Minister warns UK Government’s changes to travel plans are not without risk
The Minister for Health & Social Services has confirmed in a statement that red list changes to the international travel regulations in Wales will come into effect from 4am on 22 September, in line with UK Government.
Eluned Morgan MS also said Welsh Government would carefully consider any changes to the PCR testing requirements after UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that tests will no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers returning to England.
Mr Shapps also revealed that eight countries would be removed from the travel red list from next Wednesday.
The changes mean people returning from Kenya, Oman, Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Egypt will no longer have to stay in hotel quarantine.
In her statement, Ms Morgan said: “International travel continues to represent a risk of importing coronavirus infections to Wales, especially new and emerging variants of concern. Our advice continues to be that people should only travel abroad for essential reasons.
“The border health measures in place across the UK go some way to protect against the importation of infection and the introduction of new variants.
“These changes are not without risk – they weaken the line of defence on importing infection and increase opportunities for new infections and new variants to enter the UK and Wales.
“A four-nation collaborative approach is critical to evaluate and implement effective border control arrangements. As Wales shares an open border with England, and most travellersarriving in Wales enter through ports outside Wales, it is not effective to have separate border health policy arrangements for Wales.
“We will carefully consider the UK Government’s proposed changes to the border health measures, which include the removal of pre-departure testing and introducing lateral flow tests instead of PCR tests on day two of people’s return to the UK.”
Ms Morgan added: “Our considerations will be underpinned by robust evidence and our main focus will continue to be on reducing the risk to public health in Wales.
“Vaccines can help reduce this risk but only if they are effective against new and emerging variants of concern and high-risk variants under investigation.
Travel is a devolved issue in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Scotland has said it would simplify its traffic light system but ruled out removing the requirement for PCR tests, due to “significant concerns at the impact on public health”.
Speaking yesterday, Mr Shapps said: “The purpose is to make it easier to travel without the bureaucracy, without so many tests, and with a greater level of certainty now that we’ve got so many people vaccinated.”