Travellers who don’t self-isolate spreading Covid-19 in Wales, Health Minister says

Passenger plane

International passengers who are not self-isolating on their return are spreading further cases of Covid-19 in Wales, Health Minister Vaughan Gething has said.

He said he was “concerned” after consultants in Communicable Disease Control told him of a number of examples of Covid-19 positive travellers not self-isolating.

“It is almost certain that travellers returning to Wales from areas of higher Covid-19 incidence will lead to further seeding of infections within Wales,” he said.

“Travel into Wales from mainland Europe drove the first wave of Covid-19.

“Without action, it is likely that there will be a significant health and economic impacts arising from new clusters of infections and renewed disease transmission in Wales.”

Vaughan Gething said also said he was considering adding Greece to the list of countries that require air passengers to self-isolate for two weeks.

Greece is currently on the list of countries and territories with no self-isolation requirement on arrival in the UK.

However, Gething said that there was an “obvious need” to consider changes to the Regulations in Wales which would require travellers arriving from Greece to self-isolate on their return.

His comments came after the Welsh Government said it would be asking travellers arriving home to Wales from Zante to self-isolate for 14 days.

Vaughan Gething said there are six clusters of cases, amounting to 30 infections, linked to flights from the Greek island.

It comes after at least 16 people tested positive following a TUI flight from Zante to Cardiff last week.

 

‘Dynamic’

“In the last week our NHS Wales Test Trace Protect service has identified multiple separate clusters linked to the Greek island of Zante/Zakynthos which currently has no returning quarantine restrictions,” Vaughan Gething said.

“There are currently six clusters amounting to over 30 cases in the last week from four flights, of which two of these flights landed in England.

“There are concerns from our public health teams that the current advice and control measures for returning travellers are insufficient.

“Public Health Wales have expressed direct concerns about the public health risk posed by passengers returning to Cardiff this evening from Zante/Zakynthos. I share that concern.

As a result he said he had agreed the following actions:

  1. All passengers on the flight from Zante/Zakynthos to Cardiff this evening will be given a letter before leaving the airport requesting that they self-isolate for 14 days due to the risk of unknowingly spreading Covid-19 to others.
  2. All passengers will be offered a Covid-19 antigen test within 48 hours of their return and will be offered a repeat test 8 days after returning home.

“I am aware that travellers may be returning to Wales from Zante/Zakynthos this evening or tomorrow from other airports outside of Wales,” Vaughan Gething said.

“I ask that these travellers self-isolate for 14 days on their return and request a test once they arrive home and to repeat the test eight days after returning home.

“In addition, I have pressed for an early meeting with the UK government and devolved nations tomorrow to consider the latest assessment of risk by the Joint Biosecurity Centre. There is an obvious need for us to consider the potential for changes to the Regulations in Wales which would require travellers arriving in the UK from Greece and possibly elsewhere to self-isolate on their return.

“This is a dynamic situation and I will continue to review what measures may be required in the future.

“I will, of course, keep members updated.”

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