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Coronavirus

First Minister announces plan to ease alert level two protections

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A plan to return Wales to alert level zero measures will today be set out by First Minister Mark Drakeford.

The move comes as the latest public health data suggests cases of coronavirus have started to fall back from their very high levels. More than two-thirds of people aged 12 and over have received a booster or third dose of the Covid-19 vaccine.

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The full move to alert level zero will be dependent on the public health situation continuing to improve.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “I want to thank everyone for following the rules we have had in place since Boxing Day to help keep Wales safe while the fast-moving omicron variant has surged through our communities.

“I also want to thank everyone involved in our vaccination programme for the enormous efforts to give almost a third of the population a booster since the start of December – this has been vital in increasing our protection against omicron.

“The actions we have taken together have helped us to weather the omicron storm. The latest data suggests some positive signs that the peak may have passed.

“We can now look more confidently to the future and plan to start gradually removing the alert level two restrictions, starting with the outdoors measures.

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“But the pandemic is not over. We will closely monitor the public health situation – this is a fast-moving and volatile variant, which could change suddenly. I urge everyone to continue to follow the rules and have your vaccines to keep Wales safe.”

If conditions allow, the alert level two restrictions will be removed in a phased approach.

From tomorrow, the number of people who can be present at outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500.

From Friday 21 January Wales would move to alert level zero for all outdoor activities. This means there will be no limits on the number of people who can take part in outdoor activities.

  • Crowds will be able to return to outdoor sporting events
  • Outdoor hospitality would be able to operate without additional reasonable measures.
  • The Covid Pass will be required for entry to larger outdoor events.

If the downward trend continues, from Friday 28 January Wales would move to alert level zero for all indoor activities.

  • Nightclubs will be able to re-open.
  • Working from home would remain important but it would no longer be a legal requirement.
  • Businesses, employers and other organisations must undertake a specific coronavirus risk assessment and take reasonable measures to minimise the spread of coronavirus.
  • The Covid Pass will be required for entry to nightclubs, events, cinemas, concert halls and theatres.
  • The rule of 6, table service and 2m physical distancing no longer required in hospitality.

The self-isolation rules for all those who test positive for Covid and the face covering rules for most public indoor places will remain in force after 28 January.

The three-weekly cycle would be re-introduced from 10 February, when the Welsh Government will review all remaining measures at alert level zero.

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Coronavirus

First Minister to keep current COVID measures in place following latest review

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First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed alert level 2 measures will stay in place in Wales following the outcome of the latest regulations review.

The Welsh Government say this is due to cases of coronavirus rising sharply to their highest ever levels as the omicron wave has surged across Wales in the post-Christmas period. The latest figures show there are more than 2,200 cases per 100,000 people in Wales.

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First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The omicron wave means we are all facing a difficult month ahead of us. We are already seeing extremely high case rates in communities and we must be prepared for cases to rise even higher, just as they have elsewhere in the UK.

“This variant may not be as severe as we had initially feared but the speed at which it is travelling and its infectiousness continue to be cause for concern.

“That makes it vital that we all take action to keep each other safe. The things which have helped to protect us all throughout the pandemic will continue to protect us now.

“This includes getting vaccinated and making your booster a priority, limiting the number of people you meet who you don’t live with, and taking a lateral flow test before going out and mixing with others.

“Together, we will keep each other safe and we will keep Wales safe.”

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The rules say that at alert level 2 people must wear a face covering (unless there is a reasonable excuse not to wear one) in all indoor public places, including when not seated in a pub, café or restaurant.

People can meet no more than five other people at a café, restaurant, pub or other public premises (unless with their household of a larger number). This applies to both outdoor and indoor areas of the premises.

The rules say you should not take part in an organised event indoors of more than 30 people or outdoors for more than 50 people. All organised events must be organised by a responsible body and have a risk assessment.

There is also the instruction for people to continue to work from home if they can.

If you test positive for COVID-19 people should self-isolate for seven days, taking a lateral flow test on day six and day seven. If either test is positive they should remain in isolation until two negative lateral flow tests or after day 10, whichever is sooner.

