FACE mask rules are to remain in place at health and care setting across Wales for at least the next three weeks, First Minister Mark Drakeford has confirmed.
Speaking after the latest three-week review of the coronavirus regulations, the First Minister said the public health situation was improving following the recent spike in cases caused by the BA.2 sub-type of omicron.
But Covid case rates remain high so maintaining the use of face coverings in health and care settings will help to protect to some of the most vulnerable people in society, staff and visitors.
The First Minister also urged everyone to continue to take measures to reduce the spread of coronavirus by following a set of simple steps to protect one another and keep Wales safe.
These include self-isolating if ill or testing positive for Covid-19; wearing a face covering in crowded indoor places, meeting outdoors wherever possible; keeping indoor areas well ventilated and washing hands regularly.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said: “The pandemic isn’t over but we are seeing encouraging signs the recent high levels of infections across Wales are falling.
“There are steps we can all take to protect ourselves while coronavirus is still circulating and reduce the spread of the virus even further. This is particularly true in places where some of the most vulnerable people in society are being treated and live, which is why we will retain the legal requirement to wear face coverings in health and social care settings.
“More generally, ensuring you are up-to-date with your Covid vaccinations and spring booster – if you are eligible – is really important. If you have Covid symptoms or test positive, please stay at home and help break the chain of transmission.
“Together, we can carry on keeping each other safe and keeping Wales safe.”
The next three-weekly review of coronavirus regulations will be carried out by 26 May.
Plaid Cymru’s spokesperson for health and care, Rhun ap Iorwerth MS, welcomed the announcement, saying: “The news that face coverings must continue to be worn in health and care settings reflects the fact that coronavirus hasn’t gone away.
“While health and care settings remain under pressure, we must remain vigilant and emphasise the need for prevention.
“This is important for NHS recovery plans, although what we really need is a concerted effort to tackle the health inequalities that persist throughout Wales. Time and time again some communities, some groups and some individuals suffer more than others – this was true during the pandemic. But it is not inevitable. We need to ensure that the health gap, which too often reflects the wealth gap in our society, is closed for good.”
Montgomeryshire MS and Welsh Conservative Shadow Minister for Health, Russell George MS, reaced to the announcement, saying: “We have been clear that emergency coronavirus laws should be removed as the public health situation has drastically improved, and health boards can use their own rules on masks.
“It is now high time the Labour Government stops dodging scrutiny and launches a Wales-specific public inquiry into the decisions taken throughout the pandemic.
“The families of people who lost loved ones during the pandemic deserve answers, and it is vital Labour ministers learn from their mistakes.
“The only way that can happen is through a Wales-specific probe.”
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