Wales is “on the final lap” of emerging from the coronavirus pandemic, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said, as he confirmed the country will move to alert level zero from Saturday.
The change means all restrictions on meeting others will be removed and all businesses that are still closed will be able to reopen.
The new rules will come into effect from 6am on Saturday.
Speaking at a news briefing in Cardiff, Mr Drakeford said people can be confident that Wales is on the “final lap of emerging from the pandemic”, provided further “unexpected turns” do not happen.
“But we cannot possibly make the assumption that the virus might not yet have further unpleasant surprises for us,” he said.
“That’s been the history of the 18 months, and were a new variant to emerge, or the virus take a turn in which vaccination were less effective than we have it today, then inevitably we would have to face the consequences of that and take measures to address it.
“While things remain as they are, while we all go on making the contribution we can, I think we can have some confidence that today’s latest steps out of coronavirus put us on that path beyond this and into the future.”
He added: “Having reached this important milestone, we now need carefully to monitor the impact of lifting so many restrictions and we therefore do not expect to make any further changes at the next review.
“So, the changes we’ve announced today set the pattern for at least the next six weeks. And that’s why this is such a significant moment for us all.”
Mr Drakeford continued: “Alert level zero does not mean the end of coronavirus and it very certainly does not mean a free-for-all here in Wales.”
He has already confirmed that face masks will still have to be worn on public transport and in most indoor public places in Wales beyond Saturday.
It came as new data shows confirmed cases of COVID-19 are falling in most parts of Wales – now 130 cases per 100,000 people.
And 82% of adults in the country have now received both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.