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Wales to introduce travel restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus

Written by on 14th October 2020

The Welsh Government is preparing urgent action to prevent people who live in areas with high coronavirus infection rates across the UK from travelling to Wales, First Minister Mark Drakeford today confirmed.

The action is being taken after the Prime Minister did not respond to the First Minister’s requests to make advisory travel guidance in English coronavirus hotspots mandatory.

Under new regulations being prepared by Welsh Ministers, people living in areas with a high-prevalence of coronavirus in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland would not be able to travel to Wales for the time being.

They will help prevent the virus moving from such high-prevalence areas to lower-prevalence communities.

First Minister Mark Drakeford said:

“Evidence from public health professionals suggests coronavirus is moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales. As a general rule, it is concentrating in urban areas and then spreading to more sparsely populated areas as a result of people travelling.  

“Much of Wales is now subject to local restriction measures because levels of the virus have risen and people living in those areas are not able to travel beyond their county boundary without a reasonable excuse. This is designed to prevent the spread of infection within Wales and to other areas of the UK.  

“We are preparing to take this action to prevent people who live in areas where there are higher covid infection rates across the UK from travelling to Wales and bringing the virus with them.

“I am determined to keep Wales safe.”

The Welsh Government is finalising its regulatory approach to the travel restrictions. 

The new restrictions are planned to come into force on Friday October 16 at 6pm.

Plaid Cymru Leader Adam Price MS said,

“This announcement is long overdue and I’m pleased to see the Welsh Government finally taking this necessary course of action to protect the people of Wales.

“We now need a clear timetable for exactly when the draft legislation will be ready to publish, the proposed timescales and plans for implementation and how this is to be communicated across the UK. With half term arriving for much of England next week, timing is now critical.”

“Let this be a lesson to Welsh Government. Continued correspondence with Downing Street will not get us the answers we want. We should have learnt our lessons from the first wave: depending on Westminster does not work for Wales.

The Leader of the Opposition in the Welsh Parliament – Paul Davies MS – has rounded on the First Minister over a ban on people entering Wales from England, and the Labour Party’s inability or unwillingness to publish comprehensive data proving that transmission rates are accelerating due to travel.

Mr Davies took the First Minister to task during Plenary today (October 14), and referred to a statement made by the leader of the Labour Party on September 23 when he said that the Welsh Government was not seeing any spikes at all in infection due to travel and tourism.

Mr Davies said that the people of Wales deserve to have sight of the data that underpins the Welsh Labour-led Government’s position on this matter, so that they can be confident that the Government’s actions are proportionate to the threat of the virus in their area.

Mr Davies also referred to a paper that accompanied the First Minister’s letter to the Prime Minister yesterday, a paper – that was not peer-reviewed – that confirms the data “…does not constitute definitive proof” in favour of a travel ban.

Mr Davies said:

The First Minister and his Government have acted rashly and without examining a range of other factors before a conclusion on whether to impose a travel ban or not is reached, while at the same time seemingly ignoring the fact that transmission rates in relation to travel had already peaked in August and September.

“It is incumbent on the First Minister to explain just why he has chosen to act in this way, and what supporting evidence he and his Ministers have seen to justify a ban and then publish it so it can be properly scrutinised.

“If he cannot or will not, then he must review and rescind this ban immediately.”