Wales Restrictions On Large Events And Businesses To Be Scrapped Within A Fortnight

Wales Restrictions On Large Events And Businesses To Be Scrapped Within A Fortnight

By Tony O’Riley-

Wales’ restrictions on large events and businesses brought in to tackle the Omicron variant will be scrapped over the next two weeks as Covid cases drop.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said Omicron cases are coming down “rapidly” and rules can be relaxed “gradually”, after opposition parties demanded an exit plan with Senedd Tory leader saying that Wales git it wrong in its approach.

The Welsh government also pointed to the success of the booster campaign in enabling it to lift restrictions, with 1.8 million having received an extra dose.

Under new plans, nightclubs can reopen and hospitality allowed to operate normally, although Covid passes will still be required for large events, plus cinemas, nightclubs and theatres.

Drake’s government had criticized Downing Street following Johnson’s refusal to intensify covid restrictions, but an investigation by this publication in Wales led to the revelation by the Nhs that a majority of hospital patients with Covid-19 had primarily been admitted to hospital for other reasons, a fact the Welsh government had not known or taken into account before embarking on their wide restrictions.

Speaking on BBC Radio 1 breakfast, Drakeford said: Wales returns to a three-week review cycle as the country is at alert level 0.

Asked on BBC Radio Wales Breakfast about where we stand now, Mr Drakeford cautioned: “My own view is that we are actually still in the pandemic stage because we can’t be completely confident that another variant somewhere in the world is brewing today just as Omicron was brewing in South Africa and we saw it sweep through the UK and Wales.”

Both the Conservatives and Plaid Cymru had called for a roadmap out of restrictions, while the Welsh Rugby Union had been considering moving home fixtures for the Six Nations out of Wales.Mr Drakeford will announce more details of the plan, following the latest review of Covid rules, at a press conference at Friday lunchtime.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said Wales had passed the Omicron peak and cases were “coming down very rapidly”.

He also denied the move was a “U-turn”, adding: “Not at all. It’s really the opposite of that.

“What we do in Wales is we follow the science, we follow the data. We make difficult decisions when that is necessary.”

Staff absences are putting even more pressure on the healthcare system, the Welsh government has said
“Over the next two weeks we can gradually and carefully lift the level of protections we’ve needed over the Christmas and the New Year period because from a public health perspective it will be then safe to do so,” he said.

“What we are seeing is a very rapid decline of the number of cases in Wales. Last Friday in Wales it was 2,300 cases per 100,000 of the Welsh population, today, only a week later, it is only 1,200.

“This is a really rapid decline and backed up by other measures we are seeing in Wales, that’s what gives us the space to be able to lift some of the protections we’ve had and it’s because of those protections that we are in the more benign position that we are in today.”

Under the rules, sports fixtures were forced behind closed doors without spectators, and volunteer Parkrun events were cancelled.

“It’s been a disappointing time. Whenever physical activity is restricted, we believe it should be evidence-based – we have made it clear, there’s not been any evidence,” said Tom William of Parkrun.

Scotland plans to scrap its restrictions on sports crowds from Monday.

New restrictions were brought in last December to tackle the Omicron wave
Meanwhile Wales’ case rate has fallen to its lowest level since 27 December – 1,492.4 per 100,000 people over seven days.

Although testing policy has changed – with some who test positive on lateral flow devices no longer requiring PCR tests – the depth of the fall cannot be fully explained by that.

The number of people in critical care with Covid also stands at 20% of the level seen at the same point in January 2021.

The Welsh government imposed restrictions on large events and businesses in December following large increases in Covid cases in the UK, caused by the Omicron variant.

Nightclubs were closed, and the rules meant events were limited to a maximum of 50 people outdoors and 30 people indoors.

Pubs and restaurants were restricted to table service, with the rule of six in place, while workplaces and shops were required to impose social distancing measures.

“Every day of trading counts because everyone wants to trade their way to recover,” said chief executive of the Welsh Beer and Pub Association Emma McLarkin.

 

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