Wales announces it will close borders to people from high-Covid areas of England, Scotland and NI

Mark Drakeford the First Minister of Wales. Picture by the Welsh Government

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

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 won’t be able to travel to Wales.

The move will help prevent the virus moving from such high-prevalence areas to lower-prevalence communities, the Welsh Government said.

“Evidence from public health professionals suggests coronavirus is moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales,” First Minister Mark Drakeford said.

“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.

Conservative Health Spokesman Andrew RT Davies accused the Welsh Government of “banning the English”.

“The Welsh Government’s unhealthy obsession with travel restrictions and ‘banning the English’ flies in the face of all the evidence,” he said.

“Last month’s SAGE advice said such a move would have a ‘low impact’ and would be ‘complicated’ to enforce.”

Plaid Cymru meanwhile said that the restrictions were “long overdue”.

“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,” leader Adam Price said. 

“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.”

 

‘Urgent’

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had earlier backed Wales’ First Minister on travel restrictions within the UK.

Sturgeon said that she had received a letter from Drakeford calling on restrictions from high-Covid areas of Scotland, England and Northern Ireland into Wales.

Her response comes as speculation mounts that the Welsh Government could take its own steps to close Wales’ border to those from high-Covid areas.

“The First Minister of Wales is seeking agreement between the four UK nations on travel restrictions where necessary from high prevalence locations in one UK nation to lower prevalence areas in others,” Nicola Sturgeon said.

“I want to be clear today that I back the calls from the First Minister of Wales and I’ll be writing to the Prime Minister today to seek urgent talks on that issue.

“I also support the First Minister of Wales’ call for another COBRA meeting in early course to discuss collectively between the four nations what further steps we can all take at this stage to suppress the virus.”

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has so far resisted calls for any travel restrictions within the UK.

‘Fail’

Mark Drakeford sid yesterday that Wales’ efforts to control the spread of Covid-19 are being “undermined” by the movement of travellers from elsewhere in the UK.

The First Minister said that the voluntary guidance approach had proved “ineffective” and “firmer action” was urgently required to keep the virus under control.

In a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he said that it would be more straightforward to manage outbreaks if there is less movement of people across administrative boundaries.

“I have been clear throughout that this is not a matter of the border between Wales and England,” he said.

“This is a matter of preventing the circulation of the virus from areas of high prevalence to low-prevalence wherever they may be.

“If you fail to introduce the sort of measures we have already introduced in Wales, it will make this an issue which will undermine rather than support the successful operation of the border region.”

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