Mark Drakeford has told the public that restrictions on people travelling to Wales from Covid hotpots in England, Northern Ireland and Scotland will come into place on Friday this week.
Following requests from the Welsh Labour administration for the UK government to stop people coming into the devolved nation from areas with high prevalences of the virus, the First Minister has declared the ban will go ahead.
The Labour leader in Wales wrote to Boris Johnson last month seeking a travel restriction to be enshrined in law, rather than the government relying on guidance alone to prevent people from hotspots spreading Covid to other areas.
Drakeford told the BBC on Monday evening that he was offering Johnson “one final opportunity” to stop travel from high-prevalence areas before he uses the powers available to him.
But Downing Street rejected the ask from the First Minister on Tuesday evening. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson argued: “There are no physical borders between Wales and England.”
In a Times Radio interview last night, the First Minister discussed the proposed Covid measure while also telling listeners that the Labour administration in Wales is “very actively thinking” about whether a ‘circuit break’ lockdown should be imposed.
He explained: “There’ll be nobody posted on the border, there’ll be no physical barriers of any sort. There will be a powerful message to people: they’re not to come into Wales to low incidence areas.”
But he added: “I need a rule in the regulations. And then we can properly enforce it. And I am a bit baffled as to why the Prime Minister is prepared to rely on guidance that can’t be enforced, when he could simply put it in regulations as we have in Wales, and then the enforcement of it becomes straightforward.”
Vaughan Gething had already explained earlier in the day that the proposal was not about “shutting Wales from England” and stressed that it would apply to prevent travel from “any part of the UK with high prevalence areas”.
The Welsh health minister said that similar measures had been in place in March with the ‘stay local’ rules: “The police were able to enforce it and people understood and respected the fact there were rules in place.
“The idea this isn’t enforceable is just rubbish because we’ve been round this track some way before… For high prevalence areas, there is a very powerful rationale to making sure that travel is restricted to all other parts of the UK.”
There has been no formal response from @BorisJohnson to my requests to restrict travel into Wales from coronavirus hotspots.
I am preparing new regulations to protect the health of people in Wales that will come into force on Friday.
— Mark Drakeford (@fmwales) October 14, 2020
Nicola Sturgeon announced shortly after the statement from Drakeford that she is supporting the Welsh First Minister’s call for travel restrictions, revealing that she had received a letter from the Welsh Labour leader.
Commenting this afternoon, she said: “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.”
The Scottish First Minister added: “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.”