the BA.2 sub-type of the omicron variant.

Face coverings will remain a legal requirement in health and social care settings and coronavirus risk assessments must continue to be carried out by businesses, with reasonable measures put in place considering those assessments.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “We have seen an unwelcome rise in coronavirus cases across Wales, mirroring the position in most of the UK.

“We have carefully considered the very latest scientific and medical evidence and we need to keep some legal protections in place for a little while longer, to help keep Wales safe.

“Throughout the pandemic, we have taken a gradual and cautious approach as we have relaxed protections.

“We are firmly on the path towards leaving the emergency response to the pandemic behind us and learning to live with coronavirus safely.”

WALES’ CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER

Community transmission of COVID-19 continues to increase across Wales and the UK.

This is likely to be a result of three things, Wales’ Chief Medical Officer has said:  “A rise in the sub-variant of Omicron BA.2, waning population immunity, and the recent easing of NPI protections.”

Dr Frank Atherton said: “Hospitalisation rates are increasing but this is not currently translating into severe pressure on intensive care services or an increase in COVID-19 related deaths.”

He said: “The main risk at present arises from sustained pressure on health services as a consequence of increased numbers of hospitalised COVID-positive patients, increased length of stay, and increased staff absences.”

“We should remain vigilant in our surveillance efforts; indicators to watch closely include ITU admissions, the arrival of new variants of concern, system-wide health/social care pressures, and any increase in all-cause mortality. ”

Dr Atherton added: “As the BA.2 driven wave continues to progress across the UK nations we can anticipate further rises in community infection rates in the coming weeks. The direct impact of this resurgence is unpredictable.”

“The current uncertainty lends itself to a continuation of our cautious approach and the retention of some alert level zero protections for an additional period of time, will allow for further monitoring and assessment of the impact on the epidemiological picture.”

DEFENDING THE REMOVAL

Mark Drakeford defended the removal of the mask and self-isolation restrictions amid concerns that people with underlying health conditions will be put at a greater risk.

During a press conference on Friday, he said: “I have more letters from people anxious that protections are being lifted too quickly than I do from people who think we’re going too slowly in Wales.

“I absolutely understand that if you have an underlying health condition, if you’ve been operating your own life very carefully that you are anxious at the thought that you might be re-entering a world where other people no longer take coronavirus seriously.

“It’s why I’ve been at such pains this morning to emphasise the fact that although we will be relying more in future on good advice and strong advice than we are on the law, doing the sensible thing still has to be part of the everyday repertoire of all of us

“We’ve learned all those things, haven’t we so carefully over the last two years, hand hygiene the keeping a respectful distance, wearing a mask.

“We’re going to have to find a way of living safely with coronavirus when we treat it like we do other conditions.

“If you catch the measles you don’t go to work with it, you don’t go out and about with it.

“There’s no law that tells you you’ve got to do that. It’s just that we understand that it would not be the right thing to do to be out there spreading a contagious disease to other people and the same needs to be true about coronavirus as well and

“it’s really important for those people that when they go out, they feel that they are re-entering society in Wales where people are still thinking about them, are still thinking not just what can I do for myself, but how can my actions help to keep other people safe as well.

“We’ve done I think, incredibly well to sustain that way of behaving over the last two years and we need to go on doing it that way.”

  • The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 14 April, when the remaining legal measures will be reviewed.