The Welsh First Minister announced on Wednesday that those in hot spots in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland won’t be able to travel to Wales, unless they have a reasonable excuse.
This change will be coming into force at 6pm today.
When asked about this new measure, the Welsh Health Minister, Vaughan Gething, told Sky News:
“Unfortunately the prime minister hasn’t responded to our First Minister’s letter so we’re going to act and use our own powers here in Wales, and that will provide a measure of protection as we consider other forms of protection that we may need to introduce.”
As Sky News reported this measure on Twitter, senior Conservative figures quickly weighed in, calling the rules ‘confusing’, ‘divisive,’ ‘unconstitutional,’ ‘illegal’ and most surprising of all, ‘anti-English’.
But this policy is clearly not anti-English.
To say that this new measure is anti-English is to completely ignore what has happened in Wales over the last six months.
The Welsh Government have never imposed restrictions in people outside of Wales that they haven’t imposed on the people of Wales themselves.
Unlike in England, Wales, after the initial lockdown period, announced a 5-mile rule.
This rule meant that, whilst we could leave our houses and socialise more, we could still only travel for up to 5 miles, unless we had a good reason.
This is in stark contrast to the policy in England, where you could visit any part of the country (as long as it was not for an overnight stay.)
The 5-mile rule — which lasted over a month — was, just as with the new hotspot measure, devised to stop the spread of Covid-19 and keep the people of Wales safe.
In the same way, the new restrictions apply equally to Covid-19 hotspots in Wales – who have not been able to leave their counties for over a month, in some cases – as it does to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Swansea, Cardiff and most of the rest of the population of Wales are currently all on local lockdown.
Although the people who believe these are so-called anti-English measures complain about not being able to travel in and around Wales, the reality is that we in Wales can no longer do that either.
Many of us haven’t been able to since September 25 or even before then.
Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli face lockdown after coronavirus cases rise in Wales – video https://t.co/A8aBsivDZP
— The Guardian (@guardian) September 25, 2020
Living in Swansea, I can only travel within the confines of the city.
Cardiff is also on lockdown; in fact, around 80% of the country has to now stay within their area.
It makes sense, to this regard, to not allow people from English, Scottish and Northern Irish hotspots to visit Wales if the people within Wales can not do so either.
What we are seeing is not ‘anti-English’ but simply a divergence in overall approach between the Welsh and UK Government.
The Welsh Government wants much firmer rules now to stop a second wave of Covid-19 in its tracks – while the UK Government does not. The only way to resolve that is stricter rules in Wales than England.
But imposing those rules of the Welsh but not on people from elsewhere in the UK who are visiting Wales would make a mockery of the whole thing.
There is no point in the people of Wales taking on the economic and well-being sacrifice of lockdown in order to stop Covid-19 and then take no measures to stop the virus from coming into communities from Covid-19 hotspots elsewhere.
If they set political point-scoring aside for a second, the UK Government, of course, understand this – they have a list as long as their arm of countries which are on a quarantine list.
They also themselves ask people in Tier 2 and 3 areas of England not to travel. The only difference is that they’re not bothering to enforce the rules.
The reality is that Drakeford and others had tried to convince Boris Johnson of these new hotspot measures for some time, with the Prime Minister not taking much notice, leading the First Minister with little option but to enforce it himself.
This new measure is not an anti-English tirade, but an extension of Welsh public policy.
The 5-mile rule and locking down Cardiff, Swansea and other areas are just two examples of the way Wales has dealt with the Coronavirus pandemic in a different manner to Boris Johnson’s England.
You might think that they are the wrong measures.
You might think they are bad for the mental, physical and economic well-being of Wales and the UK.
But don’t call these new hotspot measures anti-English: that is offensive to those of us who are locked down without our cities, after having already dealt with the controversial 5 mile rule.
Mark Drakeford is trying to keep the people of Wales safe.
That is, after all, his job.