Use of mandatory face masks and covid passes in Wales remain under review
The requirement to wear face coverings and the use of covid passes for certain venues in Wales are set to remain under review.
Wales is set to complete its move back to alert level zero at the end of the month, removing the measures implemented on Boxing Day to help curb the spread of the omicron virus assuming there is no major change in covid.
This will see restrictions on large events, nightclubs and the legal requirement to work from home where possible removed.
The Welsh Government will also return to a 21 day review cycle of the measures having changed to weekly decision making before Christmas.
However there have been calls for ministers to go further and follow England by removing the ‘Plan B’ coronavirus restrictions, such as mask wearing and covid passes’, this Thursday.
The requirement to isolate after a positive test is expected to end in March when the current coronavirus regulations in England end.
Speaking at Friday’s press briefing First Minister Mark Drakeford refused to provide a date on when all remaining restrictions could be axed, saying that he is not a “horoscope writer”.
The first minister said: “It’s simply impossible for anybody to peer into the future with coronavirus with the solid definiteness that you were suggesting.
“What I will say is of course the Welsh Government wants as quickly and as safely as we can to lift the level of protections that we are all living with.
“Somewhere in the world today the next variant of coronavirus could be brewing. Two and a half months ago none of us had ever heard of the Omicron variant and yet in that period it has swept across our lives and now thankfully is we hope sweeping out of it again.
“When people talk about freedom days and doing things where there’s no reverse gear, I think they’re just flying in the face of the facts of this global pandemic.
“I am not going to offer people in Wales a set of artificial deadlines, peering into the future in a way that neither I nor anybody else can know what the circumstances of the time would be, I’m not going to do that.
“Part of the reason why I think we have managed to sustain the confidence of the majority of people in Wales, in the way the Welsh Government has acted, is because we haven’t been willing to make headline line grabbing promises, that we have no way of knowing whether we could keep.”
The requirement to wear a face mask in all indoor settings and on public transport in Wales has been one of the restrictions in place for the longest, having been introduced in September 2020.
Asked whether he would continue to wear a mask when it moves away from being mandatory and to instead being advisory, the first minister said he believed many people would choose to continue using a face covering. Regulations in Wales have always referred to ‘face coverings’ rather than higher quality masks.
He added that the likes of face covering and covid passes would be kept under review as part of the next 21 day cycle.
Mr Drakeford said: “We will review it on the 10 February because it’s part of the alert level zero measures and as I said in an earlier answer, the question we asked for advice on is, are those measures still necessary and proportionate given the state of the virus in Wales.
“If the advice is things are so good, you don’t need to have them in place we would respond to that advice. If the advice is they still form an important part of the defence, then that is what we will do.
“I think there will be many people who, on an advisory basis, finding themselves in places where there are lots of other people and where we know the risks are greater because you’re indoors and because our ventilation may not be as good as it otherwise would be, I think there will be lots of people who will choose to go on wearing masks because it gives them confidence that they’re keeping themselves safe and I would certainly consider that myself.”
He also defended the use of covid passes for large scale events in Wales, adding: “They protect people’s health and they help to keep businesses open.
“That is the result of research that has been reported this week, carried out across Europe and I believe it’s true in Wales as well.
“People are more likely to go to places where they know that everybody else there will have taken the same precautions as they have, either by being vaccinated or taking a lateral flow test
“That helps to keep them safe and it helps to keep people coming through the door of those businesses as well.”
Spotted something? Got a story? Send a Facebook Message | A direct message on Twitter | Email: News@Deeside.com