UK

Masks scrapped in most places in Wales and self-isolation law removed

People will no longer have to wear masks in shops or on public transport in Wales from Monday but the Welsh Government has decided not to relax all restrictions as it had hoped to do. Masks will still be needed in health and social care and businesses will still have to carry out risk assessments under revised rules coming into force.

The latest review of coronavirus rules has taken place and with cases rising in Wales the Welsh Government has decided not to go ahead with the plan the First Minister had previously announced which was to end all remaining restrictions from Monday, March 28. That is due to the BA.2 variant of coronavirus which is causing rising case numbers in Wales. If you want to know more about that you can see what we know so far here.

The revised rules mean from Monday:

  • You will only need to wear masks in health and social care settings – not in shops or on public transport;
  • If you get Covid you are strongly advised to self-isolate but it is no longer a legal requirement, and;
  • Risk assessments still need to be drawn up by businesses.

Read more: The number of children missing school due to Covid is rising rapidly

A £500 self-isolation payment to support people will continue to be available until June. The next review of the rules will be held on Good Friday, April 15.

Covid cases are rising in Wales which the First Minister has admitted has caused concern within the Welsh Government. 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.”

Speaking in the Senedd on Tuesday the First Minister said the rise was leading to “very concerning circumstances”. Health minister Eluned Morgan also warned that staff absences due to either staff self-isolating or having Covid was affecting the health service and that would have implications for any return to routine.

We have the figures for all areas of Wales in our daily breakdown and latest figures show Wales’ seven-day infection rate has risen above 400 cases per 100,000 people once again. Infection rates in every area of Wales have risen with the highest infection rate (based on PCR tests) for the seven days up to March 19 being Blaenau Gwent with 662.7 cases per 100,000 population followed by Vale of Glamorgan with 513.5 and Monmouthshire with 470.5.

Cardiff recorded the most positive cases over the latest 24-hour period with 296 followed by RCT with 212, Carmarthenshire with 196, Newport with 166, Caerphilly with 137, Monmouthshire with 132, Swansea with 127, Vale of Glamorgan with 123, Flintshire with 121, Pembrokeshire and Powys both with 120, Wrexham and Bridgend both with 118, and Blaenau Gwent and Denbighshire both with 105 .

Meanwhile Gwynedd had 89 new cases, Neath Port Talbot had 85, Torfaen had 74, and Conwy had 70. The local authorities with the lowest numbers of new cases included Merthyr Tydfil with 65, Ceredigion with 51 and Anglesey with 43.

In the seven days to March 19 a total of 37.9% of PCR tests across Wales gave a positive result – a rise on the 37.5% reported on Wednesday. The highest positivity rates were in Blaenau Gwent (44.1%), Monmouthshire (41.5%) and Vale of Glamorgan (40.5%).

Scotland has also decided to extend the use of face masks. The legal requirement to wear face coverings on public transport and most indoor public settings will remain until at least early April due to a spike in Covid case numbers. Businesses had been legally required to take steps to reduce the spread of Covid including physical distancing and screens. That ended on Monday, March 21, along with the legal requirement to retain customers’ contact details.

It had been expected that the the legal requirement to wear face coverings in shops, hospitality venues, and on public transport would also be downgraded to guidance on the same date. However First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said it would be remain as a regulation for “a further short period” because of the surge in cases. The measure will be reviewed again before the Scottish Parliament’s Easter recess and is expected to become guidance in early April.

Mr Drakeford will give a press conference at 12.15pm on Friday outlining the changes in Wales. We’ll be providing rolling live coverage throughout the day.

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