Vaughan Gething has been replaced as Wales’ health minister in a surprise move as part of First Minister Mark Drakeford’s cabinet reshuffle.
Eluned Morgan will take over responsibilities for health and social care with Mr Gething moved to look after the economy brief, replacing Ken Skates who leaves the Welsh Government to rejoin the back benches.
Mr Gething has led Wales’ coronavirus pandemic response and served as health minister for the previous five years of the last government.
The reshuffle comes after Welsh Labour won 30 of the Senedd’s 60 seats in last week’s election – one short of an outright majority – with Mr Drakeford set to lead a minority Government.
On Thursday Mr Drakeford said: “Ken has been a real strength in cabinet and a voice for North Wales. He will continue speaking up for North Wales and for Welsh Labour but in a different role. We will miss his energy and passion.
“Vaughan becomes economy minister at a crucial point in time – the pandemic is not just a public health emergency but also an economic one.”
Mr Drakeford told the PA news agency that Mr Gething’s efforts during the pandemic had been “extraordinary” but he felt it was time “to ask someone else to take on that challenge”.
“I think Vaughan has done an extraordinary job on behalf of Wales, and the time had come when he felt that new challenges were right for him.
“We are moving into a period where the other great pandemic crisis, the economic crisis, will be even more to the fore.”
Two-thirds of the new cabinet are women, with Dawn Bowden joining as deputy minister for the arts and sport and also becoming chief whip.
Lesley Griffiths becomes minister for rural affairs and North Wales as well as Trefnydd, the house leader position, and Lynne Neagle becomes deputy minister for mental health and wellbeing,
Julie Morgan remains in her role as deputy minister for social services, while Jeremy Miles, who served as counsel general as well as Brexit minister, becomes the new education minister, taking over from Liberal Democrat Kirsty Williams who has left the Senedd.
Rebecca Evans remains Wales’ finance minister but adds local government to her portfolio.
Mick Antoniw replaces Mr Miles as counsel general, Jane Hutt becomes minister for social justice, and Hannah Blythyn becomes deputy minister for social partnership.
A new climate change ministry will bring together the environment, energy, housing, planning and transport portfolios, led by Julie James with Lee Waters becoming deputy minister for climate change.
Mr Drakeford said: “The new cabinet is ready to get to work to set Wales on the path to recovery out of this long pandemic, which has cast such a shadow over all our lives.
“There will be challenges ahead of us – the pandemic is a public health and economic emergency with long-lasting impacts on all our lives – but this is a talented and committed team, determined to make a positive difference to Wales and for Wales.
“We will use all our efforts and energies to create a stronger, fairer and greener Wales, where no one is held back or left behind.”