FM says different rules could be brought in for Welsh international travellers after slamming UK Gov’s ‘chaotic’ approach
The First Minister has said that different rules may have to be brought in at English airports for Welsh international travellers after slamming the UK Government’s “chaotic” approach.
Speaking in the Senedd, he said that the UK government was mistaken in its plan to get rid of PCR tests on day two for returning travellers and said the Welsh government had yet to decide whether to follow.
He suggested that although it would be difficult to bring in different rules for Welsh travellers at English airports, it was a decision he might have to make.
“The UK Government’s approach to international travel during the pandemic has been amongst the most chaotic parts of its response,” Mark Drakeford said. “It’s very hard indeed to follow their thinking in this area.
“We have, as a Welsh Government, with others, consistently urged on them a more precautionary approach to defending the borders of the United Kingdom against the reimportation into the UK of coronavirus and, particularly, the importation of new variants that may be occurring elsewhere in the world.
“At the end of last week, the UK Government decided to collapse the green and amber lists into one. I don’t think we had a particular objection to that. They reduced the red list of countries, which I think is more concerning. Again, we would have taken a more precautionary approach to sustaining the number of countries on the red list.
“But the most concerning thing of all was their decision to move away from PCR tests on day two after someone returns from overseas, because that was the strongest defence against the reimportation of viruses from elsewhere in the world.
“In Wales, we genomic sequence a higher proportion of tests than any other part of the United Kingdom, and it is that sequencing that allows the very skilled scientists who do it to identify new variations in coronavirus. Without a PCR test, it is very difficult to see how the UK Government will be able to do that.
“So, we do have a decision of our own to make. It is a very difficult decision in a practical sense because so many Welsh travellers return to Wales via an English port or airport, and having a separate Welsh system advertised to them, communicated to them at that point is not something that English ports have been keen to do.
“Nevertheless, we continue to think it through, to discuss it with those on whom we would have to rely, and we will come to a decision shortly on it.
“The real answer should have been to have retained day two PCR tests across the United Kingdom, and the failure to do so I think really is a step away from the duty that the UK Government owes to the health of people in this country.”
From Monday 4 October, people who have had two vaccines will no longer need to take a pre-departure test when travelling to England under the UK Government’s rule changes.
Later in October, fully vaccinated travellers from the UK and some other countries will be able to replace their day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test on arrival in England.
The government’s changes also replace the original traffic light system with just two lists – a new “red list”, and a “rest of world” category.
Grant Shapps said the new “simplified” system aimed to strike “the right balance to manage the public health risk as no 1 priority”.
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