Related video: Health secretary cuts isolation period
The first minister said curbs will be removed gradually over the next two weeks if conditions allow.
“We can now look more confidently to the future and plan to start gradually removing the alert level two restrictions, starting with the outdoors measures,” Mr Drakeford said.
“But the pandemic is not over,” he warned. “We will closely monitor the public health situation – this is a fast-moving and volatile variant, which could change suddenly. I urge everyone to continue to follow the rules and have your vaccines to keep Wales safe.”
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, warned that, while there are positive signs in the data, the country is “far from out of the woods”.
We’re wrapping up our Covid liveblog for the day.
Thanks for reading and have a good afternoon.
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s Covid liveblog.
We’ll bring you pandemic updates throughout the day.
Full report: Wales to set out two-week plan to axe curbs
The Welsh government is to set out a two-week plan to ease coronavirus restrictions.
Bronwen Weatherby has the story:
First Minister Mark Drakeford will be holding a press conference on Friday.
Matthew Taylor: NHS care compromised
NHS care is compromised due to the Omicron wave of Covid, an NHS leader has said.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said there are encouraging signs in the data but the country is "far from out of the woods".
"One leader of an NHS trust in the north told me that they felt they were at least a week away from their peak, while more than one in 10 of their staff were absent," he said.
"On top of that, they have medically fit patients stuck in hospital beds because the pandemic has decimated capacity in social care."
He added: "We may be at the end of the beginning of this wave, but we are far from out of the woods.
"NHS leaders are doing everything they can to keep their services running, but they are being put in a worrying situation where the quality of care their teams are able to provide is at times being compromised."
UN forecasts lower global economic growth for 2022 and 2023
The United Nations forecast lower global economic growth for 2022 and 2023 on Thursday, saying the world is facing new waves of coronavirus infections, persistent labour market challenges, lingering supply chain issues and rising inflationary pressures.
The UN said that after expanding 5.5% in 2021 - the highest rate of global economic growth in more than four decades - the world economy is projected to grow only 4% in 2022 and 3.5% in 2023.
Liu Zhenmin, the UNundersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, said at a news conference releasing the economic report that two years after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic "we are still living in a time of great uncertainty."
Teachers confront half-empty classrooms as virus surges
Teachers around the US are confronting classrooms where as many as half of students are absent because they have been exposed to COVID-19 or their families kept them at home out of concern about the surging coronavirus.
The widespread absences have only added to the difficulty of keeping students on track in yet another pandemic-disrupted school year. In the nation's largest district, attendance has been so low that New York City Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday reversed an earlier pledge to keep children in schools and said he would consider allowing a return to some form of virtual instruction.
"This is really taking a toll on the learning. If you have three kids in your class one day and you're supposed to have 12, you have to reteach everything two weeks later when those kids come back," said Tabatha Rosproy, a teacher in Olathe, Kansas, and the 2020 national Teacher of the Year.
Some of the country's biggest school systems report absentee rates around 20% or slightly more, with some individual schools seeing far higher percentages of missing students.
One in ten people with Covid still infectious after 10 days, study suggests
One in 10 people with Covid-19 may remain infectious after 10 days, research suggests.
The amount of time people who test positive for the virus have to isolate for has been cut to five days in England.
My colleague Liam James has more details:
Research comes as self-isolation period cut again in England
Exemption, detention, cancellation: How Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa saga unfolded
Novak Djokovic’s defence of his Australian Open title remains in doubt after Australian immigration officials cancelled his visa for the second time.
Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to challenge the dramatic decision taken by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on Friday, the day after the nine-time champion was drawn to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
Here’s a look back at how the saga unfolded:
The saga has taken another dramatic twist
Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses
The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation's COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the U.S. The court's orders Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the omicron variant.
The court's conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.
"OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here," the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.
In dissent, the court's three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. "Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies," Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent.
President Joe Biden said he was "disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law."
Citigroup reaches 99% compliance on US staff vaccine mandate
About 99% of Citigroup Inc's staff in the United States have complied with the company's COVID-19 vaccine requirements, the bank's Head of Human Resources Sara Wechter said in a LinkedIn post on Thursday.
Citi staff in the U.S. who have not been vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 14 will be placed on unpaid leave and fired at the end of the month unless they are granted an exemption, Reuters reported last week.
Wall Street banks and investment firms have been more proactive than other sectors in requiring that employees return to offices. Many of those moves have been derailed by the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
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