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Wed, 21 October 2020

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The Welsh First Minister Has Claimed He Will Ban English And Scottish People In High Covid Areas From Coming Over The Border

The Welsh First Minister Has Claimed He Will Ban English And Scottish People In High Covid Areas From Coming Over The Border

Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford said he is planning to stop people from high Covid areas in England coming over the border (PA)

4 min read

The Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford has claimed he will implement a ban on people coming over the border from areas of England with high levels of coronavirus.

He told the Welsh Parliament Boris Johnson had not replied to his requests for travel restrictions to be imposed so was taking matters into his own hands.

"I have therefore asked for the necessary work to be brought forward, which would allow for devolved powers to be used to prevent people from travelling into Wales from high-prevalence areas of the United Kingdom," he said.

Mr Drakeford said this was a "matter of fairness”, and not an issue regarding the border between Wales and England

It is unclear in practical terms how such a policy would be implemented, given the lengthy border diving the two nations, but it could rely on setting up road checks along certain routes, and following up tips from members of the public.

Dafydd Llywelyn, police and crime commissioner for Dyfed-Powys, said: “The police are ready to protect our local communities.” 

The move by Mr Drakeford would bring the rest of the UK in line with the measures currently in place in the 17 areas of Wales under local lockdown restrictions, which prevent people moving in and out of an affected area unless for work or education.

"We've already heard from the first minister of Scotland and she's eager to support what we're trying to do here. Now is the time for the Prime Minister to do the same thing," he told the Senedd.

"If he isn't willing to do so then the timetable is for us to use the powers in Wales by the end of the week.”

Adding: "The evidence is that up to 80% of new infections are spread by super-spreaders so it doesn't take many people to come in from an outside area who are a super-spreader to have a very large effect.

"Using the novel techniques developed by specialists at Bangor University, we're now monitoring the wastewater from points along the coast of North Wales and North West England and we're seeing significant loads of genomic copies of Covid-19.

"It demonstrates that visitors from beyond Wales bring the virus with them. That's what people are anxious to avoid, that's why we took action here in Wales."

He was backed up by Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon, who tweeted she “fully supports” Mr Drakeford, saying: “These are public health decisions, and nothing to do with constitutional or political debates”

Hinting that her country could implement a similar ban she added: “The Scottish government will also take whatever action we consider necessary to control Covid.”

Earlier she had told a press briefing: "On the specific about travel restrictions, if we think putting formal travel restrictions in places necessary, we will do that and I don't rule that out - I don't rule anything out.”

And the move was welcomed by the chief executive of the Welsh NHS, Dr Andrew Goodall, said he would also "welcome any actions that help us have a control of the levels of community transmission”.

Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price said the announcement was "long overdue”, adding: "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.”

But Paul Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, called on Mr Drakeford to provide the evidence behind such a ban, saying: ”It is incumbent on the First Minister to explain just why he has chosen to act in this way, and what supporting evidence he and his ministers have seen to justify a ban and then publish it so it can be properly scrutinised.

"If he cannot or will not, then he must review and rescind this ban immediately."

His Tory colleague in the Welsh assembly Andrew RT Davies also tweeted: “The Welsh Government’s unhealthy obsession with travel restrictions and ‘banning the English’ flies in the face of all the evidence.

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

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