Health minister defends new quarantine measures in Wales

Wales’ health minister has defended the introduction of quarantine restrictions on travellers returning from Portugal, Gibraltar, French Polynesia and six Greek islands.

Vaughan Gething said there had been a “rising tide of infections” coming from the Greek islands and insisted the measure had been imposed to keep Wales safe.

On Thursday evening, the Welsh Government announced that travellers arriving from Portugal, Gibraltar, French Polynesia and six Greek island from 4am on Friday would have to self-isolate for 14 days.

The Azores and Madeira are exempt from the quarantine requirement, which applies to the Greek islands of Mykonos, Zakynthos, Lesvos, Paros, Antiparos and Crete.

One holidaymaker in Crete slammed the Welsh Government’s decision as “an absolute joke” and said it was “beyond sense that they are taking this approach”.

But Mr Gething told the BBC’s Today programme there had been “very clear advice” from the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC), as well as a number of cases of coronavirus being imported into Wales.

Countries and territories in Europe from which people don’t need to quarantine on arrival in the UK
(PA Graphics)

On Tuesday, the Welsh Government advised passengers returning from Zakynthos to quarantine for two weeks and offered Covid-19 tests within 48 hours of their return, as well as eight days later.

“That was because in the week before we had over 30 cases from four different flights, two of which had landed in England,” Mr Gething told the BBC.

“On that flight which landed in Cardiff on Tuesday, there are over 20 direct cases – that’s more than 10% of that flight.

“Seeing a rising tide of infections coming in from that list of islands, having that direct experience in Wales and very clear advice about the higher risk to UK public health from the JBC, I did not feel that there was any course of action other than taking some form of action.

“It’s not for me to explain why others haven’t done that, but I’m very clear that we’re following that advice and keeping Wales safe.”

The UK Government has decided not to impose restrictions on people entering England from Greece and Portugal.

Scotland and Wales are imposing 14 days of isolation on arrivals from Portugal.

Scotland is also including Greece on its quarantine list, though in Wales the restriction only applies to the six named Greek islands.

When asked about the different approach taken by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps in Westminster, Mr Gething said: “I’m very content this is the right thing to do.

“It’s in line with the risk assessments we received from both the JBC and Public Health England.”

He said the reason the Azores and Maderia had been excluded from Wales’ list was because they had a different rating, as well as testing on entry.

However one holidaymaker, who wished only to be known as Jonathan, told the PA news agency that he was “seething” by the decision.

He is staying with his wife and two children near Chania in Crete and is scheduled to fly back to London Gatwick on Tuesday.

“I’m almost at the point where I’m thinking I’m just going to book a Premier Inn or something in Bristol – if it costs me five or six hundred pounds I don’t really care, I can afford it, I’ll do it – and stay there and I’ll just live my life as normal,” Jonathan said.

“Because if there’s 196 people on that flight from England they can just go and live their life as normal, but because I live in Wales Vaughan Gething has said ‘screw you, I’m going to make you sit in your house for 14 days’.

“It’s a joke, an absolute joke.”

There were 23.0 Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people in Portugal in the seven days to Wednesday, up from 15.3 a week earlier.

In Greece, the seven-day coronavirus case rate is 13.8. It is 15.3 in Ireland and 14.7 in the UK.

Figures have been calculated by the PA news agency based on data collected by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.

A seven-day rate of 20 is the threshold above which the UK Government has considered triggering quarantine conditions.

On Thursday, health officials said there had been no further reported deaths of people who tested positive for coronavirus in Wales.

The total number of deaths since the beginning of the pandemic remains at 1,596.

Public Health Wales said the total number of Covid-19 cases in the country had increased by 50, bringing the revised confirmed cases to 18,155.

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