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Strengthened guidance has also been issued asking people to limit the number of people they meet who they don’t live with, to “flow before you go” by taking a lateral flow test before going out, meeting people outdoors wherever possible and making sure indoor spaces are well ventilated.

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Coronavirus

COVID testing changes announced for Welsh international travellers

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Welsh Health Secretary announces ‘reluctant’ relaxation of testing for international travellers, to bring Wales in-line with recently announced changes in England

Eluned Morgan MS warned against non-essential international travel, siting the continued spread of the Omicron variant, but said that she had reluctantly agreed to remove the requirements for fully vaccinated travellers and under 18s to take a pre departure test (PDT) and a day 2 PCR test when arriving in the UK, in-line with decisions being taken elsewhere in the UK.

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All fully vaccinated travellers will need to take an LFD test at day 2 and, if positive, a follow-up PCR test to enable genomic sequencing to be carried out. The requirement to self-isolate until a negative test has been received has also been removed.  

The requirements for non-vaccinated travellers remain unchanged. 

These changes will begin to come into force from 4am on Friday 7 January. Lateral flow tests will be accepted as post-arrival tests from 4am on Sunday 9 January.

In a statement, Ms Morgan hit back at the growing gap between the UK and Welsh Government approaches to travel, saying: “We are concerned at the speed at which the UK Government is re-opening international travel, given on-going concerns of importing new variants and adding additional pressure to our health services.  

“Day 2 PCR testing acts as something of a surveillance system for international travel – if we had retained the requirement for a day 2 PCR test, we may have been alerted to the presence and introduction of omicron earlier. 

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“Given the UK Government’s decision to remove PCR testing, it is vital we work across the four nations to ensure a system of bio-surveillance is maintained to provide a way of guarding against the importation of future variants.” 

Ms Morgan also announced additions to the list of countries and territories with recognised vaccination programmes to also include: Bhutan, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Fiji, Iraq and Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, North of Cyprus, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Solomon Islands, The Gambia and Uzbekistan.

These changes will come into force at 4am on Monday 10 January.

Ms Morgan added: “While our public health system is working very hard to minimise the spread of cases already in Wales, it is imperative that we do everything we can to avoid undermining these efforts by importing new cases of coronavirus infections via international travel.

“We continue to encourage everyone in Wales to get vaccinated including having a booster vaccine, which is vital in increasing protection against the omicron variant.”

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Armed Forces

Armed Forces to support vaccination programme in Wales

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98 personnel have been made available to support the Covid-19 vaccine booster programme in Wales.

Armed Forces will be working to support the Department of Health and Welsh Government to accelerate the vaccine rollout amid a wave of Omicron infections.

The personnel will make up 14 teams of vaccinators who will provide surge support to increase capacity.

Those deploying are a mixture of health care professionals and general duties personnel who will be working in support of NHS Wales staff and volunteers, administering vaccines and providing planning expertise.

Personnel will deploy to all seven Health Boards in Wales, with two teams assigned to each board.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “We are now supporting this national priority Covid-19 vaccination programme in Wales, Scotland and England.

“Our Armed Forces are supporting our world class health services to accelerate the vaccine rollout and provide essential protection for people and communities. I urge anyone eligible to take up the offer of a vaccine.

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Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart said: “It is critical that as many people as possible receive the vaccine in our fight against Covid-19 and I’m hugely grateful to the UK’s Armed Forces for supporting this effort in Wales as well as continuing to support the work of the Welsh Ambulance Service.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, the military has stepped up to support health services across Wales with the distribution of PPE, construction of a temporary hospital in Cardiff and assisting community testing in the South Wales valleys, demonstrating the UK Government’s commitment to meet the needs of the whole of the United Kingdom.”

Personnel on task come from units across the three services – Royal Navy, British Army and Royal Air Force. Some personnel have been active on other tasks in Wales since the pandemic began including community testing and PPE delivery.

There are now 227 personnel available to support on Operation Rescript tasks in Wales, the operational name given to Defence’s work to support the pandemic response across the UK.

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