Wales will go ahead with easing coronavirus restrictions even without conclusive evidence that vaccinations have broken the link between rising infections and hospital cases, Mark Drakeford has said.
The First Minister said the country’s four-week pause on lifting more rules cannot be extended indefinitely “in search of perfection” from scientists about the effect of the spike in cases of the Delta variant.
Latest figures show there are nearly 490 cases of the variant in Wales and more than four out of five new Covid-19 cases are attributed to it.
Two-thirds of these are not linked to travel or contact with another case.
Wales is aiming to roll out more than half a million doses of vaccine over the next four weeks, and the Welsh Government hope that delaying easements will reduce a potential peak of daily hospital admissions by up to half.
Mr Drakeford said the pause would also be used to establish more definitively the extent to which vaccinations have altered the relationship between falling ill and needing hospital treatment, but that if an answer could not be given then easements would still need to go ahead.
He told the PA news agency on Friday: “I agree that you cannot, in the end, delay everything in the search for perfection in terms of data.
“But what we are quite clearly told by our scientific advisers as well as others is that this four weeks will allow us to get a sufficiently good handle on the extent to which a relationship between falling ill and needing hospitalisation has been modified by the vaccine.
“Then we will make a calculation about how much headroom we have, as we always do, to take further steps.”
Some technical amendments are being made to the regulations in the meantime to make them easier for people to understand, which Mr Drakeford said showed things were moving in a “positive direction”.
These include the number of people who can attend a wedding or civil partnership reception or wake, organised by a business in an indoors regulated premise, such as a hotel, will now be determined by the size of the venue and a risk assessment.
Small grassroots music and comedy venues will also be able to operate on the same basis as hospitality venues, and primary school children in the same school contact group or bubble will be able to stay overnight in a residential outdoor education centre.
“Of course we’d like to be able to move fully into alert level one, but things move so quickly here and so fast that it’s just not sensible to be in the prediction business,” Mr Drakeford said.
Wales has the lowest coronavirus rates in the UK and the highest vaccination rates for first doses.
Rules in Wales were last relaxed on June 7 and said outdoor events with up to 10,000 people were allowed to resume and other events, such as concerts, football matches and sporting activities, could recommence for up to 4,000 people standing and 10,000 people sitting.
The regulations will be reviewed again on July 15.