IT is no longer a requirement to wear a mask in shops and on public transport in Wales.

The requirement to self-isolate after Covid-19 infection has also come to an end.

The change to the rules began today (Monday, March 28).

However, it will still be a legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and social care settings – and businesses will continue to be required to carry out coronavirus risk assessments.

The Leader: Mark Drakeford.Mark Drakeford.

Also, when announcing the rules on Friday, First Minister Mark Drakeford strongly advised people to continue wearing masks and self-isolating even though they were no longer legally required to do so.

He said: "While self-isolation after a positive test will no longer be a legal requirement, we will strongly advise that you should of course self-isolate. The fact that it is no longer in law does not mean that it is not important."

The new rules from March 28:

  • The legal requirement to wear masks in retail premises and on public transport has ended, however it will be 'strongly advised' that people continue to do this.
  • The legal requirement to self-isolate if tested positive for Covid has also ended. However it is strongly recommended to continue
  • Businesses still have to carry out and implement covid risk assessments and measures to eliminate the risks
  • Masks are still be mandatory in health and social care settings. 
  • The self-isolation payment will continue for those families on lower incomes until June.

Mr Drakeford said he could not see Wales reverting back to tougher measures - but nothing could be ruled out.

When asked, the First Minister said: "I think it is unlikely that we will need to return to the level of protection we have seen in previous winters, largely because we have the protection the vaccination offers. The JCVI met yesterday to plan ahead to tackle the virus. There are new treatments like anti-virals.

"Unless something totally unexpected happens like a new virus that escapes the vaccine, I can't see a return to the measures we have had previously. I can't say we will rule it out forever. Do we expect to have to do the things you suggested? The answer to that is no but as we've seen with the last week alone, the experience with coronavirus does not always proceed as expected."

He also said he understood that people could be anxious as rules are relaxed.

MORE - Problem facing dental patients in North Wales raised in Senedd 

Mr Drakeford said: "I absolutely do recognise that. I have more letters from people anxious that protections are being lifted too quickly than I do from people thinking we are moving too slowly.

"I understand that you are anxious that you are entering a world where people may not be taking coronavirus so seriously. It is why I have made clear that while we are relying on strong advice rather than the law, doing the right and sensible thing has to be done.

We've learnt all those things - hand hygiene, wearing a mask. 

"We have to manage it like we would other conditions. If you have measles, you wouldn't go to work with it. That's not law, it's what is right.

"I think we've done incredibly well to sustain that way of behaving over the last two years and we need to go on that way."

It has been expected that Wales would remove all of the remaining Coronavirus measures.

But the rise of the new BA2 Omicron variant meant that a more cautious approach was taken.

MORE - Latest Covid figures for North Wales

Mr Drakeford told the Welsh Government briefing on Friday: "We had hoped to be able to take the next steps in that plan on Monday, March 28, by removing the legal framework which has underpinned the remaining restrictions we have in place.

"The rapid spread of infections caused by BA2 means we need to retain some of these protections in law for a little while longer and at the same time we will issue authoritative advice to help to protect us all."

"We have decided to keep those legal protections in place where they can make the biggest impact. Face coverings remain mandatory in health and social care settings where people are most vulnerable.

"Maintaining these very modest legal protections will give us more time to continue building the most important protection of all - our vaccination programme."

He added: "Our guidance for schools will remain in place for the rest of this term and we will be working with our partners for after Easter. In this time, masks should be worn by teachers, staff and secondary school pupils."

The changes come as, analysis suggests, the number of new Covid-19 infections in the UK is likely to have climbed as high as half a million a day.

MORE - Minister says 'blame game' contributing to hospital waiting times in Wales

Infections are estimated to have more than doubled in the space of two weeks, from 244,600 per day by February 23 to 520,200 by March 9, according to new modelling published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The figures suggest the virus could be circulating at levels higher even than those reached during the Omicron-led surge at the start of the year.