Wales chief makes massive Covid U-turn days after calling England outlier in bitter rant

Mark Drakeford hits out at coronavirus restrictions in England

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Mr Drakeford will reveal details of the updated plans, following the latest review of Covid rules, at a press conference later today (Friday). He will announce a move to move to alert level zero from alert level two by the end of the month, freeing nightclubs to reopen, while social distancing will be scrapped. Rules limiting outdoor activities will also be lifted. When Wales was previously under the lowest alert level, all businesses were allowed to open to the public with no restrictions on numbers at events.

People were required to wear a face-covering in most public spaces, while the Government continued to advise the public to work from home if possible.

Covid passes – criticised by many when they were introduced – were needed to gain entry to nightclubs, cinemas and theatres.

Mr Drakeford’s Government believes the success of the Covid booster programme in the country – which has seen 1.8 million people receive an extra dose – means restrictions can now be lifted.

The Covid case rate has also plunged to its lowest level since December 27 – 1,492.4 per 100,000 people over seven days.

But they warned the move depends on the public health situation continuing to improve.

The Welsh Government imposed stricter restrictions in the country on December 26 in a desperate bid to control a surge in Covid cases inflicted by the rapidly-spreading Omicron variant.

Nightclubs were closed over the busy New Year period, with events limited to a maximum of 50 people outdoors and 30 people indoors.

Pubs and restaurants were restricted to table service and the “Rule of Six” was in place, while social distancing rules were in place in workplaces and shops.

The move to considerably ease restrictions comes following increasing pressure from opposition political parties demanding a new exit plan amid falling Covid case numbers.

Welsh Conservative Senedd leader Andrew RT Davies said: “I’m pleased they’ve finally listened to calls from the Welsh Conservatives.

“Despite the detailed scientific evidence from South Africa, Labour ministers clearly overreacted to Omicron, and that has caused significant pain and anguish for families and businesses in Wales.

“The British booster campaign has been a resounding success and as such Labour should now move swiftly and remove restrictions as we get on the road to recovery and as a nation learn to live with Covid.”

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Last week, Mr Drakeford defended a recent comment the UK Government was the “outlier” in not introducing further Covid restrictions.

He told Sky’s Trevor Phillips on Sunday: “I’m asked time after time why isn’t Wales doing the same things as England?

“My answer was to point out that in this debate it is not Wales that is the outlier.

“Wales is following the same path of putting protections in place that is being followed by Scotland, Northern Ireland, and not just devolved governments in the UK, but governments across Europe and across the world.

“The questions as to why the UK Government has decided not to follow that course of action are for them to answer, not for me.

“I think they have not done what the science would have told them they should do.

“But that’s decisions for them to answer for – I’m answerable for the decisions we take here in Wales.”

Mr Drakeford had added he wanted restrictions in Wales to be “in place for as short a time as possible”.

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