Welsh Government Ministers have confirmed that face coverings will continue to be required in certain settings here in Wales, such as on public transport and within health and social care, while coronavirus remains a public health threat.
This news comes as the Welsh Government prepares to publish an updated Coronavirus Control Plan setting out what will happen beyond Alert Level One and the next steps the country will take as we, hopefully, continue on our path out of pandemic life.
Next week, Ministers will hold the regular 21-day review of the coronavirus regulations, which will set out whether restrictions can be relaxed in some indoor places, including people's homes. They will also publish new plans setting out how Wales will move beyond alert level one to a new alert level zero, with fewer legal restrictions.
It has been revealed that active further consideration is being given as to whether face coverings should also be required in other settings, such as retail, if restrictions are relaxed further.
However, in schools, rules are already set to be changing from the start of the new year, in September. On Friday, Education Minister Jeremy Miles wrote to all schools in Wales explaining that wearing face coverings in the classroom will no longer be recommended.
First Minister Mark Drakeford said:
"We will need everyone's help to keep coronavirus under control as we continue to respond to the pandemic – this virus has quite certainly not gone away.
"We know many people are still worried and anxious about going out. We will maintain the requirement to wear face coverings in certain places – on public transport and health and social care settings, and others where necessary – to help keep us all safe."
In a press release shared with Bro Radio, the Welsh Government explained its reasoning for the continued role of the face covering here in Wales:
"Scientific evidence supports the use of face coverings, alongside other measures, as a way of reducing the transmission of the virus.
"They largely protect other people, rather than the wearer, against the spread of infection because they cover the nose and mouth, which are the main sources of transmission of virus. They are particularly useful in busy or crowded, indoor and poorly-ventilated areas.
"Public transport vehicles are usually enclosed spaces. If a train or bus is crowded it may not be possible for people to choose not to get on as it could be their only route to work.
"Health and social care settings can be high-risk environments where sick patients and staff could be at increased risk of exposure to the virus. Wearing face coverings in these areas can help protect others."
Health Minister Eluned Morgan added:
"Wearing face masks is an effective way of reducing the transmission of coronavirus.
"We all have a duty to help to protect each other. Keeping everyone safe has been the Welsh Government's priority through the pandemic and will continue to be the priority in future."
The First Minister will make a statement to Plenary on Wednesday setting out the outcome of the 21-day review and providing further details on the new alert level zero.