Most of Wales’ remaining Covid rules will be lifted as the nation enters the “final lap” of the pandemic, the first minister has said.


Social distancing laws and rules on who can meet indoors will end on Saturday, almost 17 months after the first lockdown.


However, rules will remain tighter than in England, with face masks still required by law in many public places.

Mark Drakeford warned the changes did not mean a “free-for-all”.


Wales will move to the lowest level of restrictions seen so far from 06:00 BST on Saturday, moving to alert level zero.


Mr Drakeford said as the case rate had steadily declined for the past three weeks and vaccinations had increased, most rules could now be scrapped.


He told a press briefing that the easing of restrictions was a “significant moment for all of us” and a “big step closer to life before the pandemic started”


However he urged people to be sensible, to continue to social distance, think about who they meet and where, and not behave as if the “virus has disappeared”.


“Most people in Wales want to go on acting carefully to protect their health and the health of others,” he said.


Mr Drakeford said with such major changes to rules, the impact on case rates needed to be seen, and so no further relaxation was expected to be made for “at least six weeks”.


Remaining rules include legal requirements to wear face masks, as well as advice on avoiding international travel.


The first minister said while he did not expect Wales to have to be return to tight restrictions such as lockdown measures, he could not rule anything out if there was a “sudden change for the worse”.


However, he said: “Provided we do not see further unexpected turns in the course of the virus, then I think we can have confidence that we are on the final lap of emerging from the pandemic.”


Under the changes from Saturday:

  • There will be no limit on the numbers that can meet indoors, including in homes, public places and events
  • Any businesses still closed, such as nightclubs, can reopen
  • Laws requiring social distancing indoors, including in workplaces, will end
  • However businesses will have to put their own measures in place to keep staff and customers safe, which may include social distancing


While the changes will see most of Wales’ rules lifted, more restrictions remain in place than across the border in England, where they were scrapped on so-called “freedom day” on 18 July.


Most restrictions in Scotland will come to an end on Monday – and with face masks still required in shops, the rules will be similar to here in Wales.


Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have said it was time for a Wales-specific inquiry into the handling of Covid


From Saturday, the rule requiring pubs in Wales to use table service will be lifted and all remaining limits on businesses reopening will be scrapped.


It will be the law to wear face masks in indoor public places including shops, buses and trains, and in health care settings, but not in venues where food and drink is served, such as pubs.


Laws on who you can meet indoors have existed since the start of the lockdown in March 2020 – with people having to stay two metres (6ft 6ins) apart from most people since.


Current restrictions say only six people are able to meet in private homes, however this will be scrapped, with people able to hug friends and family members for the first time in months as social distancing laws come to an end.


However with firms having to complete risk assessments and put their own measures in place to keep staff and customers safe, people may still be asked to social distance or wear masks in some places depending on the risk.


People will continue to have to self-isolate by law for 10 days if they get Covid while the Welsh government advice will be to continue to work from home where possible.


However, those who are fully vaccinated and are found to be a close contact of a positive Covid case will not need to self-isolate from Saturday.

Curtsy of BBC News Wales