The Welsh government has announced it is set to lift all remaining COVID-19 regulations next week, becoming the last regional administration in the UK to do so.
The legal requirement to wear a face covering in health and care settings will end on May 30, the Welsh government said.
Announcing the end of COVID-19 curbs on May 27, First Minister Mark Drakeford said Wales can now look forward to a “brighter future.”
But he urged people to keep taking steps to protect their health, and repeated the warning the four UK chief medical officers issued this week about the risk of new variants of the CCP virus.
The Labour politician said: “The pandemic has had a profound impact on all our lives, everyone has made sacrifices and changes over the last two years. But it is thanks to all your efforts that we can move beyond the emergency response while still living safely with this virus.”
He thanked all Welsh people for what they had done to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“You have followed the rules and you have kept Wales safe,” he said.
Drakeford said Wales has reached a “significant milestone,” as it completes the “careful and gradual transition away from legal protections and away from the emergency response to the pandemic.”
He added ministers would “remain alert to the threat of new and emerging variants” and urged the public to continue to “take simple steps” such as “staying up to date with vaccinations” and self-isolating if they have COVID-19 symptoms.
The opposition Welsh Conservatives welcomed the government’s move, but criticised the “harsh” restrictions imposed by the Labour government.
Welsh Conservative shadow health minister Russell George said he was “delighted” at the news while criticising Labour’s “overreaction” to the Omicron variant.
“Not only do we need to remember all those who lost lives and loved ones to lockdowns and the virus itself, but learn the lessons of the pandemic about how we can counter another one and assess the impact of deploying harsh emergency restrictions on our population,” he said.
Data from Public Health Wales shows COVID-19 infections in the region have been steadily falling over the last two months, with an average of 15.1 cases per 100,000 people being recorded in the week prior to May 15.