FACE coverings will remain mandatory in health and social care settings in Wales for at least the next three weeks, the first minister has confirmed tonight. 

Though the majority of pandemic restrictions were lifted on Monday, March 28 a small number have been retained and are still subject to the regular three week review by the Welsh Government. 

Mark Drakeford has now confirmed that under that process he is keeping the legal requirement to wear face coverings in places such as hospitals, doctors surgeries and care homes for the next three weeks. 

The government said this will offer “ongoing protection to those most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus.” 

However, in line with the easing of restrictions, the legal requirement for businesses to undertake specific coronavirus risk assessments will end on Monday 18 April.  

Businesses, which had to have plans in place for how they would protect staff and attempt to stop the spread of coronavirus such as potentially limiting customer numbers, will continue to be encouraged to take steps to operate in a Covid-safe manner. 

Though Wales is continuing with a gradual move away from legal restrictions cases of Covid-19 have been increasing. 

Drakeford said: “Retaining face coverings in health and social care settings will help to control the spread of coronavirus in places where some of the most vulnerable people in our society are being treated and live, while also helping to protect staff.” 

He has also warned against thinking that the threat of Covid has passed or that Wales has moved out of the pandemic. 

“This doesn’t mean the pandemic is over. Unfortunately coronavirus is still with us – we’ve seen a spike in infections over the last month, with large numbers of people falling ill and a surge in hospital admissions. 

“We hope we are beginning to turn the corner. But it’s really important we all continue to take steps to protect ourselves and each other. Everything we do can and does make a difference to the people around us – just as it has since the start of the pandemic.” 

According to the Office for National Statistics an estimated 230,800 people in Wales had Covid-19 in the week ending April 2 which works out at around seven per cent of the population or one in 13 people currently infected. 

Welsh Liberal Democrat leader Jane Dodds said she agreed with maintaining the requirement for face coverings in health and social care settings but called for the Welsh Government to make a fourth vaccine dose available to all that want it. 

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The Mid and West Wales MS said: “Opening up the fourth vaccine to those who want it will help those who are either more vulnerable or nervous about things opening up to have the confidence to fully engage in everything they want to.” 

The Welsh Government the spring booster vaccine is available for people aged 75 years and over; those living in care homes for older adults and people aged 12 and over who are immunosuppressed. Health boards are sending invitations to all those eligible. 

Invitations are also being sent to families with children aged five to eleven years who are now eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine primary dose. 

Those who test positive for Covid are being encouraged to isolate at home while the Welsh Government is also urging people to wear face coverings in indoor crowded public places, meet outdoors and if indoors to keep places well ventilated and wash hands regularly and cover coughs and sneezes to prevent the spread of Covid. 

It is also reminding people to take additional precautions when visiting vulnerable people and avoid meeting them if possible if you have any symptoms of a respiratory infection. 

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