COVID-19: Wales set to move to alert level zero – but first minister warns it ‘does not mean end of restrictions and a free-for-all’

Wales will move to alert level zero at the weekend, but the country’s first minister has warned it “does not mean the end of restrictions and a free-for-all”.

Mark Drakeford, who will formally announce the move at a news conference on Friday, said people should continue to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

The step, the biggest easing of measures since the pandemic began, will see all businesses allowed to open and the removal of all legal limits on meeting people indoors.

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Wales to continue compulsory mask-wearing

The move to alert level zero will come into effect from 6am on Saturday.

“Alert level zero does not mean the end of restrictions and a free-for-all,” Mr Drakeford said.

“But it does mean we can all enjoy more freedoms with the confidence there are still important protections in place to make sure our public health is being safeguarded while we are out and about.

“Unfortunately, the pandemic is not over yet and we all need to work together to do everything we can to keep this virus under control – at alert level zero, everything we do will have an impact on this virus.

“Even if you have been fully vaccinated, meeting outside is safer than inside; let fresh air into indoor spaces, get tested even for mild symptoms, and self-isolate when you are required to do so.”

Welsh Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies said: “After a long 18 months, I’m relieved that we move to level zero in Wales as it’s time for us all to enjoy the full fruits of our vaccination campaign, whilst of course remaining vigilant.

“People are ready to meet loved ones as they once did and businesses need to get on the road to recovery, and it’s now vital the Labour government spends the £1bn COVID-19 funding in its coffers to support Welsh jobs.

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Wales reacts to latest COVID restrictions

“As we approach the very end of restrictions, we must look not only towards the strongest bounce back possible but giving justice to those who have suffered from the virus and lockdown.

“This is why there must be a Wales-wide inquiry into the Labour government’s handling of the pandemic – an inquiry the first minister is still inexplicably avoiding.”

Despite the easing of restrictions, face masks will still be required in most indoor public places, including in shops, healthcare settings and on public transport.

However, they will not be a legal requirement in hospitality venues where food and drink is served.

Fully vaccinated adults and under-18s will no longer need to isolate if they are identified as a close contact of someone who tests positive for COVID.

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People will still have to isolate for 10 days if they have symptoms or receive a positive test result.

Some rules were relaxed on 17 July when Wales moved to alert level one, a step that had been delayed by four weeks because of the spread of the Delta variant first identified in India.

The easing of COVID restrictions in Wales comes after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed earlier this week that Scotland will lift most of its remaining rules on Monday.

Ministers are set to discuss relaxing more rules in Northern Ireland at a meeting of the Executive on 12 August.

The majority of COVID rules were lifted in England on 19 July.

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