The Welsh government will scrap all Covid curbs in two weeks under plans to reopen clubs, end the rule of six in pubs and lift the 50-person limited on outdoor events.
Mark Drakeford will lay out a plan for Wales to move from alert level two to alert level zero by the end of January if the public health situation continues to improve.
Restrictions on outdoor activities will be eased first before extending to other rules introduced on Boxing Day in a phased approach.
Under current measures, a limit of six people can meet in pubs, restaurants and cinemas, with outdoor events restricted to 50 people, and 30 indoors.
Rules also include mask-wearing in all public venues, the two-metre rule and the rule of six in hospitality settings. Nightclubs have been forced to shut.
The First Minister will hold a press conference at 12.15pm on Friday to announce the two-week roadmap following a review of the rules.
Speaking this morning, he said the move comes amid a rapid decline in the number of cases, adding: ‘We appear to have passed the peak of Omicron.’
Wales’ coronavirus case rate recently fell to 1,492.4 per 100,000 people over seven days – its lowest level since December 27.
The total number of people admitted to critical care with the virus is also 20 per cent of that recorded over the same period in January last year.
It follows Andrew RT Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, accusing the Welsh government of ‘overreacting’ to the coronavirus variant.
Responding to Mr Drakeford’s latest roadmap, the Welsh Conservatives said they are glad he has ‘finally listened to calls’ to lift restrictions.
Mr Drakeford told BBC Radio 4’s Today: ‘Because the data and the science is saying to us – as the modelling we have in Wales predicted – we appear to have passed the peak of Omicron, and are coming down very rapidly on the other side.
‘That gives us confidence that over the next two weeks we can gradually and carefully lift the level of protections we needed over the Christmas period, because from a public health perspective it will then be safe to do so.’
Wales was previously criticised for imposing much tougher restrictions than England over the festive period.
UKHospitality Cymru had warned hospitality businesses in Wales were already ‘battered and bruised and at the end of their tether’ by a collapse in customer numbers and said the rules would ‘only make matters worse’.
Welsh Conservatives leader Mr Davies said: ‘Labour ministers clearly overreacted to Omicron, and that has caused significant pain and anguish for families and businesses in Wales.
‘Sadly, Labour have left Wales as an outlier in the UK with the strictest restrictions when it comes to sport, outdoor activity and hospitality.’
Bur Mr Drakeford denied the measures had come at a huge cost to Welsh commerce and hospitality, blaming the impact of the Omicron wave instead.
He criticised England’s looser restrictions, saying they had led to ‘thousands upon thousands’ of people unable to do their jobs because of sickness.
He said: ‘The government in England has been paralysed throughout this process and simply hasn’t been able to take decisions.
‘In Wales we have a government that is prepared to do difficult things when they are necessary to protect public health.’
The easing of restrictions on outdoor activities could mean Six Nations Rugby matches which are due to start next month can go ahead in the country.
Pressure had been mounting from sports organisations and fans, with many fearing games would have to be held across the border in England.
In a statement released last night, the Welsh government said: ‘The First Minister will tomorrow set out how Wales plans to move back to alert level zero if the public health situation continues to improve.
Source: The Daily Mail