Restrictions on commercial events and activities in Wales to slow the spread of the Omicron variant will “gradually” be lifted over the next two weeks.
He said the devolved government can proceed as Omicron cases are tapering off “rapidly” and the recall campaign has been a success – with 1.75 million people in Wales receiving an additional blow.
Outdoor activities will be the first to have all restrictions lifted, meaning Six Nations matches in Wales next month can be played in front of the public.
What are the changes?
Mr. Drakeford outlined a two-week timetable at a press conference.
• The number of people who can attend outdoor events will rise from 50 to 500
From 21 January:
• No limit to the number of people who can participate in outdoor activities
• Crowds will return to outdoor sporting events and outdoor hospitality will be able to operate without reasonable additional measures
• COVID passes will be required for entry to larger outdoor events
From 28 January:
• Wales will go to zero alert level for all indoor activities and venues
• Nightclubs can reopen with required COVID passes, as well as for cinemas, concerts and theaters
• Working from home is no longer a legal requirement
From 10 February:
• Wales reverts to a three-week review cycle as the country is at zero alert level
Drakeford said the restrictions could be lifted “due to the hard work and effort of everyone in Wales who have once again followed all the rules and taken all steps to keep themselves and loved ones safe.”
He continued: “There will be difficult days and weeks as we continue to respond to Omicron, but we know there will be many more brighter days for all of us.”
What restrictions have been applied?
Wales have been on “alert level two” since Boxing Day, which means:
• Limits to people who meet inside and outside
• Hospitality must abide by the table service rules and apply the rule of six
• Prohibition of gathering at sporting events
• Night clubs forced to close their doors
Rules were introduced to curb the spread of Omicron and put Wales well out of step with Downing Street, which did not introduce any new measures after Christmas or New Year.
The brands of football clubs judge “ridiculous”
And earlier this month, Chester FC said it was “ridiculous” which has been said it could violate Welsh coronavirus regulations by allowing fans to watch home games.
The non-league club is registered in England however the Welsh border crosses the stadium which means the pitch and grandstands are in Wales.
The club had held two home games in front of fans since the new Welsh guidelines came in and was warned during a meeting with the North Wales police.
The Welsh government has also been criticized for delaying parkrun’s return to December.
UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid tweeted: “Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.” .
Former community secretary Robert Jenrick called the Welsh decision on outdoor meetings “madness”.
Welsh Athletics boss James Williams also called on officials to reconsider the move.
Drakeford defends stricter rules
Answering questions from reporters, Drakeford defended stricter restrictions in Wales than in England.
“The measures we have taken in Wales have been necessary and effective. That gap in experience between Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and that rapid and continued growth in England,” he said.
“That gap means thousands more people getting sick, more people hospitalized, more people unable to work because of coronavirus.
“The actions we have taken in Wales to flatten the curve and get it done faster, I think, have paid real dividends here and fully justify the actions taken by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”