Welsh Health Minister criticises William and Kate’s visit to Wales

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething has criticised the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's decision to travel to Wales as Covid cases rise, saying he would prefer it if "no-one was having unnecessary visits".

Mr Gething said he was not "particularly bothered or interested" when asked during by BBC Radio 4's Today programme if he thought the couple should still travel to Wales.

But he said William and Kate's visit, part of a national tour by royal train, should not be used by people as an "excuse" to say they are "confused" about coronavirus regulations.

Mr Gething echoed the sentiment of Scotland's First Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested the duke and duchess travelled to Edinburgh on Monday despite their office being made aware of restrictions for those wanting to cross the border.

After initially saying the Cambridges' tour was a "matter for the palace", No 10 said Boris Johnson welcomed the "morale boost" it would provide.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The PM is delighted to see the warm reception the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have received on their hugely valuable train tour of England, Scotland and Wales.

"The tour will be a welcome morale boost to frontline workers who have done so much during the pandemic."

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The couple began their trip to Wales by visiting Cardiff Castle, where they met university students and heard about the mental health challenges they faced during the pandemic.

As they chatted, William and Kate admitted they were struggling with Christmas plans, suggesting they had yet to decide who to spend the festive period with.

"It is so difficult, we are still trying to make plans. It's difficult to know what to do for the best," said the duke.

William and Kate toasted marsh mellows during their visit to Cardiff. Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express
William and Kate toasted marshmallows during their visit to Cardiff (Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express/PA)

Asked if it was the right moment for the royals to visit Wales, the Welsh Health Minister replied: "I'd rather that no-one was having unnecessary visits, and people always have divisive views about the monarchy, but their visit isn't an excuse for people to say that they are confused about what they are being asked to do."

When asked if they should still come, Mr Gething said: "I'm not particularly bothered or interested because I don't think that is going to be an excuse for people to say: 'I should go and behave in a different way and I should act as if the harm that is being seen in front of us in every part of our healthcare system is not taking place'."

On Monday, Dr Keith Reid, director of public health at Swansea Bay University Health Board, said he feared that only another lockdown in Wales, before the Christmas period, would be enough to save the local system from being overwhelmed if rates continued to rise.

The duke and duchess have been touring the country thanking key and frontline workers and communities for their efforts during the pandemic.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge
The couple have been touring the country by royal train (Danny Lawson/PA)

At Cardiff Castle, William and Kate, who wore a red Alexander McQueen coat, met students from Cardiff University, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the University of South Wales, as they unwrapped their Secret Santa gifts to one another.

The visit coincided with Christmas At The Castle, a festival of seasonal activities there throughout December.

William and Kate browsed some of the Christmas stalls and toasted large marshmallows over a fire.

Touching one of the sticky sweet treats with her gloved hand, Kate laughed and said: "I'm going to have that marshmallow on my fingers all day."

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge royal train tour
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge meet students at Cardiff Castle (Jonathan Buckmaster/Daily Express/PA)

Lily Faulkner, 21, a second year politics and international studies student at Cardiff University, said: "They were trying like the rest of us to make Christmas plans with their family and still weren't 100% sure of what they were going to do or where they were going to be."

During their trip to Cardiff Castle, the couple saw a performance by samba band Samba Galez, who have received a £4,000 share of the UK Government's £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

The royal visit was welcomed by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who said: "It is wonderful news that their Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, have been able to visit Cardiff today to see the impact that culture has on our communities.

"Throughout the pandemic, organisations across the country have stepped up to support those in need and our choirs, bands, actors, filmmakers, museums – and the technical crews that support them – are no different."