People in Wales will no longer be legally required to wear face coverings in health and social care services from Monday as the final U.K. legal restriction is lifted. MailOnline has more.
First Minister Mark Drakeford has announced today that the country will end its last remaining coronavirus regulations, which have existed in some form since March 2020.
Wales is currently at alert level zero, with the wearing of face coverings in health and social care settings the only remaining legal requirement.
But the First Minister urged people to keep taking steps to protect their health as the country moves beyond the emergency response to the pandemic.
He repeated the warning the four U.K. Chief Medical Officers issued this week about the risk of new variants…
Wales was the last U.K. nation with Covid restrictions still in place.
Scotland removed its final restrictive laws in April this year while the Scottish Government continues to encourage people to wear face masks at busy indoor spaces.
Meanwhile, England’s remaining Covid restrictions were removed in February as part of the Government’s ‘Living with Covid’ plan.
The move meant requirements to self-isolate after testing positive were dropped a month earlier than planned.
The BBC reports that Drakeford said authorities were planning to deal with Covid like “any other seasonal illness” from now on. However, ominously he added that measures could return if new variants appear and are only really “on hold”, raising questions of how Wales intends to deal with ‘seasonal illnesses’ in future.
[Mr. Drakeford] warned measures were in reality “on hold” in case of another wave – with two new variants already being monitored by health officials.
“We have learned, time and again, that this virus can behave in ways that are neither expected nor predictable,” he said.
He said that the Welsh Government was “ready to bring back testing and contact tracing”, should that be needed.
Booster vaccines are already being made available for the autumn, and ministers are encouraging people to get a flu jab later this year.
Early indications were that ministers would be advised to offer an annual Covid jab in future years, the first minister added, possibly only to older age groups and the most vulnerable.
It’s encouraging to hear future vaccination programmes may be focused only on those at risk.
Regarding the new variants being monitored, BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa are already fizzling out.
At this stage it’s unclear what hospitals in Wales themselves will require of staff, patients and visitors once the legal mask requirement is lifted. At the moment in England hospitals require masks, though there is no legal requirement. The Daily Sceptic reported earlier in the week that the NHS mask requirement in healthcare settings in England will be dropped from Monday, following a tip-off from a source in the health service. No further word on that yet, but we’ll keep you posted if anything is announced at the weekend.