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Covid: Wales moves to alert level zero with most rules scrapped

Almost 17 months after Wales’ first lockdown, nightclubs are allowed to reopen and meeting indoors is permitted.

Face masks are still required in most public indoor places, but not in pubs, restaurants or schools.

But First Minister Mark Drakeford has warned against a “free-for-all”.

The decision was confirmed on Thursday following weeks of declining case rates which “helps create the conditions in which we can move forward”, Mr Drakeford said.

Speaking on Friday, the first minister said he was confident Wales was on the “final lap” of emerging from the pandemic, providing there were no “further unexpected turns in the course of the virus”.

In England, most rules were relaxed on 19 July, after Prime Minister Boris Johnson postponed so-called “Freedom Day” by a month after cases of the Delta variant surged.

What do people think about the easing of restrictions?

The Three Horseshoes pub in Tonyrefail, Rhondda Cynon Taf, will see live acts, pool and darts return on Saturday for the first time since before the pandemic.

Landlord Martin Barron said: “I think people will look forward to it, you can watch an act, grab a beer and it gives people a reason to come out.”

He said it would be operating at about 80% capacity because “we are trying to get to normal but the risk is still there”.

The Welsh Beer and Pub Association has welcomed the end of restrictions and said it meant more than 150 pubs in Wales which had yet to reopen could now do so on Saturday.

Emma McClarkin, chief executive, said: “This is the good news our brewers and pubs in Wales have been waiting for.

“A pint on Saturday is going to taste all the sweeter.”

‘Huge relief’

Staff at a cafe in Newport have also welcomed the relaxation of mask rules, calling it a “huge relief”.

Laura Leach, who owns the Restpoint Cafe, said: “A lot of our customers come in for the social aspect, so trying to have a conversation while wearing a mask makes it impossible.”

She also said it would ease pressures on her and staff to “challenge non-mask wearers”, after “hardly anyone was complying” with the rules after the first lockdown.

Ms Leach said staff would be thrilled to remove their masks while in the kitchen but would still wear masks when serving and continue social distancing.

‘Don’t forget about us’

While some are excited to see restrictions eased, for others it is a more daunting prospect.

Sasha Robbins, a wheelchair user with cerebral palsy from Pontypridd said she felt “excited” about rules relaxing but was “really cautious” about the future after shielding throughout the pandemic.

Shielding advice was paused on 1 April this year, with no expectation that people would need to shield again in the future, chief medical officer Frank Atherton said.

“Prior to it [the pandemic] I had a really active social life but now I’ve noticed there’s things out there that I can’t control,” she said.

That became more of a realisation for Ms Robbins, 32, when her father contracted Covid-19 when visiting the hospital for a routine check-up.

He ended up in intensive care and lost his leg.

She said she was worried about people’s attitudes now that almost all social restrictions are being relaxed and has faced some unpleasant experiences during the pandemic.

“Some venomous things have been said to me just because I’m me and I don’t understand it,” she said.

She urged people not to “forget” disabled people.

Rhian Davies, chief executive of Disability Wales said she feared disabled people would be locked out of society.

Ms Davies said the unlocking of restrictions could “exacerbate a two-tier system of people feeling like a second-class citizen” without “strong messaging from public bodies”.

“Just because someone isn’t a wheelchair user, hasn’t got a white cane or a guide dog, doesn’t mean they’re not at risk,” she said.

Jessica Leigh, from disability charity Scope, said many disabled people would be anxious about the changes.

“The government’s decision to lift restrictions leaves some clinically extremely vulnerable people or those not yet vaccinated at the mercy of others’ goodwill,” she said.

Crickhowell Rugby Club will play its first competitive community match since February 2020.

Bleddyn Carrington, team manager and full-back, said “everyone is like a coiled spring ready to go”.

“Players are excited, the chats on the WhatsApp group are getting a bit intense,” he said.

“You get nervous thinking ‘am I good enough after 18 months?'”

Six weeks ago the team were not able to do contact drills, train for more than one hour and use showers, but Saturday marks a return to competitive action.

The team played its first friendly match on 19 July against Brecon Seconds but Mr Carrington said it would not compare to being in the competitive environment.

“It’s an electric feeling having crowds watching you, hearing your name called when you catch a ball or make a tackle… you forget what it’s like.”





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