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Mark Drakeford decision on scrapping Covid rules in Wales

THE Welsh Government has refused to rule out the possibility some Covid restrictions may stay in place.

Mark Drakeford is scheduled to announce the results of the latest review on Friday, while health minister Eluned Morgan will give a press conference at lunch time today, Tuesday, on the latest situation regarding Covid-19.

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said the future of policies like mask-wearing will be announced on Friday.

Earlier this month, the first minister said he hoped the nation’s remaining rules could be scrapped at the end of this month, given the improving situation.

But a recent rise in infection rates may yet cause a few bumps in the road out of the pandemic. In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon decided to keep mask rules in place there for another month, despite ending the rest of the nation’s Covid rules on Monday.

It means people in Scotland must continue to wear face coverings on public transport and in shops – the same rules that we currently have in Wales – throughout April.

England, however, has operated without any coronavirus rules for nearly one month, after Boris Johnson introduced his Living With Covid plan at the end of February.

Public Health Wales confirmed 2,566 new cases on Monday (for a period covering last Friday), and nearly one in seven patients currently in Welsh hospitals has coronavirus. But infection rates remain well below the levels seen during the height of the Omicron wave in December and January. 

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Given the current Covid situation, the Argus asked the Welsh Government if it was confident the nation’s remaining Covid restrictions would be lifted when ministers reviewed the rules this week.

We also asked if the Welsh Government believed it was currently safe to lift those restrictions.

A spokesman for the government did not respond directly to those questions, but said: “Throughout the pandemic we have kept regulations under regular review, with our approach being informed by the latest available scientific and medical advice. The outcome of the current 21-day review of regulations will be confirmed on March 25.”

Even if Wales abandons its Covid rules on Friday, it is highly unlikely Mr Drakeford will follow the “cliff-edge” approach seen in England. The first minister has criticised Mr Johnson for the abrupt end to restrictions over the border, and reinforced his own beliefs in the “step by step” strategy preferred in Wales.

That strategy will involve a gradual winding down of most of the public-service response to coronavirus in Wales.

Testing will continue here for the next three months, but lateral flow tests will be used instead of more expensive PCR tests during that time.

Likewise, self-isolation policies will continue until the end of June, but they will become a matter of advice – not a legal requirement – from the end of March.

  • We will bring you all the updates from Eluned Morgan’s Welsh Government coronavirus press conference at midday today, Tuesday.

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